A fifth-grade superhero gets caught up in a three-way struggle with a supervillain and a mad scientist in his second round of adventures (Smash: Trial by Fire, 2013).
Sneaking out of the house at every chance to train with his mentor, Wraith, compounded with his lack of interest in doing schoolwork, threatens to leave him in imminent danger of being held back. As if that’s not problem enough, Andrew—“Smash” when he’s in costume—is further distracted when a wildly destructive running battle breaks out between the gray-skinned minions of his terrifying nemesis, the Magus, and the mechanical creations of dying inventor Dr. Cobb. It seems that both are after a world-altering prototype power source called the “skeleton key” in order to energize devices that will, respectively, either steal all of Smash’s superpowers or transfer Dr. Cobb’s mind to a healthy new body. The ensuing action is fast, furious, and interrupted only occasionally by scenes at home and the introduction of Jae Kim, a smart and lively new Korean-American classmate who both discovers Andrew’s secret identity and cozens him into better study habits. Some of the crashes, explosions, and humongously thewed bad guys feel crowded into the neatly squared-off panels, but the storylines, open-ended though they remain at the finish, are easy enough to follow. Andrew, darker-skinned than his single mom and big brother, Tommy, continues to lead a diverse and expressively drawn cast.
Brisk, nonstop, chock-full of awesome exploits. (Graphic superhero fantasy. 9-11)