A series opener introduces a crime-fighting preteen escapologist.
Max Flash is a first-class escape artist and master illusionist who spends his free time bound in chains trying to escape from tanks of water. But when Max discovers that his parents are actually undercover agents for a secret organization known as the Department for Extraordinary Activity, life at the Flash household becomes even more interesting. In this kickoff novel, a programmer from the hottest gaming company in the world accidentally creates a portal between the real and Virtual worlds, and Max is called on by the DFEA to use his unique skill set to travel to the Virtual world and close the portal so that rogue characters can’t travel back and forth between worlds and wreak havoc. All of the ingredients are there—the premise is intriguing, there’s the promise of fast-paced action, and a Houdini-esque kid protagonist has the potential to be a winning character—but unfortunately, the book fails to ever truly bring Max or his story to life. Even the artwork is disappointingly one-dimensional. The story is told in the third person by a decidedly adult narrator, and Max is never allowed to find his own voice and connect on an emotional level with readers.
The result is a series opener that falls frustratingly short of its potential; here’s hoping subsequent volumes (the first six are publishing simultaneously) improve. (Adventure. 9-12)