I'm a huge fan of Judd Winick. I first discovered him through Frumpy the Clown, and then moved on to Barry Ween before working my way back to Pedro and Me. The first thing I liked about his style was the artwork, then the wacky sense of humor, then his ability to inject real emotion and significance to his work, and then his ability to create taut, engaging stories. It's always struck me as odd that I came into reading his stuff for the funny, and then wound up sticking with it for its importance.
Hilo is a new series, aimed toward a younger audience, so the profane wackiness of Barry Ween is missing, along with the serious issues of Pedro and Me. This isn't to say that the series is missing either the wackiness or the seriousness, but it is missing the adult version of both. Hilo is a boy who crashes to Earth (spoiler!), losing his memory, and is discovered by D.J., the youngest of a large family, all of whom are successful in their own way. D.J., in his own words, is not, but he easily and quickly makes friends with Hilo, and helps him discover who he is. Along the way, his friend Gina gets involved, and as the three of them learn more about Hilo, they work together to solve that mystery.
I love the art style here, and it's much more effective than it has been in the past. Winick's style is cartoonish by default, and in the past, when he has to draw serious scenes, the artwork takes on a different tone that doesn't quite fit. Here, I didn't notice it as much. The characters still look serious, and their expressions are effective and emotive, but they're not quite so different from the cartoonish style as to make the segue jarring. I also liked the way that Winick drew the antagonists in a different style, making them a little less precise, a little messier. It set them apart from the protagonists, and gave them a different feel.
The story isn't complex, but it's engaging, and the characters are wonderful. It touches on moments of poignancy amidst the action and humor, which, again, is a given when it comes to Winick. I'm pleased to see that he's still working on new series, and I'm eager to see where he takes this story. I trust him to do good things with it, so I doubt I'll be disappointed.