Prime Baby (First Second)

A young boy gains an unusual new baby sister in this comic strip collection from Eisner Award-winner Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese).

64 pgs., color; $6.99)
(W/A: Gene Luen Yang, Colorist: Derek Kirk Kim)
I was an only child for the first six years of my life. I didn’t have to share my toys with anyone, I didn’t have to share attention with anyone, I didn’t have to share anything with anyone. I was universally and exclusively adored. It was great. Then, things happened, other things happened and, next thing I knew, my mommy and new daddy were bringing home a tiny squalling far-too-red little girl. I actually remember it pretty clearly, now that I’m trying to. She didn’t even really look like a girl, just a wrinkly little thing strapped into a carseat up on the table, but I remember feeling distinctly unsure of what was going on here. Twenty-two years later, I’m still pretty unsure of what’s going on there but that, dear readers, is a story for another time and place.
I did not, however, end up with a sister that only babbled in prime numbers and horfed up alien space capsules. No, that would’ve been awesome. Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the slightly sci-fi fence and so Thaddeus Fong—elder brother to Maddie Fong, social outcast and our elementary-aged protagonist—doesn’t really see the awesome in this at all. No, like most little children, he sees a problem in his lack of attention and seeks out an opportunity to remedy the situation. And while kids are typically very clever (read: sneaky) in getting what they want and getting rid of things they don’t want, Thaddeus is pretty smart so he gets it done faster and far more impressively than I would’ve done at that age. Most of my plots revolved around finding my “real parents.” Thaddeus uses social networking and the FBI.
Gene Luen Yang, famous for the Eisner Award-winning American Born Chinese (among other things, including a Rosary comic book—where was that when I was sitting through First Communion classes?), illustrates the story in a simple style with plenty of space for each single strip to sit moored in the middle of what feels like an ocean of white, making colorist Derek Kirk Kim’s somewhat muted colors within the strips really pop. The art is simple and playful, managing to create an atmosphere in the story that is almost stark. I appreciate that Yang only includes the details the story needs to move along, leaving the backgrounds gracefully uncluttered. First Second doesn’t let me down, either, creating a beautiful book featuring a slightly textured cover and French flaps.
Because Gene Luen Yang is, from all accounts, a really great dude, this story has a mostly-happy ending. I’ll leave the aliens out of this review because they’re really far too precious for me to spoil for you, but I will tell you that they’re there and you really need to see them. Endearingly, this comic ends with Thaddeus and Maddie, together in high security splendor, doin’ things that siblings do. I would recommend it for the big brother/big sister in your life, as well as anyone who likes cute aliens doing cute things. So that’s everyone, right? | Erin Jameson
Click here for more information and a brief excerpt courtesy of First Second. Want your own copy? Send an email to with “Prime Baby” in the subject line by midnight on October 31st for your chance to win one, courtesy of your pals at PLAYBACK:stl.

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