Capture Creatures #1

Despite the series' name, issue #1 of "Capture Creatures" doesn't actually feature many creatures. This bubbly, adorable story spends most of its time following Tamzen, Jory and Mr. Bear on their bicycle chases, laboratory antics and wanders through the woods. Since the script stays pretty far on the younger side of all-ages, this meant it did drag a bit for me, but everything still looks as promising as in the solicits and Kickstarter. If the first creature is any indication, "Capture Creatures" will be full of super-cute, super-creative monster designs and enjoyably exaggerated characters. It's a clear win in the all-ages category -- though you might want to let a few issues pile up before diving in.

"Capture Creatures" follows Tamzen, a young girl, and Jory, an intern at Tamzen's father's lab. While they're busy exploring and learning, strange and powerful creatures have suddenly appeared in the world -- and they're about to find one.

At the risk of confirming anybody's gender stereotypes, I just found Bon Bon Fire (the first creature) so cute. Becky Dreistadt and Kelly Bastow have a really loveable style, where rounded, plump shapes like "Bee and Puppycat" meet the pratfalls and physical comedy of manga. Even the humans all look like they deserve a good hug. In addition, Tracy Liang's color palette is bright, tropical and just textured enough to evoke watercolors. She helps the world feel soft, encouraging and outdoorsy. It all makes for an effortless reading experience, and so I wasn't surprised that writer Frank Gibson left much of the storytelling to the artistic team.

Of course, Gibson's script is also relatively sparing because it's aimed decently young. "Capture Creatures" has a slapstick tone that feels perfect for the younger end of all-ages, but the jokes didn't always land for me. (My little cousin, on the other hand, giggled like mad.) While that lessened its appeal for me as an adult reader, I loved that it's never insultingly kiddy. "Capture Creatures" is neither dumb nor lazy, and I appreciate that Gibson can target a younger audience without downplaying their emotional intelligence. He still takes the time to develop the characters and give them inner lives -- while also letting them hurl bikes and Band-Aids in the air.

That said, the creatures are clearly the selling point of the book, so I was disappointed that I only got to see one - because aside from being adorable, the design was also a clever mesh of folktale and Pokemon-esque elements. It's entirely possible that I'm letting the solicits influence me, but I couldn't help feeling that Tamzen, Jory and co. weren't the focal point of the story. I wanted to get to the creatures faster. This, combined with the younger-feeling humor, made the first two-thirds of the book feel overlong.

Overall, though, "Capture Creatures" takes the fun of Pokemon and marries it to a story about conservation rather than battle -- giving kids not only a world to explore, but a framework for loving that world. I'd definitely recommend it for any member of the all-ages audience.

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