Ligers, Llamas, And Tots, Oh My! Napoleon Dynamite #1

by Brendan M. Allen

Napoleon Dynamite is back and senior year is gonna be flippin’ sweet! He’s dating Deb, training at a new dojo, and his best friend, Pedro, is student body president. But the good times might not last when a fellow student accuses Pedro of cheating in the election. Can Napoleon and Deb use their special skills to clear their friend before the principal can impeach Pedro? Maybe, gosh, get off his back!

Main cover by Sara Richard

It’s been 15 years since Napoleon Dynamite hit the silver screen. A goofy unpopular high school kid, trying to fit in as best he can. Napoleon lives with his older brother Kip, who’s potentially even more awkward than he is, and his gran. There’s Uncle Rico, the over-the-hill failed athlete who lives out of his camper van, and the new kid, Pedro. Napoleon spends much of the film getting Pedro elected as school president, upsetting the ridiculously popular cheerleader Summer Wheatley, who should have been a shoe-in.

IDW’s Napoleon Dynamite #1 picks up at the beginning of the following school year. Pedro’s the sitting class president, and Napoleon and Deb serve as his brain trust. Unfortunately for Pedro, another student has accused Pedro of cheating his way to victory, and now the principal is demanding a recount of last year’s votes, which for some reason is permissible in the following school year, without any formal chain of custody of the actual ballot box.

Series writers Carlos Guzman-Verdugo and Alejandro Verdugo revisit a LOT of the gags from the 2004 film. Napoleon argues with his grandma over a quesa-dilla in the kitchen. Uncle Rico invests everything in a door-to-door scam. Napoleon plays tetherball alone. Napoleon drags a superhero action figure behind the school bus on a length of fishing line. Napoleon visits an mma dojo with a questionable sensei. It feels like we’ve seen all of this before. 

The dialogue and pacing feels very natural, which makes sense, since many of these scenes and conversations are very similar to the source material.

Photo edition variant cover

Jorge Monlongo pulls art and color for the series. Monlongo’s character designs are very caricatured. Some of the players resemble their movie counterparts. Napoleon is reminiscent of Jon Heder and Pedro bears a passing resemblance to Efren Ramirez. The rest of the recurring characters (all three of them thus far) don’t really have much of the actors in them. 

One of my pet peeves in comics art is disembodied narrating floating heads. Napoleon Dynamite is chock full of floating heads. Also, amputated floating hands. The heads, I get, sort of. It’s still creepy and weird, but those hands. Maybe they’re included to give a first person point of view for some of the scenes, but it just looks strange.

If you’re an enormous fan of the movie, you might get a kick out of the series. For me, it leans a little too heavily into nostalgia without covering much new ground. There’s nothing really fresh or unique in this opening chapter.

Jorge Monlongo “Swords and Sorcery and Sci-Fi and Skills” variant cover

Napoleon Dynamite #1, IDW Publishing, 18 September 2019. Written by Carlos Guzman-Verdugo and Alejandro Verdugo, art/colors/variant cover by Jorge Monlongo, main cover by Sara Richard, design and letters by Christa Miesner, edits by Tom Waltz with assistance from Megan Brown.

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