Nico Bravo, Vols. 1 and 2 | Review
Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades (Vol. 1)
Nico Bravo and the Cellar Dwellers (Vol. 2)
By Mike Cavallaro
First Second, Ages 8-12
Myths and legends have never been more fun than in Nico Bravo, a rollicking mythological series that would make even Joseph Campbell laugh out loud.
Nico is a young employee for the god Vulcan’s store at a nexus between all mythologies, where they sell all sorts of equipment, supplies, and weapons to gods, demigods, heroes, and beasts. Raised as an orphan by the god Vulcan since his birth, Nico works at Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop alongside his co-workers Buck, a unicorn with a dark past and a damaged horn, and Lula, a sphinx. A master craftsman, Vulcan forges magical weapons at his shop, but it’s also a one-stop-shop where gods, demigods, monsters, and heroes can get weapons, potions, armor, charms, spells, and more.
When a mysterious young warrior-to-be visits the store and purchases an enchanted sword named “Roger” with dreams of becoming a hero by killing the three-headed dog Cereberus, Nico realizes how dangerous it would be to kill the dog that guards the gates of Hades and joins the hero’s quest to stop it from happening. The hero in training is Eowulf (the great-great-great-great- granddaughter of the legendary hero Beowulf) and both of them journey to Hades – the realm of the dead. Eowulf has grand dreams to follow in the footsteps of her family lineage, and Nico wants to prevent her from potentially causing chaos by killing Cereberus and thus opening the gates of Hades and releasing the dead.
The second volume brings more hijinks as a rogue shapeshifter named Orcus who is in league with the main villain, the god Ahriman, breaks into Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop with the hopes of uncovering the secret of Nico’s past. When Orcus accidentally unleashes evil from a god who is staying with Vulcan for a few weeks, it takes Nico and some undead denizens to the center of the Earth and Atlantis itself where Vulcan’s dark past is revealed.
What I really enjoy about the series is that even though Nico is the main character, there’s plenty of focus on the secondary characters. Buck breaks the fourth wall talking to the reader in a hilarious scene while watering (monstrous) plants in volume 1. A good amount of the book focuses on Buck in a subplot where he finds himself inexplicably back in the mysterious unicorn war. Eowulf also gets a lot of the plot in volume 2 as she’s trapped in a parallel universe during the unicorn war.
Cavallaro’s art style is simple and cartoon-like with solid colors for the characters and little shading. It results in a flowing style similar to Adventure Time that works great with this series. You could almost imagine this being an ongoing series on Cartoon Network.
The series doesn’t take itself seriously, but the characters are given a lot of personal moments that help you root for the heroes and laugh with the bumbling villains too. Nico is a selfish and brave hero who sees the good in all people. Buck and Lula are funny work companions. Eowulf is a great evolved heroine who has a great character arc of growth. Vulcan, the god of the forge, also has time to shine in volume 2.
Although it’s not a deep look at world mythologies, the series includes small “trading cards” of the gods and heroes to give the reader a quick lesson in who’s who of the gods. It’s fun and helps bring the reader up to speed without a lot of detail. The stories includes a lot of gods, monsters, and more that may be unfamiliar to readers such as Gilgamesh, Typhon, Echidna, Khonsu, Iskur, and Ahriman.
The series is filled with lots of gags. Even the quotes on the back of the book are funny. Violence is kept to a minimum. “Roger” the sword fights against monsters, but there’s no blood, and the deaths that do occur courtesy of the main villain are comical with vaporizations.
Here’s to a rousing and fun series that fans of myths and legends will enjoy for years to come.
About Mike Pawuk
Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, and co-author of the follow-up book Graphic Book II both published by Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO Publishing.
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