Friday 3 June 2016

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 3rd June 2016 - "Mega Robo Bros" by Neill Cameron (David Fickling Books)

What's that? It's the sound of inevitability Mr Anderson, as once again The Phoenix Presents blasts its way into our Book of the Week slot. This week's first Book of the Week is the epic "Mega Robo Bros Book 1" by Neill Cameron (David Fickling Books)
"Aw come on Charlotte, we can't make this Book of the Week. It'll look like we're playing favourites!"

That's how my initial attempts to stave off looking like we're horribly biased and just slide every single "The Phoenix Presents" title into a book of the week slot without so much as a by your leave, neatly coinciding with their return to the Phabulous Phoenix Comic's weekly run too.

If you've ever argued with a six (or 8) year old, you're going to wholly identify with Freddy and Alex's exasperated parents in "Mega Robo Bros". Neill Cameron obviously draws on his own parenting experiences heavily here as his new(ish) series for The Phoenix Comic is deliciously well observed and at the same time creates the sort of comic world that feels realistic and relevant to the sort of things today's kids (and parents) obsess over.

"Mega Robo Bros" is the story of two robots who just happen to be two of the most advanced mechs on the planet. Developed by a super genius and adopted by her and her hubby, Freddy and Alex live in future London and do all the things that you'd expect a pair of siblings to do. Mainly squabble, fight, do exactly the opposite of what they're told - oh and fight nefarious baddies with their robotic superpowers.

Dr Sharma (their creator and mum) has installed a hugely advanced AI in each of them, and as their initial adventure unfolds, we get to see what it's like when you mix amazing robotic superiority with the mind of a child. It's truly genius stuff, dipping into but never copying tons of robot and sci fi tropes and making them intrinsic to what is the big draw for kids - that despite their obvious superiority, Freddy and Alex are just like any other kid.

Things start off relatively peaceful for Freddy and Alex as they go to school, make friends and lead a fairly ordinary life. But when a robotic genius threatens to level the city it's time for Freddy and Alex to step up to the plate and show what they're really made of (a sort of titanium polyblended alloy over a mechanised combat chassis, just a guess).

As you'd expect from Neill, the characters in the story are contemporary, relevant and downright book-huggingly diverse in all the right ways. For Charlotte, the stories are exciting and page-turningly brilliant (and the current new run of Mega Robo Bros that has just ended in the weekly Phoenix Comic has swiftly become her favourite strip).

For me, I have to smile to myself at the brilliant observations of Freddy and Alex's parents, dad wears that totally exasperated slightly hang-dog look I sometimes get when I look in the mirror after Charlotte has pointed out how unreasonable I am for not letting her eat three peanut butter cups before bedtime. Mum is a cerebral genius who also deals with all the things supermums deal with day in day out.

Dang, the guy just makes it all look so effortless and easy. We've often said how brilliant it would be if "Mo-Bot High" (a similarly mechtastic and brilliant strip that ran for all too short a time in the sadly defunct DFC) was revived and ended up with new episodes, but for now "Mega Robo Bros" feels like a brilliant replacement, again offering that same level of making you feel like this is taking place 15 minutes into your own future in a world that feels believable and echoes our own.

Damned good stuff, damned good. Of course it's a book of the week, how could it not be! Favouritism be damned!

Charlotte's favourite bit: I think she's got a bit of a girly crush on Freddy who always seems to have a smart answer for everything. Oh and of course the "Butts Butts, Poop Poop, Poopy Poopy Butts Butts" song (which we always sing to the tune of "Fish Head, Fish Heads, Lovely Lovely Fish Heads" as I'm sure was Neill's intention!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Cracklingly paced, brilliantly observed, exquisitely drawn, a real robo-riot of a collection that should go straight to the top of your comic shopping list.

(Kindly sent to us for review by David Fickling Books)

"Mega Robo Bros (Book 1)"

Written and Illustrated by Neill Cameron

Published by David Fickling Books

Publication Date: 2nd June 2016