Who was your most regrettable youthful crush? Mine, I should confess, was Danger Mouse, the brash swaggering hero of the cheap British cartoon that preceded Count Duckula. I suppose I was drawn to his masculine confidence, and also his affection for his timid sidekick Penfold, whose formalwear and cowardice I found deeply relatable.
Many years later, I remembered my wide-eyed admiration for the character and decided to give the series a re-watch. Whoops! Turns out, 11 year-old-me had terrible taste, both as a judge of character and of entertainment. Danger Mouse, I unhappily discovered, was a bit of an asshole, and the show was actually fairly boring.
But then again, all kids have terrible taste, and it’s incumbent on grownups to make the good stuff available to them when they’re ready. (The sooner you make them aware of The Muppet Show, Moomins, and Sailor Moon, the better.) I’m delighted by some great comics coming out this week that I will happily provide to youngsters, and also one grownup tale that may be a good gateway for teenagers ready for more advanced reading. Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to wade through a particularly fertile week for new books!
MILES MORALES: SHOCK WAVES
I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of Miles Morales, one of the best characters Marvel has on its roster right now, and it’s a pleasure to see him in a new adventure aimed at young readers that’s just as satisfying for adult readers. A natural disaster has struck Puerto Rico, and Miles wants to organize a fundraiser to help the people of his family’s homeland. Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious disappearance involving a friend, a superpowered duo causing trouble around town, and clues that the disaster might not have been so natural after all. All that, plus the usual drama of being a kid, makes the book a fast-paced, human-scale story that invests its characters with woes that are relatable despite the high stakes (or what seem like high stakes when you’re a tween). In recent years, Marvel’s guiding ethos seems to have shifted from “did America fuck up our response to 9/11” to “what do you do when you realize your trust is misplaced” and this book is as smart an investigation of that question as any of their recent books and films. That the book is aimed at readers aged 8 to 12 makes it all the more impressive.
Rating: 🕷️🕷️🕷️🕷️🕷️ (5/5)
Writer: Justin A. Reynolds: Illustrator: Pablo Leon. Layouts: Geoffo. Letterer: Ariana Maher.
Joyful and adorable, I cannot imagine there’s an 8+ kid alive who will not enjoy Dragon Racer. A brash young dragon with something to prove, Vern the dragon has built a flashy go-kart that impresses all the other animals of the forest. But is it fast enough to win the big race? And are there, in fact, some things more important than showing off? Lovely creative characters with lots of panache fill the book with Goonies-style fun, drawn adorably with some very fun panel layouts and sight gags. The book is technically a sequel to Ghost Hog, and although you don’t need to have read it to follow this one, newcomers may be startled by one frank mention of death that feels tossed-off if you’re not familiar with the more nuanced take in the first book. Reading Dragon Racer reminded me a bit of watching Fraggle Rock — lessons that are not necessarily complex or innovative (sharing is good, prejudice is bad), but told in a world that is so unique that it’s a real joy to spend time there.
Rating: 🏎️🏎️🏎️🏎️ (4/5)
Author: Joey Weiser.
6 SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #1
Aw man this setup’s a real tickler. An action star, hated by nearly everyone, has been found dead, and his sidekicks from various films must team up to solve his murder. Behind this book’s bravado and tough-talking fights beats the matronly heart of an Agatha Christie whodunnit, and this issue hits nearly all the right notes: Everyone has their own reasons for wanting the victim dead; each suspect has a complicated history; the cops are not interested in solving the crime. It’s a great start to a caper, and I’m giddy for the twists and turns to unspool in their investigation. Alas, there’s one note that this issue doesn’t quite nail, and that’s giving us a pleasant sleuth to root for. The main sidekick who starts the investigation is Miles Nguyen, an actor who plays a thoughtful detective; he’s joined by Paul Hernandez, a former child actor who left showbiz to become a nurse. Their chemistry’s great — there’s a hint of flirtation! But the book turns a few pages too many over to the loathsome Terry Komodo, a swaggering jerk who is the party guest everyone wishes would leave. I’m sure he’ll have a redemption arc somewhere along the line, but his tedious dick-swinging eats up time that could be better spent with the more complex characters and more intriguing clue-sniffing.
Rating: 🎞️🎞️🎞️🎞️ (4/5)
Writer: Kyle Starks. Artist: Chris Schweizer.
ALSO: PRIDE ANTHOLOGY, LESBIAN MAGIC, and BROKEN TEETH
There’s a new pride anthology out from DC, the first of two, and it looks like a real delight — I’m particularly happy to see Sina Grace, Andrew Wheeler, Trung Le Nguyen, and Steve Orlando among the excellent contributors. The Girl from the Sea, by the wonderful Molly Knox Ostertag, is a teen fable with a touch of fantasy and romance. The Delicacy is a twisty tale of restaurant intrigue, and Bunny Mask is a dark, gory horror tale that starts with someone’s teeth getting broken with a chisel and that’s about as far as I made it.