Magic, monsters, mayhem, politics, prejudice, and power, oh my! Most teenagers feel like they move between multiple universes: school, work, home, friends, family, but Amelia Cole really does navigate between two realms, the magical and the mundane. Raised by her Aunt Dani in the magical world after her parents’ deaths, Amelia refuses to choose between her worlds and travels between them regularly until one day her worlds collide when a demon infiltrates the non-magical world. Desperate to understand how this could happen, Amelia retreats back to her aunt, but events conspire to leave Amelia bereft of her only living relative and thrust into a new world, a third world she never knew existed, but which may prove to be an important part of her own past.

Finding action/adventure graphic novels with strong female protagonist can sometimes be a challenge, and Knave and Kirkbride have admirably worked to meet that expectation. While Amelia Cole and the Unknown World does have a bit of a slow start as both Amelia and the reader struggle to understand this new world, the authors find their groove as they move into the first volume, and the pacing of volume 2, Amelia Cole and the Hidden War, is excellent. Amelia herself has a rocky first impression as a headstrong teen, but as she is forced to take on new, very adult, challenges and responsibilities, we see her begin to mature into a determined, compassionate, resourceful young woman, one with a strong personal moral code and a bit of a Batman-like appeal and persona as a city’s new enforcer. With volume 2, The Hidden War, the authors continue to develop both the characters and their world; supporting characters begin to develop their own storylines, and layers of intrigue build as Amelia and the reader attempt to uncover the truth of what is happening in the city and in the wilds around it. The entwined stories of Amelia and Hector, an antagonist turned potential ally, are both well-developed and excellently paced, drawing the reader into the story with plenty of action and political intrigue.

Brokenshire’s art complements and expands the world that the writers build, using rich color and clever details to help introduce the reader to this new world where magic and mundane collide. Whether they feature Amelia’s golem partner, the monsters the city’s army struggles to contain, or leaky faucets and grizzled tenants in the non-magical part of the city where Amelia lives and hides, each panel provides a glimpse of this new world and its inhabitants both ordinary and extraordinary.

IDW doesn’t provide an age rating for Amelia Cole, but it is generally appropriate for most teen collections. There is little sexual content or nudity, and Amelia herself is modestly costumed throughout both volumes. The violence is fairly standard for mainstream action comics; there are some on-screen deaths, particularly in The Hidden War, but they are neither extreme or gratuitous. Some readers might find the political intrigue, including the implication that the government should not be trusted, problematic, as that theme does heavily underlie the story’s events. Also key to the story’s themes are ideas of prejudice and the separation of powers and rights between the city’s magical and non-magical citizens. Others may object to the obvious magical and occult themes, including Amelia’s creation of a golem to serve as her handyman partner.

A fiery and confident young female hero, an interesting and complex storyline, and excellent potential for continued storylines make Amelia Cole a fun standout addition to the adventure comics currently available.

Amelia Cole, vol. 1: And the Unknown World
ISBN: 9781613777008
Amelia Cole, vol. 2: And the Hidden War
ISBN: 9781613779538
by Adam Knave and D. J. Kirkbride
Art by Nick Brokenshire
IDW, 2013-2014

  • Beth Rogers

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Beth Rogers is Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Outreach at the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she has worked to introduce and develop the library’s graphic novel collection. Also a part-time lecturer in English, Beth has taught courses on graphic novels for college students, lead book discussions on graphic novels including Watchmen and American-Born Chinese, and guest lectured on superheroes in American culture. She also maintains a book review blog, Do I Wanna Read THAT?!?!? When she’s not working, Beth enjoys action movies, knitting wee Avengers, and spoiling her dog.

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