Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Comics WEDNESDAY: Girl on Fire and Red and Rover

Keys, Alicia, Weiner, Andrew, and Williams, Brittany (illus.) Girl on Fire   
Published March 1st 2022 by Harper Alley 
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Lolo Wright and her brother James live in New York City and attend a school in a somewhat rough neighborhood, although they both excel academically thanks to the influence of their father, who has high expectations for their behavior. Their mother left the family years ago, after struggling with drug addiction and other problems. Their father has started his own moving company, and things are looking up for the family, which also includes their mother's mother, who also supports the children. Michael also attends their school, but when the football coach tells him that he's still not big enough for the team, and the other players start calling him "Runt", he starts to be tempted to join ranks with the local drug dealer, Skin. When Lolo and James get caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery and the police assume that James is the suspect, they mistreat him and push Lolo aside. She finds that she suddenly has powers to get the police off her brother without touching them, and the two are able to escape. This experience traumatizes James, who doesn't share his emotions with anyone except for Nia, Lolo's best friend. Lolo continues on with her academics, and gets assigned to work on a group project with Eric, whose father is very wealthy but insists his son attend a public school to build character. He admires Lolo's academics, and the two start to be friends, even though previously Eric had supported the local mean girl who made Lolo miserable. When Skin finds out about Lolo's powers, he is determined to bring her skills to his team. He also looks at her father's moving business as one to target for protection payment. He makes Michael approach him for payment, but since Mr. Wright was supportive of Michael and his family after his father's death from cancer, Michael finds it hard to do what Skin asks. Skin, in retaliation to Mr. Wright's refusal to pay, blows up his moving truck, which puts the family's plans to move to Rockaway on hold. Will Lolo, Michael, and Mr. Wright be able to resist Skin's advances and continue with their lives? And how will Lolo's powers affect her future. There is plenty of room for a further adventure. 

Williams' drawing will be familiar to readers of Goldie Vance and volume 3 of Lumberjanes, and her comic book style of illustrating is perfect for this superhero tale. The New York landscape gets a lot of attention, with storefronts, the school, and shady alleys and warehouses nicely drawn, and the range of emotions on the faces is much deeper than the average graphic novel. The color palette changes with the mood of the scenes, but is very rich and layered. 

Lolo's story is one that will appeal to suburban readers as something unusual and interesting, and will give urban dwellers representation that might seem familiar. I love that Lolo is academically advanced, and the way she deals with the pressure of other's expectations of her are realistically drawn. Her relationship with Eric is interesting, and at the end of the book she is especially kind to the mean girl, which was a nice twist. 

Like Muro's Primer, I'm not sure if Lolo is reflective of a Marvel or DC superhero unknown to me, or an entirely new creation, but this matters little. Readers who enjoyed other urban tales like Maldonado's Tight or Booth's We Could Be Brothers or who like the updated versions of the Black Panther or Spider Man stories will enjoy this fresh treatment of an unlikely super hero who uses her powers to protect her family and those she loves. 

Basset, Brian. Fun's Never Over (Red and Rover)
June 7th 2022 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the Publisher

I did not know that I had been reading the Red and Rover comic strip for its entire existence; The Columbus Dispatch has carried the Sunday strip since 2000, as far as I can remember. I hadn't seen the daily strips, though, and was fun to be introduced to these. Red, an exuberant 8-10 year old, has a great friend in his dog, Rover, and the two communicate telepathically; Rover doesn't really talk, but Red seems to understand his thoughts. They go on lots of adventures, get into some trouble, and love each other dearly. There were many strips that made me laugh (Red comments that the fly in Rover's dish is dead, just like all of the other meat Rover eats, so Rovers munches the fly), and some were very poignant, as when Red comments that he lives for Saturday morning cartoons, and after Rover replies that he lives for Red, the two go out to play instead of watching t.v. 

The color pallette is simple, with red, blue, yellow, and green, and lots of white space. There's a 1950s vibe, with Red's cuffed pants and t shirts, and the clothing on the parents. The setting is a suburban neighborhood with plenty of outdoor space for the two to camp out, jump in leaves, and catch bullfrogs. 

There's no social commentary, nothing more serious than a lemonade stand, and was just what I needed to read at the end of the year. Red isn't as wily as Big Nate, but his relationship with Rover gives a gentler Calvin and Hobbes feel to the strips. My students will definitely love this one. 

1 comment:

  1. Girl on Fire sounds like a compelling graphic novel. Good for kids from suburbia to read and see other worlds.