A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero.

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ZATANNA AND THE HOUSE OF SECRETS

The magical DC hero makes her middle-grade graphic-novel debut.

Zatanna and her magician father, a widower, live quiet lives. The white preteen balances friendships and homework like any other typical middle schooler while missing her departed mother. But one night Zatanna sneaks out to a dance and returns to find a pair of blue-skinned strangers standing in her own home, a home that has transformed into the House of Secrets. After one of the home invaders identifies herself as the Witch Queen and disappears with Zatanna’s father, Zatanna searches for him and discovers the true nature of her family’s past. Mystery and magic fill the graphic novel’s frames as Zatanna’s large, expressive eyes soak in the bizarre and fantastic flourishes. Readers with minimal knowledge of Zatanna’s role in DC Comics lore will have no trouble here: The story is easily appreciated by newbies and familiars alike. The bold, unoutlined artwork uses a purple, orange, and blue palette that helps the pictures stand apart from the four-color comic palette used by similar middle-grade DC Comics titles. The plot moves forward at an almost alarming speed, twisting and turning and enticing readers with a page-turning emotional mystery.

A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9070-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick...

SUPERNOVA

From the Amulet series , Vol. 8

Stonekeeper Emily frees the elves from their monstrous masked ruler and sets out to rejoin her brother and mother in the series’ penultimate episode.

The multistranded storyline picks up with Emily’s return to the world of Alledia. Now a fiery, destructive phoenix struggling to regain control of her actions, Emily goes on to follow her brother Navin and allies as they battle invading shadows on the nearby world of Typhon, then switches back to human form for a climactic confrontation with the Elf King—in the course of which Emily rips off his mask to a chorus of “ERGH!! NO!!! GRAH! RRGH!! AAAGH!” to expose a rousingly hideous face. Cute animal heads on many figures (the result of a curse) and a scene with benevolent-looking trees provide at least a bit of relief from the grim expressions that all the human and humanoid elven characters almost invariably wear. But along with emphatic sound effects, the battle and action scenes in the cleanly drawn, if sometimes cramped, panels feature huge blasts of fire or energy, intricately detailed giant robots, weirdly eyeless monsters, and wild escapades aplenty to keep the pace’s pedal to the metal. Aliens and AIs in the cast come in a variety of hues, elves are a uniform gray, and except for a brief encounter between Emily and a slightly darker lad, the (uncursed) humans default to white.

Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick around for it. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-85002-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere.

FLY ON THE WALL

Some things you must learn on your own.

In this graphic/prose hybrid, Henry Khoo embarks on a secret mission. Now that he’s 12, the legal age to travel alone, he has plans to fly from his Australian home to Singapore, where his father lives. As he haphazardly navigates his way to his flight, his tangled motivations slowly unfold. Initially it appears he wants to establish his independence, seeking reprieve from the overbearing eyes of older sister Jie, Mama, and wuxia drama–watching Popo. Soon the comedic narration reveals that Henry is confronting myriad issues: his emotionally and geographically distant father; his waning relationship with his best friend; and his need to hide his secret identity as the creator of the Fly on the Wall website. Spawned from Henry’s sense that he’s invisible to all, his online comics illustrate school gossip—and draw the opprobrium of the school administration. As in Lai’s debut, Pie in the Sky (2019), humorous line drawings punctuate the text and reveal Henry’s inner feelings. Flashbacks deftly illuminate Henry’s emotional journey to a wider worldview and eventual ownership of his feelings. Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. Henry and his family are Chinese, and dialogue is occasionally bilingual.

This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31411-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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