Review: Koko Be Good
Jonathan Wilgur is fresh out of college, and getting ready to move to Peru with his (somewhat older) girlfriend, who is going to be teaching at an orphanage. While he’s contemplating the idea leaving behind the life he knows for the unknown, he encounters Koko.
Koko is spontaneous, uninhibited, and completely bonkers. She’s pretty much just interested in herself, stealing to get by and living in some guy’s attic. But after meeting Jon, she begins to question herself, and decides to be Good, to be “the hero I was meant to be.” The problem is, she’s really not sure how to go about it, and nobody who knows her really thinks she’s serious about it.
That’s the basic premise of Koko Be Good, a graphic novel by Jen Wang, published by First Second Books. As Jon and Koko become friends, of a sort, both of them start to affect the other. Jon starts to think a little more about his plans for the future and his reasons for doing them, something that he’s never really examined.
While the story could very easily have turned into a Hollywood “Oh and then they discover that they’re actually right for EACH OTHER” story, Wang doesn’t take that route. While both Jon and Koko learn and change and grow, ultimately their paths go in different directions, but it feels like a satisfying ending.
The artwork is a sketchy, loose style, a bit cartoony but with some nice details. It’s all done in sepia tones and gray washes, so it has a soft human touch rather than sharp crisp edges. I really loved looking at it, even though in some frames (particularly when there’s a lot of action) it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on.
Although it’s been a while since my own “Where am I going in life?” ponderings were constantly in the forefront of my mind, Koko Be Good is a thoughtful examination of that story for a couple of characters who are in turn funny and serious, but always real.