SuperGirl cosmic adventures in the 8th gradeWriter Landry Q. Walker has set out to introduce younger kids to Supergirl in the series SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade. I was immediately struck by the art of Eric Jones. While not as cartoony as Art Baltazar of Tiny Titans fame, Jones has his own signature style that is appealing and depicts Kara as a skinny pre-teen girl with large, expressive eyes and unruly hair. It’s not quite a manga style, but you can definitely feel the influence. The layouts and linework are clean and easy to follow, and the coloring pops off the page, just what you would want in a comic for kids. Yet while the art is definitely a strong point, some of the other decisions in the book have me scratching my head.

We get the more or less traditional Supergirl origin story here: Kara comes to earth in a rocket from Krypton as a 13-year-old, well after Superman has already established his heroic identity. Kara develops a secret identity as Linda, an 8th grade middle school student, and much is made of her isolation as she struggles to adapt to American middle school customs. Her alienation is a good metaphor for what the middle grades can feel like. Through some complicated plot developments, Kara creates a clone of herself who is her opposite: popular, mean, cliquish, and vindictive. Several chapters deal with how her clone makes life hellish for Kara. From there, the plot becomes complicated with other Superman villains, Supergirls from other timelines, and even Superpets. I worry that only the most die-hard DC fan would know what is going on. Of course, Tiny Titans delves into plenty of DC continuity and many kids seem to love it, so it’s possible children will feel the same way about this series. But I’m just not sure who the series is for.

The story is set in middle school, but seems aimed at elementary aged kids. The publisher chose to package the book into 6 single-issue volumes as well as a larger trade paperback, which leads me to believe that they are targeting younger students in elementary schools and libraries who are early readers. Yet the vocabulary and topics lean more towards 4th and 5th grade content, and the single-issue format is not the best packaging for that age. This does allow me to point out one of the strongest features of the single-issue books, however. Each issue has a vocabulary section and a series of questions about how the art furthers the story and plot. I found these questions to be extremely insightful and helpful in understanding how a writer and artist collaborate on a comic, and I do think kids aged 8-11 could benefit from thinking and writing about these questions. However, most libraries would do better to pick up the traditional trade paperback and suggest this to kids who love Superman or have exhausted the Tiny Titans’ collections.

SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vols. 1-6 (limited series)
by Landry Q. Walker
Art by Eric Jones
ISBN: 9781401225063 (all 6 issues combined)
DC & Stone Arch Books, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol.1
ISBN: 9781434247179
SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol.2
ISBN: 9781434247186
SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol. 3
ISBN: 9781434247193
SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol.4
ISBN: 9781434247209
SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol.5
ISBN: 9781434260451
SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, vol.6
ISBN: 9781434260468

DC & Stone Arch Books, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

  • Mark

    | He/Him Young Adult Librarian, Cedar Mill Library

    Reviewer

    Mark Richardson is the Young Adult Librarian at the Cedar Mill Library in Portland Oregon where he selects adult and young adult graphic novels, YA fiction & nonfiction, video games and adult music for the library. He also plans lots of activities for local teens ranging from art contests to teen trivia to Pokemon parties. If this sounds like a dream job, it is. Sometimes he has to pinch himself to make sure he really gets to do all of this. He’s been reading comics for as long as he can remember and has been known to present an occasional conference sessions on graphic novels at the Oregon Library Association’s annual conference.

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