Creature Tech

Creature TechSummary: Good battles evil, and the world hangs in the balance! Resurrected by the Shroud of Turin, the zombified Dr. Jameson intends to finish what he started 150 years ago – destroying the earth with a giant space eel! Standing in his way is Dr. Ong, a would-be pastor-turned-scientist who now works in a government research facility infamously known as ‘Creature Tech.’ Aided by an unlikely cast of rednecks, symbiotic aliens, and a CIA-trained mantid, Dr. Ong embarks on a journey of faith, love, and self-discovery. All in a day’s work at Creature Tech! From Doug Tennapel, the creator of Earthworm Jim, Monster Zoo, and Ghostopolis.

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Creature Tech, by Doug TenNapel 6.0

I was first drawn to Doug TenNapel’s work because of his art. I had seen his books in the local library’s bookshop and was immediately taken with the slick designs and bold colouring. While his work seemed geared towards a younger audience, it was very appealing to me.

Perhaps even for that reason.

And so I requested a bunch of his books from the library. The first one to come in was ‘Bad Island‘, which I found rather enjoyable; it was exciting and a quick page turner. Then came ‘Ghostopolis’, which was total eye-candy, but which left me unmoved, largely disinterested.

Then came ‘Creature Tech’.

It tells the story of a playboy scientist who is sent back to his hometown to work on a secret government project consisting of going through hundreds of crates of unexplained phenomena that have been stored in a research facility there. Only when he’s done can he return to his former life.

The problem is that the ghost of an 19th century scientist is tampering with their experiments because he’s interested in reviving himself with the Shroud of Turin; he wants to return so that he may finish his previous work – which was to bring huge monstrous space eels to Earth.

Um, yeah… space eels.

So our hero, Michael Ong, has to fight to prevent this mad man from succeeding, interact with the weird locals, deal with his government bosses (who have saddled him with an anthropomorphic insect partner), and try to figure out what to make of a parasite that has latched onto his chest.

Frankly, I found ‘Creature Tech’ too self-consciously weird to me, as though TenNapel was purposely trying to glorify anything unconventional, as though that was the cool thing to do or the book’s hook. I suspect that this is what his target audience (young teenagers) would enjoy.

Unfortunately, all of the offbeat stuff didn’t appeal to me: the giant eel, the chest symbiote, the hellcats, the demon hand, the creepy girl, the museum of the weird, the mantis, …etc., all left me cold. It should have appealed to me, but it all just felt so “B movie” to me.

And the story was a stretch, with a number of inconsistencies along the way:

  • If the ghostly scientist is from the 19th century, then how is it that the giant eel he brought to earth had been immersed in the ground since time immemorial? And if he did call it to earth in the 19th century, then why doesn’t anyone else know that it’s there?
  • It didn’t make sense that Ong was so desperately lonely in Turlock that he began to be interested in creepy girl. Seriously, she paled in comparison to his usual catch. And her appeal remained unexplained.
  • The Shroud of Turin being called in ahead of schedule, and suddenly the ghost tries to steal it – even though he’d been around for ages and could have done it before that point. It’s too much of a coincidence to begin with, but it just doesn’t make sense.
  • Ong’s Praying Mantis partner screwing things up but then running off and making friends with the hick locals. How in the world could he fit in with that lot? And yet, they seem to be totally cool with him around – hicks being xenophiliacs, traditionally.

It all feels contrived, and to unsatisfying results.

Also, I really didn’t like the inking on this book. The character designs were fine, but they lost a lot in translation, what with the book being strictly black or white, with no grays or lined shadows. I believe it’s some of TenNapel’s earliest work, and it shows in its lack of sophistication.

All this to say that ‘Creature Tech’ was a huge disappointment to me. I struggled to get through it, even though it’s not especially lengthy. I’m sure that the book has its fans, but I’m certainly not one of them, and it’s kind of put the kibosh on my interest in TenNapel.

Time to move on now.

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