We talked with Jen Wang at her booth at the 2011 Stumptown Comic Con. I was drawn to the cover of Koko Be Good because of the warm color palette and simple cover image. I thumbed through the comic and bought a copy from Jen, who was kind enough to address the book to me and to draw a little sketch inside the cover.
I'm not going to use a star or number system because I think that my likes and dislikes are idiosyncratic and I would hate for someone who might really like the book to pass on it because of a low number.
The art in Koko is beautiful. I particularly like the color palette. It's mostly shades of brown but has lots of blues, greens and touches of red. Wang uses these colors to great effect to create a charming, warm, sort of dirty, city setting. There's a sort of dream-like quality to the environments in the story and the color palette works with this to make it a welcoming dream.
The page layouts are great. They're easy to follow. There's a lot of variety in panel shape and the shapes fit well with the events they contain. Panel frames are rarely broken, and when they are it's to draw the eye to something important not just to "pop".
The lettering is excellent as well.
The characters are sort of inexplicable though. They just seem to do whatever the author needed them to do so they would end up in the right places for the story to make it's way to the end.
The story itself felt forced and contrived to me. Koko is a hyperactive teenage girl with a crappy job and no self control or goals. The guy, who's name I can't even remember, is just sort of bland. He's the sort of person who sort of drifts through life sort of doing whatever he thinks people expect of him. The guy character is just so bland that I couldn't care about his situation, or his personality, and it made no sense to me at all that Koko would talk to him for more than 2 seconds before deciding that he was boring and being on her way. Since I was never able to buy that these characters would even talk to each other more than once, the rest of the story felt forced and disconnected to me.
To me, Koko Be Good is an 8 or 9 for art and a 2 or 3 for story. It seems clear that the creators artistic skill is far more developed than her writing ability and the work suffers as a result.
I will be looking for future works from Jen Wang, however, because I am curious to see if her writing ability catches up to her artistic ability. Angela liked Koko more than me.