Bright Family | Review
written by Matthew Cody with Carol Klio Burrell; illustrated by Derick Brooks
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $13.99 (hardcover), $9.99 (paperback)
The familiar idea of an inventive family — similar to the Fantastic Four — having space adventures is told with heart and charm in Bright Family.
Nia works hard at her academic accomplishments, but her classmates assume her smart, famous parents help her out. Her younger brother Jayden is imaginative but bored at school and underachieving. The parents are busy doing amazing things, which means they’re not always accessible or present for the kids. That’s where Dusty, the robot nanny, comes in (and is sure to be a reader favorite).
When the parents, trying to keep the kids from running away, are sucked through a dimensional portal, Nia and Jayden set out to find them. The journey through the multiverse leads them to a kaiju battle, creating cross-cultural awareness, preventing ecological catastrophe, and an arena competition.
Brooks does an excellent job with the various needs of the story: emotional moments and realistic settings but also the various planets and creatures. The kids demonstrate creative approaches to problem-solving, although the resolutions are often assumed or told via short cuts.
It’s a pleasure to see the diverse family makeup, which isn’t focused on or highlighted. It’s just their world: Nia and Jayden are Black, while mom Banira is Japanese-American.
The biggest disappointment is that the interpersonal dynamics and struggles highlighted in the first chapter aren’t substantially followed up on. Of course, when they’re all running for their lives through various planets, it’s hard to have significant emotion realizations. A late sequence even juxtaposes these elements for comedy.
There’s more here than just imaginative adventure, but there’s a distinct difference in tone between the beginning and the end of the book. By the end, the reader is focused by the “rah-rah more exploring!” finale on what the family does instead of who they are.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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