In 1942, ten-year-old Evelyn is shipped off to New York City to spend the summer with her avant-garde Aunt Lia while her father gets married yet again. Though Evelyn is rich, she’s never been to the city and isn’t sure that she’ll have any fun hanging around with her aunt’s artist friends. So she loses herself in the comic books she creates which feature the adventures of Zirconium Man and his trusty sidekick Scooter. But Evelyn does find friendship with Tony, the son of her building’s supervisor, and soon the two of them are off on adventures of their own–hunting down Nazi spies!
Both Kim and Klavan have experience writing screenplays, so even though this is the first graphic novel for all three creators, it is a strong book. Evelyn and Tony are particularly successful creations. They believably act their age–preteens on the cusp of adolescence–vacillating between maturity and childishness depending on the situation. Balancing them out are Lia and a local police officer Brendan. Both feel caught by their routines, unable to be the true artist (Lia) or hero (Brendan) that they long to be. The other characters are as human as the stars. They are grumpy or cheerful, annoyed or helpful, and the bad guys are not as easily identifiable as those who would profile based on ethnicity would believe.
The plot is engaging, even though the spy subplot isn’t really the point….
City of Spies
Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan; artwork by Pascal Dizin
First Second, April 2010