In Odd We Trust
Created by Dean Koontz, written by Queenie Chan and Dean Koontz, illustrations by Queenie Chan (Del Rey)
By Lyn Jensen
Special to the OC Voice
Manga in America has reached such a level of trendiness that even best-selling novelists such as Dean Koontz are joining in. The Orange County writer with a reputation for edgy punk-flavored mysteries has turned to manga for the latest offering in his Odd Thomas series. Someone, most likely the publisher Del Rey, matched him up with Queenie Chan, a Chinese-Australian comic artist. She recently created “The Dreaming” series for Los Angeles manga publisher TokyoPop.
Together Koontz and Chan are now serving up “In Odd We Trust“, a graphic novel with Asian-inspired art, about the paranormal adventures of Odd Thomas (that’s the name on his birth certificate). He’s a 21-year-old who works in a diner in the small fictitious California desert town of Pico Mundo. But he also has psychic powers and believes himself to be haunted by the ghost of Elvis Presley, so the local police chief calls him in whenever an unsolved case calls for a psychic.
Koontz has written four Odd Thomas novels, but perhaps because this story is fairly simple and short is why he went the manga route. Odd’s girlfriend Stormy and her best friend Sherry fear a stalker who appears to be targeting both Sherry and the children she cares for. When one child turns up dead, Thomas, gun-happy Stormy, and the police join forces to stop the killer before he kills again.
Purists will debate whether this is a manga or simply a graphic novel that’s being marketed under a hipper-sounding name. Chan’s artwork seems much more in tune with a traditional American comic book look, on the level of newspaper comic strips, with only minor traces of an Asian artistic influence. Koontz fans may also feel that some characters, particularly the girls, seem too formal for a California setting, and the portrayal of Elvis’ ghost just doesn’t look like Elvis.
There are also some sloppy plot developments, the most obvious of which is when a policeman says a suspicious vehicle has no plates-and then the characters trace the plate number. We don’t overlook such carelessness in other media, there’s no reason to overlook it in manga.
Overall, however, this book serves double duty. It’s a gateway to introduce manga readers to Koontz and Koontz readers to manga. There’s no age rating, but it’s especially suitable for teens just starting to get into adult novels. Plus we get Koontz’s essay on how he developed the Odd Thomas character and an excerpt from the novel “Odd Thomas” as extra added attractions.