Review: Four Graphic Novels by Scott Christian Sava
When comic publisher IDW decided to start a line focusing on children’s titles, they launched their new Worthwhile Books with four titles from veteran comic creator Scott Christian Sava. A terrific mix of action, humor, science fiction, and comic fun, Sava’s titles are anchored by strong writing and a unique group of artists, giving fans of kids’ comics a terrific new selection from which to choose.
Scott Christian Sava; art by Joseph Bergin, III
Worthwhile Books, 2008, ISBN: 978-160010313-1
108 pages, $12.99
Nothing ever moves fast enough for Joey, especially school. One day, though, he discovers that his metabolism has gone berserk–he can move at super speed! This new ability causes a lot of problems, though, when the President of Burnz and Itchez Pharmaceuticals decides to use Joey’s DNA to create his own super soldiers.
This story seems like a typical superhero comic on the surface, but after reading it you can see the true extent of Sava’s ability to play with words and ideas to craft something original. Filled with jokes that will appeal to either adults (One character is named "Haliburton"; the Three Stooges show up) and/or kids (criminals who bicker like children; a school bully who wears a silly unicorn shirt), Joey’s tale is a fine addition to a new generation of superheroes. The characters are well-developed and readers will appreciate that Joey’s chubby best friend is portrayed as a very brave and loyal sidekick, rather than just a hindrance.
Bergin’s art is almost joyous in its cartoonishness. Characters are drawn in a caricature-type style, which furthers the humor, and little details (such as food in Joey’s open mouth) are not neglected. The backgrounds in each panel are often simple and the characters fill most of the space, but the colors are perfectly chosen so that the settings are clear and vibrant. One page showing a dodgeball game is a masterpiece of unique panel layouts and color choices.
Readers looking for traditional superhero titles will find that this one is a different, but appealing offering, giving them the amazement they want, but also showing them that ordinary kids can be "super" as well. I especially like that Sava titled the book Hyperactive as I think it will speak to boys who often feel that there is no appreciation for their wiggly behavior.
My Grandparents are Secret Agents
Scott Christian Sava; art by Juan Saavedra Mourgues and Cristian Gonzalez Valdes
Worthwhile Books, 2008, ISBN: 978-160010314-8
104 pages, $11.99
"Did you ever wonder why your grandparents travel so much? Or why they always need the lastest gadgets like hearing aids and pacemakers? Or why they always seem to forget the past?" Sava’s introduction gives you a hint of his thought processes when creating this silly take on spies. Children, who often see their grandparents as strange adults very separate from their parents, will love that Nicholas and Alyssa get caught up in adventures that they didn’t realize were going on worldwide. Adults reading this with their kids will laugh at the bad guy, who is a leftover sixties radical.
Mourgues and Valdes’ art is shiny and plastic, looking much like a child’s toy. That style works especially well when the bad guy shows up as it plays nicely off of his hazy memory of the sixties. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the warmth to make readers truly identify with the characters. Emotions seem to roll off of the smooth edges and slick surfaces of the drawings. In addition to that, this title isn’t as smoothly plotted as some of the others–Sava seems to have focused more on the humor and less on the character development. Kids will still find it a silly and fun read and will enjoy their time spent with two amazing retirees.
Scott Christian Sava; art by Diego Jourdan
Worthwhile Books, 2008, ISBN: 978-160010310-0
88 pages, $11.99
Ed is a dreamy boy who loves to read science fiction comics, so imagine his surprise when a group of aliens lands in his treehouse! Luckily they aren’t on Earth to make zombie slaves of all of the humans. What they really need is help freeing their fellow aliens from slavery–and Ed’s eager to lend a hand.
Ed’s story is very simple and is plotted much like a children’s cartoon, but that simplicity is much of what makes it strong. Sava gives readers a real sense of who the characters are, even in such a short book, and kids will be both amused and moved by the aliens’ story. Slavery is addressed in such a way that kids will understand that it is a bad thing, but without overloading them. Careers are also discussed as Ed tries to find the aliens work that suits their personalities. (Adults will laugh at the Elvis impersonator and will be happy that the hairdresser is silly, but not too over the top.)
Jourdan’s art is simple lines in simple square panels, but, as with the story, simplicity does not mean boring. He has a way with geometric shapes that makes them come alive. The characters are mostly rounded shapes and the backgrounds mostly straight-edged ones and effective use of shadows brings everything together. The color palette (by Frank Villarreal) is muted almost too much, but that is a minor complaint about otherwise fine art. This is a great selection that kids will love. Hopefully the ending hints at a possible sequel. It’s open enough for one, but not so open as to leave loose ends.
Scott Christian Sava; art by Diego Jourdan & Villagran Studios
Worthwhile Books, 2008, ISBN: 978-160010311-7
172 pages, $12.99
A class trip to the Rooty Tooty Toy Company leads to big trouble when four students–Jake, Chris, Tammy, and Tommy–stumble upon a room full of experimental robots. The robots bond with the kids and follow them home, but the evil owner of the Toy Company wants his robots back and will stop at nothing to retrieve them.
This is the story for any kid who ever found a stray dog or cat and wasn’t allowed to keep it. Sava is more serious in this story than in his previous books, though the humor isn’t sacrificed either. The bond between the kids and their robots is real and moving and even adults will find the ending sweet. But the way the kids use the robots to have fun or get out of trouble will make readers laugh, so the emotional parts aren’t too overwhelming. Silliness is not neglected, either. Kids will laugh at the room of doody the kids discover in the toy factory. Jourdan’s art is close to the same as it was in Ed’s Terrestrials, but he does expand his backgrounds a little more here, adding a touch more realism, which works for the story.
This is the slowest and the longest of the stories, though, so more reluctant readers might want to pick up this one last, after getting hooked on Sava’s style and wanting to read more of his books. If they get done reading these four and are still craving more of Sava’s works, he has two more titles coming out this year from Worthwhile Books–Gary the Pirate and Cameron and His Dinosaurs. Those were not available at the time of this review, but judging by the strength of Sava’s the four titles reviewed here, I personally can’t wait for the next two.
This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Worthwhile Books.
Filed under: Graphic Novels, Reviews
About Snow Wildsmith
Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.
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