This is a superhero story for people who’ve read too many superhero stories.
When Captain Stupendous flies through Copperplate City, every cellphone starts to ring. An emergency text might appear: “STUPENDOUS ALERT: GIANT ROBOT. 24TH & BYRNE.” There will be an announcement over the nearest loudspeaker: “LOCKDOWN PROCEDURES ARE IN EFFECT IMMEDIATELY!” Drivers will abandon their cars. Grown-ups will cram into doorways. Kids will be chanting, “STU-PEN-DOUS, STU-PEN-DOUS.” The students at King Kirby Middle School have grown up hearing supervillains shout, “FLEE IF YOU MUST!” and, “YOU FACE PROFESSOR MAYHEM, DOLT!” To readers, these lines will be clichés—especially if they’re comic-book fans—and in fact, the book is full of clichés: Vincent Wu is a dork, obsessed with superhero trivia and longing after the cutest girl in school. Some people will put down the book after 50 pages, thinking they know what’s coming, but there is a giant surprise on page 58, one that is too big to give away here. Two hints: Captain Stupendous may not survive every battle. And almost everyone in Copperplate City has a secret identity. Don’t we all?
The book never completely escapes cliché. Every chapter has lines like “SOON EVERYONE WILL KNOW WHO I AM, CAPTAIN STUPENDOUS!” But this is a genuinely new sort of superhero story, and it will surprise even people who are tired of sound effects and capital letters. (Fantasy. 8-12)