The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot was originally launched as a graphic novel and app from Kid Rocket Studios. Now AMP! has picked up the interactive graphic novel, making it available to more schools and libraries.
Kung Fu Robot is an exuberant and enthusiastic robot. He’s determined to keep the city safe from his arch-nemesis Kung Pow Chicken. Kung Fu Robot is not alone—he’s got his sidekick/friend, Marvin, a rather timid and skeptical nine-year-old, red-headed boy. He’s also got a great memory for all the things superheroes are supposed to do! Marvin remembers Kung Fu Robot’s other exploits and isn’t too thrilled at getting pulled into another peanut butter and jelly fiasco, complete with toilet plungers, evil robot chickens, and potential outrage by parents over the ensuing mess. But Kung Fu Robot is his friend, and there’s definitely dirty work afoot, and he can’t just let his often confused and always impulsive robotic pal get into trouble alone.
The artwork is a mix of vintage and contemporary cartoon style. Each page has a background color in shades of red, yellow, and turquoise that has weathered edges and a vintage, worn look. The art is laid out in a mixture of tilted and overlapping panels with occasional spot features of various characters. The text and art overflows the panels, adding to the urgent and exuberant tone of Kung Fu Robot’s personality. The speech bubbles have sharp corners and black shadows, making them pop off the page. There’s constant movement in the art—Kung Fu Robot’s head and lower jaw are not attached to his body and his other appendages often separate as well, adding to the manic cartoon vibe. In addition to the artwork and the backgrounds of the pages, the panels themselves have patterned, colored backgrounds.
A section at the end includes funny and informative notes on “superhero tools of the trade” like nunchucks, toilet plungers, and unicycles. There’s also a link to get a free app. Using this app, you can scan the pages and get digital features to go along with the book (which I assume links to the patterned backgrounds of many of the panels). The spine and final page of the story imply there will be future volumes of Kung Fu Robot’s adventures. The book is available in a paperback and in prebound binding. I have strong suspicions about the quality of the paperback, as the review copy I received had fallen apart. The wide margins would make this work well as a prebound title though, unlike many comics.
The publicity for the book suggests it as an imaginative substitute for video games and to get kids to put down their devices and read a book, which makes the promotion of an app a little confusing. I don’t have a device to test the app, but I found the artwork so crammed and busy that it was very difficult to follow the storyline. I don’t see this as a good choice for reluctant and struggling readers for that reason. However, it is funny and the over-the-top humor and action will attract readers who enjoy Dav Pilkey and Andy Griffiths as well as some of the Branches series like Kung Pow Chicken.
Adventures of Kung Fu Robot, vol. 1: How to make a Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Kung Fu Sandwich
by Jason Bays
AMP! Comics for Kids, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-12