Three cheers for the underdog. Maybe in future episodes he’ll acquire better homework habits.

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SMASH

TRIAL BY FIRE

In this webcomic’s print opener, a 9-year-old acquires superpowers but still has issues, such as his fear of heights and the difficulty of sneaking out of the house at night to fight crime.

Without acquiring visible muscle, Andrew suddenly finds himself superstrong and supertough after the long career of Defender, the superhero he worships, comes to a sudden end in a mighty explosion. Discovering that ambition and a dorky homemade outfit doth not a superhero make, with some practice, Andrew nonetheless takes up some skills. He learns how to fly without running into things (deservedly acquiring along the way his moniker, “Smash”) and to survive blasts and bullets while nabbing robbers and other malfeasants, costumed or otherwise. Unfortunately, he still has school, a mercurial big brother, parental rules and a bully problem (which he’s savvy enough not to try solving the simplest way). That’s not to mention the Magus, an archvillain out to regain the transferable superpowers he claims the Defender stole from him years ago. The Boltons provide easy-to-follow panels filled with action, wide eyes, banter (“Not another step or it’s bye-bye puberty!”), and comically exaggerated differences between the puny (looking!) caped crusader and his much buffer adversaries. Smash battles his way through robots and other minions to a climactic and rousingly destructive, if inconclusive, climax that, natch, paves the way for sequels.

Three cheers for the underdog. Maybe in future episodes he’ll acquire better homework habits. (Graphic fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5596-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits.

KNIGHTS VS. DINOSAURS

Who needs dragons when there are Terrible Lizards to be fought?

Having recklessly boasted to King Arthur and the court that he’d slain 40 dragons, Sir Erec can hardly refuse when Merlin offers him more challenging foes…and so it is that in no time (so to speak), Erec, with bookish Sir Hector, the silent and enigmatic Black Knight, and blustering Sir Bors with his thin but doughty squire, Mel, in tow, are hewing away at fearsome creatures sporting natural armor and weapons every bit as effective as knightly ones. Happily, while all the glorious mashing and bashing leads to awesome feats aplenty—who would suspect that a ravening T. Rex could be decked by a well-placed punch to the jaw?—when the dust settles neither bloodshed nor permanent injury has been dealt to either side. Better yet, not even the stunning revelation that two of the Three Stooges–style bumblers aren’t what they seem (“Anyone else here a girl?”) keeps the questers from developing into a well-knit team capable of repeatedly saving one another’s bacon. Phelan endows the all-white human cast with finely drawn, eloquently expressive faces but otherwise works in a loose, movement-filled style, pitting his clanking crew against an almost nonstop onslaught of toothy monsters in a monochrome mix of single scenes and occasional wordless sequential panels.

Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268623-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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