“My name is Kara Zor-El. When I was a child, my planet, Krypton, was dying.” Those words are familiar to anyone watching the CW television series Supergirl. The show’s opening lines are repeated at the start of Supergirl: Age of Atlantis, a tie-in middle grade prose novel.

Out of nowhere, citizens all over National City have started to exhibit an array of superpowers. Inspired by Supergirl, several of these “supercitizens” have taken their powers to the streets, with occasionally catastrophic results. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) is also trying to learn more about a mysterious humanoid sea creature who was captured after attacking an employee at the National City Aquarium. It’s up to Supergirl and her DEO colleagues to discover the connection between the strange creature and the supercitizens before they cause untold damage to the city or themselves.

It’s important to mention that I have watched Supergirl since it began airing in 2015, so my reading experience will differ from that of someone who does not watch the show. Age of Atlantis does an excellent job of balancing references that show watchers will enjoy with a solid and interesting plot that anyone, show watcher or not, can follow. There are a number of nods and references to other DC Comics properties, which are fun for readers in the know, but not crucial to the story. One element that could have been developed further was character backstory. Age of Atlantis gives a rather cursory introduction to each of the characters, but there is a lot of nuance and information that readers are missing if they haven’t watched the show. It’s not essential to know everyone’s full story to understand the book, but I would have had a lot of questions and would have wanted to know a lot more about each character if I didn’t know about them going in. Author Jo Whittemore does a great job of carrying the diversity of the characters over into the book, and each character is described well in that respect. I’ve always appreciated the diverse cast in the show, and I was happy to see that continue with new characters introduced in this book.

Whittemore captures many of the elements that make Supergirl an engaging character—action scenes and Supergirl’s powers share equal time with character-driven scenes, including Supergirl’s alter-ego life as reporter Kara Danvers. Superhero stories can be difficult to tell in prose form, as action often lends itself to a visual medium, but Whittemore’s descriptions and writing were spot on, and I was able to visualize all of the action perfectly. Whittemore has an ear for dialogue too, so each character’s speech sounded natural and captured their unique voices. I also appreciated that the writing switched between referring to the character as “Supergirl” and as “Kara” to differentiate to the reader whether she was in her hero costume or her alter-ego garb.

Age of Atlantis as a whole felt like it could have been a multi-episode arc of the show, and that’s a good thing. Fans of the show will appreciate that the book remains faithful to the show’s tone, and non-watchers may be tempted to check out the show after liking the book, which is certainly a goal of a tie-in book series. Age of Atlantis is the first volume of a planned book series, but it stands on its own well. I was disappointed that an epilogue with a “to be continued” ending was tacked on to the end of the book, because it felt like a ploy to get me to pick up the next book. The epilogue’s overall tone didn’t fit with the rest of the book, and it was weird to read after what would have been a perfect ending.

The book itself did not list a recommended age rating, but the product page on bookseller websites lists the age range as 9-12 years. I would expand the upper part of this range a bit, up to 15 or so, as teen readers (particularly those who like the show) would enjoy this book too. Otherwise, the age rating is completely appropriate. There are no content red flags, and even the usual sci-fi violence and action that would bump up the rating on a superhero show or movie is toned down for a prose book with no visuals. I would shelve this with my junior/middle grade fiction, and would absolutely order volume 2 (and beyond if the writing stays as consistently good as it was for this book).

Supergirl, book 1: Age of Atlantis
by Jo Whittemore
ISBN: 9781419728143
Amulet Books, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12

  • Amanda

    | She/Her

    Editor-at-Large

    Amanda Jacobs Foust has been presenting, writing and talking about comics in libraries for over a decade and also produced and co-hosted the In the Library with a Comic Book podcast. In addition to her comics work, Amanda has extensive experience as a conference and webinar presenter on a diverse range of topics related to librarianship.

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