Earthman Jack vs The Ghost Planet (which claims on its cover to be Book 1 of the Earthman Jack Space Saga) feels very much like a first major novel for the author. Which is not entirely true as it happens, but it is the first novel by the author in this genre for this audience, which I suppose counts as almost the same thing. This is less a judgment of him than it is a statement of fact, as Earthman Jack (despite its long page count) seems to be unable to fully find its own voice, and despite showing some potential, suffers from what is ultimately a lack of truly original concepts tying it all together.
Earthman Jack feels best suited for the same audience as its main character, the roughly 13-16 year old human, and amongst those of that age that have not enjoyed much reading, it will probably do them very well, as the plot and prose are easy to manage, and are engaging enough to keep a reader guessing and turning the page to the end. However; and this is a big however, if the reader has read any other young adult literature before, watched any sci-fi movie, or played any sci-fi or equivalent video game, they will soon see the faults begin to appear. Earthman Jack has bits of Star Wars, bits of Star Trek, bits of Mass Effect, bits of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as well as countless other short stories and media inspiring it throughout, often noticeably and annoyingly. The problem isn’t that they are plagiaristic, by no means do I wish to imply that, but the reader will notice concepts, styles, themes, features, and character types that have not only been done often before, but done much better as well, which is the problem. When Jack tries to be funny, it does it worse than Hitchhikers, and when it tries to be epic, it often comes off trite and drama-less.
Of course, to ask for complete originality is a bit much for any author in this field, but a good story is able to present in new ways with new focuses and new areas of interest for the reader to enjoy. What good characters that are present are usually shallow versions of other interesting characters from other media, and as for the most original character, our main man Jack, I find him almost completely insufferable. He is one of the most annoying fictional 15 year olds I have ever come across, and just when he enters a situation that may force him to adapt or change or evolve, magic happens that fixes everything and makes him seem so much cooler as a result.
Earthman Jack may get better as a series, and I will probably check out the next one, although I’ll probably try to borrow it from someone, rather than buy it. But it needs to make some more effort than it has been, or otherwise, if it wants to play it safe and keep to the soft-selling young teen route, and then fine. But just remember, you could have been better Jack.
Also, I would like to formally state here that I hope everyone remembers that there are other forms of humor than sarcasm. I know it worked well for Joss Whedon, but do your own thing; it’s done now. I hope creators remember this from now on.