Thursday, March 24, 2016

Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen

I enjoyed reading this but I'm really not sure about the appeal to kids.

Bruce is thrilled to be accepted into the prestigious Ducard Academy. But almost immediately he starts to realize that something strange is going on. There are some very odd students at the school and even though he makes two sort of friends - Clark and Diana - they quickly get annoyed with his mystery-solving efforts and go their separate ways. But when things get even worse at the school and the three get trapped in detention (with creepy librarian Brainiac) they have to work together to escape.

The story is told in notes and case files primarily from Bruce, occasional emails and texts and comic panels. The art is black and white and in Nguyen's distinctive, watercolor style. Unless the reader knows absolutely nothing about superheroes (and even then it's hard not to absorb some cultural information) it's going to be fairly easy to identify embryo Bruce, Superman, and Diana at the least. The rest of the supervillains will be more or less familiar depending on your level of DC comic familiarity.

However, I don't think the point of this is to surprise the reader - it's going to be obvious to anyone who the main characters are, and most of the minor characters as well. The fun comes in feeling like you are "in" on the joke and seeing how a young Bruce Wayne handles an investigation as a kid.

Verdict: While my kids enthusiastically read superhero comics, I'm not sure if they'll go for this since they don't usually like novel-length books about superheroes and the black and white art is likely to put them off. On the other hand, it's about "real" superheroes, Nguyen's art is fun, and the mixture of formats is usually a draw. While I enjoyed reading it personally, I'm not sure I want to start another series that may or may not be popular.

ISBN: 9780545825016; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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