Advertised as Good Will Hunting meets Animal House, this book covers two distinct genres with the hazing or “hacking” culture of MIT past acting as a bridge. The book covers a number of real life incidents that author and humourist Steve Atles witnessed at the aforementioned education mecca.
Jim Walden is living a life of little gremlins and arcade machines when a video prank goes viral and he gets the opportunity of a lifetime which he hopes will help him fulfill his dream to become an astronaut. Promising his Mom “no more pranks”, he fails at the first hurdle quicker then Peter speaking to Gwen in class! From there, it ‘s one up man ship as thing leads to another, then another and so on until, Jim’s friendships, girlfriend, scholarship and dreams are all in danger.
Steve Atles writes with an easy-going style, that at times flips between being funny and being exposition. It might be that Atles wants to make sure that the reader gets the intricacies of being at MIT, which, for the sake of the story, I can understand. MIT is as much a part of the story as the characters. Not having experienced US college life I am not an authority of how MIT differs from UCLA unless I am watching College football. Still, there is an obvious love/hate vibe from Atles. The humour is similar to how The Big Bang used to be, prior to the introduction of the girls. I would say that reading the book, one problem I have is that I am not particularly sympathetic to Jim’s troubles, which does kind of take away some element from the story.
The art is by Boston-based Andy Fish who provides the book with a cartoony, newspaper strip style, which does help to create a level of humour, in turn helping out the sometime boggy dialogue. Fish’s work suits the overall aim of the book. There is a little bit of Ditko in there over the more obvious Warhol influences. In addition, Fish has the unenviable task of creating likenesses, Easter eggs and minor parodies throughout, some of which you will recognise, others you will need to check out the back of the book and look for the explanation and context from one of the 120 endnotes. Colorist Veronica Fish continues the newspaper feel of the art with some, at times, brash four-color stylings.
This bring up the major problem I have with the book. For all the clever banter, the pranks and the like, every joke suffers when there is a need to have it explained. In this case, there is an 8 page introduction and a 4 page summary. Despite the funnies involved in the funny, the delay in getting to the story frustrated me., as did the need to have parts of the story explained to me before I even got there. I can understand the need for Atles to cover this but if there is a need to explain does that mean there is a lack of storytelling?
The book has its moments and it’s clear the level of regard that Atles holds MIT in. There are “funnies” throughout the book, how much you appreciate this may be dependent on your own reflective experiences of college.
Writing – 3.5 Stars
Art – 3.5 Stars
Colors – 3.5 Stars