Friday 5 February 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 5th February 2016 - "DC Comics: Secret Hero Society - Study Halls of Justice" by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen (Scholastic)

Our second book of the week this week could be the answer to something we've wanted for a LONG time. A fantastic way for middle-graders to get the inside track on comic heroes the rest of us love, without insulting their intelligence...

Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen have created the first (and hopefully not the last) volume in an all-new chapter detailing the young lives of DC superheroes (and supervillains too!)

I know what you're thinking - you've seen the sentence "young lives of DC Superheroes" and are probably running as quickly away from this review as your super-legs can super-carry you but stay put, comic stuff doesn't make "Book of the Week" on ReadItDaddy unless it royally rocks.

We already know that there's mileage in exploring the lives of the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman before they became the chiselled (and sometimes flawed) heroes they grew up into. "Gotham" is actually a heck of a fun TV show (though definitely not for kids) so let's take the coolest heroes, and slap 'em in a school environment that could seriously test their mettle.

"Ducard Academy" (oh yes, watch out for the references that will have your nerd glands working overtime) is the school in question, and new pupils Clark, Bruce and Diana - otherwise known as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - have enrolled and are finding their feet on their first day. Things aren't quite what they seem. Some of the teachers seem to have quite villainous agendas (I love, love, LOVE that General Zod is now a surly PE teacher) and some of the other pupils are best avoided too. There's that weird kid with the headgear called Bane who is like a walking advert for muscle supplements, and as for that pair of goons who are always playing practical jokes (that kid with the green hair and his harlequin-esque girlfriend), we're never quite sure they're only doing what they do for the sheer fun of it.

Bruce, Clark and Diana soon form a secret hero society, investigating all the strange goings on at the school. Does the school principal entirely occupy himself with the education and well-being of his pupils or is he on the payroll of a certain very rich kid with a shiny bonce called Lex?

The DC Universe is enjoying its time in the sun at the moment, with some truly stunning looking movies arriving within the next couple of years - and finally it looks like DC have got the drop on Marvel with how to write and draw brilliant stuff for kids Charlotte's age. She absolutely ATE this up, and it's been a great introduction to characters that I'd really struggled to find some sort of middle grade middle ground on (it's actually VERY tricky to find a Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman comic from the grown up cache that you can comfortably share with a 7 year old).

Even old cynical me loved all the subtle tweaking of the DC universe, the countless in-jokes and references, and though it plays fast and loose with origin stories and how these characters interact in the big-grown-up comics, it's all the better for giving kids a great series to call their own.

We both loved it, loved it, LOVED IT!

Charlotte's favourite bit: Wonder Woman's school holidays postcard to Bruce showing off her own private jet (have you ever tried to get a photo of Wonder Woman's jet?)

Daddy's favourite bit: The way the characters we know and love have been subtly re-spun and re-imagined is nothing short of stunning. This, THIS RIGHT HERE is the sort of treatment of DC characters that works so fantastically for kids and is relatively free of all the worrisome comic trappings you'll see in the grown-up comics (no sexual overtones, no violence but a danged fantastic and engaging story that shows you can do this stuff without those things after all!) Brilliant, more please, soon!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Scholastic)

"DC Comics Secret Hero Society: Study Halls of Justice"

Written by Derek Fridolfs

Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen

Published by Scholastic 

Publication Date (Hardback): 4th February 2016