Graphic novel review: Space Cadet

By Sarah Dorchak

A short graphic novel bursting with stars, heart and tears, Space Cadet is the second written experiment from Canadian DJ Kid Koala, and a work worthy of attention.

The story, meant to be experienced through image, text and sound, features a guardian robot unsure of what to do with his life now that his charge has left home to be a space explorer.

White sketches on a black background give the story an ethereal feel, making you feel guilty about holding it without gloves on. The artwork is very impressive. Kid Koala, who normally scratches on a turntable, manages to style his artwork in the same way: white scratches on a black background give Space Cadet a unique aesthetic look. The lack of dialogue forces you to pay attention to each panel and draws you into the emotion of the story. The end of the book leaves the reader with a bittersweet appreciation for whoever guided them through their own childhood.

I preferred to read Space Cadet without the soundtrack provided on an accompanying CD. The CD’s tracks are organized by page numbers, implying that when this track plays you should have reached this page by then.

When the graphic novel is read at the reader’s own pace, however, unconstrained by having to keep up with a sonic accompaniment, one doesn’t feel pressured to turn the page, or feel obligated to wait for the songs to catch up. Kid Koala could have done a better job at synchronizing the book with the CD, as the shortest track takes up the 10 or more pages that contained the novel’s most important content.

This is not to say the CD itself is not worthwhile. The music aptly establishes the story’s mood and character’s emotion, no matter how disruptive it may be to the flow of the narrative itself.

The amount of effort, charm and heart put into this novel is clear. The book describes itself as a “tomorrow-days lullaby about finding your place in the universe,” but it seems more like an exploration by the author to find a creative fit. He has an obvious interest in branching out artistically, but an animation short would have better synchronized Kid Koala’s CD and art, both in terms of timing and mood shifts.

Space Cadet’s marketability might be limited — it is mostly young-adult consumers that purchase graphic novels, but the subject matter is more sombre and emotionally mature than these same individuals may prefer. The $30 price tag is a little hefty as well.

Despite the troubled unification of book and CD and issues with potential marketability, Kid Koala has created a great piece of work with Space Cadet.

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