This graphic novel is a tie-in with a Cartoon Network show, Redakai. Three teens, Team Stax, are training to be “kairu warriors”, wielding the magical energies of kairu, a “living force that guides the universe.” Of course, bad teens want the kairu for their own purposes as well. You can tell they’re bad, because they’re aliens! Team Radikor has three teen alien/cyborg creatures and Team Hiverax appears to be triplets or three clones. Both evil and good have a master and there’s a humorous minor character who works as a cook and mechanic for Team Stax.
In the first story, Ky lets his enthusiasm get the better of him and nearly hurts his friends. Master Boaddai gives him a lecture on showing compassion and Ky apologizes. The art is pretty typical for a CN tie-in, lots of sharp edges, static poses, monsters and explosions. The scene where Ky transforms into his monster is very confusingly drawn and it’s hard to figure out what’s going on unless you’ve watched the cartoons or read the introductory material very carefully.
In the second story, Team Stax encounters alien refugees; the Gilfreem. After some initial fighting, they realize they need to calm down and talk and the aliens tell them they need the kairu to power their ship and survive. The art in these first two stories is by Write Height Media. The story continues in the third chapter, with a completely different artist, Zach Turner. This is very confusing. Turner’s artistic style looks nothing like the generic cartoon/alien art in the first two chapters. The lines are much softer, the colors muted, and there are fewer details. You can mostly still tell who the main characters are by the colors of their clothes and their hair color, but they don’t look anything like the previous art. In this story, the Gilfreem explain how they lived happily in the oceans on their planet until they allowed an alien race to live on the surface. They polluted the world and killed most of the Gilfreem by refusing to listen to their pleas to not pollute the oceans and steal the energy forces they needed to live. Team Stax starts helping the Gilfreem collect kairu to power their ship and continue to search for a new homeland but Team Hiverax shows up to get the kairu as well.
In the final chapter, the art switches back to Write Height Media and Team Stax joins the Gilfreem to fight off Hiverax together (maybe it’s a hive mind?) and learn the value of teamwork. Lots of transforming into monsters and bad puns, exploding energy and alien weapons, commences.
There are several pages of bonus sketches and a bonus story by a completely different artist, Dan Ciurczak, with color by Chad Walker, whose style falls somewhere between the previous two. They have more sharp edges, details, and colors than Turner, but a more softened, rounded style than Write Height Media. In the bonus story, a kairu weapon left on the family farm of one of the teens mutates the cows and they have to practice their compassion skills by rescuing not only the cows but also the villain Team Radikor.
This would have been a serviceable tv tie-in were it not for the weird change in artists halfway through the book. This type of alien/action cartoon (usually with all sorts of game merchandise, especially cards) is usually pretty popular, but there’s nothing about this that really stands out. The book is only available in paperback, but by the time it falls apart the show will probably be forgotten. If you have fans of the show, they’ll want to read the book, otherwise as a stand-alone it’s forgettable.
Redakai: Conquer the Kairu, vol. 1 — Invasion of the Gilfreem
by Aubrey Sitterson, Mike Raicht
Art by Write Height Media, Zack Turner, Dan Ciurczak
Viz Media, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 7 and up