BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Young Thaddeus K. Fong thinks his baby sister, who gets all his parents’ attention, is an alien.
PROS: Interesting premise (especially since it’s not all in his mind); excellent visuals; high quality production; Thaddeus is clever and likably smarmy.
CONS: Thaddeus is a bit too mean to his baby sister; the ending is less than what I think Yang was shooting for.
BOTTOM LINE: I wish there was a tighter story to this otherwise fun comic.
The recent publication of Prime Baby is a compilation of Gene Luen Yang’s comic which originally appeared in New York Magazine. It’s about a smart-but-friendless young boy named Thaddeus K. Fong who is jealous of his new baby sister and all the attention she receives. Thaddeus deduces that his sister, whose monosyllabic uttering occurs in prime-numbers, must be an alien. What sounds like a young boy trying to deal with his emotions soon turns out to be something close to the truth when Baby Maddie begins coughing up small alien space pods. Thaddeus, with delusions of becoming world president by virtue of his discovering this alien invasion, is disillusioned when the aliens turn out to be (gasp!) peaceful.
This science fictional premise of Prime Baby is easily a serviceable one for Yang to explore alienation and family values – especially when Thaddeus’ YouTube video upload brings him nothing but derision from his peers. (That would so happen!) When the government discovers that aliens are involved, Thaddeus learns the true value of family. These are all good things, in concept. In execution however, there is something lacking. Thaddeus, while surprisingly likable for his clever and smarmy commentary, is a little too bent on getting rid of his baby sister. Even with the realization that Maddie is the only one who loves him — another hollow note in that he never befriends anyone in the end – the resolution seems somehow…wrong…and falling a little short of the One Big Happy ending one might expect.
While the story itself may leave some rough edges, Yang’s cartoony artwork fits perfectly. Additionally, Derek Kirk Kim’s earth tone colors give the comic a consistent, non-garish look. And the publication itself, like all of publisher First Second’s books I’ve seen to date, is a top notch, high quality production. I just wish there was a tighter story to this otherwise fun comic.