Orca publishes both hi-lo books and titles with environmental interest. This graphic novel combines both of these elements in an adventure with simple text and attractive, colorful art.
Dalen and Gole, two slug-like aliens from Budap, accidentally fall through a portal onto Earth. Stuck in an unfamiliar fishing port, they encounter Rachel who helps them hide from mysterious strangers and tells them about the sudden, mysterious disappearance of fish that is destroying the local fishermen’s businesses. After several hair-raising adventures, the three solve the mystery of the missing fish and defeat the mysterious villains.
There are some interesting points to the plot that could have been developed, but, as it is, it’s a bit too wandering and there are a lot of loose ends and unexplained plot points. There isn’t really any explanation for the portal that travels between worlds and, other than a couple of newspaper “articles” drawn in at the end, we really don’t know what happens to the villains. The author takes several easy shortcuts when developing the characters. All of the rich people (aliens and humans) are stereotypically evil or bullies. There’s no explanation why Rachel would suddenly help a couple of weird-looking aliens she can’t even talk to, or how she’d even realize they are the good guys and need help.
I could be reading more into it than I’m meant to, but considering all the environmentally focused books Orca has published, I’d expect there to be some kind of message behind the fish disappearing and the fuel that plays a part in the plot. However, the story clearly implies that once the aliens stop stealing the fish the town will be economically stable again (and saved from the threat of having to eat disgusting seaweed).
The art is bright and colorful, but doesn’t really have a distinctive style. It’s practiced and does a neat job of conveying the plotline, but doesn’t stand out at all on its own. For some reason the speech bubbles change between yellow and white and I couldn’t figure out the reason for that. The text size is nice, very readable and clear. There are a few funny visual moments with the aliens and lots of fish zooming around, but not enough to redeem the story and art from its bland quality. The author does have a fun website and there are more strips available online of Dalen and Gole’s adventures, but I can’t see any kids being interested enough to pursue the story further.
The story and art is enjoyable enough and kids will be happy to read this and recognize familiar characters and plot – evil businessman, hapless aliens, a spunky girl saving the day, and realization of who your friends really are – but they’re unlikely to remember or recommend it. There are plenty of other graphic novels out there, especially for beginning readers, that are more stand-out than this, but if you need more filler for your graphic novel sections it’s a perfectly pleasant read to add.
Dalen & Gole: Scandal in Port Angus
by Mike Deas
Publisher Age Rating: 8-11