In this series opener that marks Marvel comics legend Lee’s debut for kids, 12 people—some heroes, some villains—receive superpowers based on the signs of the Chinese zodiac. The heroes, of course, are the youngest characters in the book.
The descriptive prose is as spare and unambiguous as an old-fashioned interactive computer game—think “Zork,” from the 1970s. “[The stairway] was made of wood, with a creaky old railing beside it. The walls were worn metal, stained and weathered by time.” But the book contains enough fight scenes for several issues of a Marvel comic, and they’re joyously inventive. People reveal their characters by the way they fight. A tiny girl with the ability to teleport wins fights by running away, over and over again, until the other person is exhausted; she’s the Rabbit. These confrontations aren’t described with the clarity Lee and Moore use to talk about the settings. Readers may have to look at a few passages twice to figure out just who hit whom. Fortunately, Tong loves drawing battle scenes. Pages and pages are crammed with energetic black-and-white drawings of people bounding around the room. But the characters are so engaging that the scenes where they’re joking around and telling ridiculous stories are more entertaining than the battle sequences.
The prose may be too bare-bones for some readers, but the surprises are genuine, and the cliffhangers will bring people back for the next adventure. (Adventure. 8-12)