It’s another beautiful day in Beach City, full of the usual unusual occurrences in this episodic Steven Universe graphic novel.
First, we spend time with Lion, who gets into trouble by licking Amethyst while she naps in cat form, plays with Pearl’s swords, chases a gem lizard, and stares soulfully at Sadie. Typical cat stuff, in other words. In the second story, we get back into the wrestling ring with the Purple Puma this time accompanied by Pearl, with rather mixed results. Steven tries going fishing while on an aquatic mission for the Cabochon Circlet, and the team ends up getting some timely help from Onion and his dad. Last, we go on a trip to a corn maze with Steven and Garnet, where they find an unlikely family forming underground.
Compared to some of the other Steven Universe graphic novels, Punching Up has a fairly cohesive storyline and consistent visuals. Too Cool for School and Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems both have a single storyline and artist throughout. However, Steven Universe volumes 1 and 2 alternate artists and have several short stories, some as short as two pages. The art in Punching Up is more consistent, despite having three different artists, and fairly close to the show’s style. I feel this makes it more appealing to a reader new to the Steven Universe graphic novels, especially younger readers, because it provides consistency between show and comic.
None of the stories are too deep, dark, or closely related to the show’s main storyline, so it’s relatively spoiler-free and easy to pick up for any fan of the show. These factors make the graphic novel especially approachable for younger fans. Punching Up does require some understanding of the show to really grasp the significance of any of the storylines. The first chapter revolving around Lion explores the mystery of his nature, showing him both as a big cat and as a magical creature, and balances both sides well. The third story feels weakest, using non-verbal panels like the Lion story but with less clear results. As a fan, I love that this comic has little details like the fact that in the background of the corn maze there are scarecrow cameos of characters from Steven Universe and other media. In general, this comic has just the right amount of detail in each panel to keep things interesting without getting cluttered.
Punching Up could definitely be shelved in the children’s section, especially because it doesn’t explore any of the heavier material Steven Universe sometimes dips into. Steven Universe is one of those unusual shows that appeals across multiple age ranges, with a fandom that spans anywhere from children to adults. Older fans understand that it is marketed towards children, so it won’t particularly matter to them if they need to go to the children’s area to find this book.
This is one of the newest graphic novels in the franchise, having come out in April 2018, so it’s easy to find and should continue to be for some time. It is also thankfully on the cheaper side of graphic novel prices, considering it comes in the standard trade paperback, which doesn’t necessarily stand the test of time well in a library setting. All of the graphic novels are episodic, so it isn’t necessary to have the others before getting this one, either. The naming conventions for the Steven Universe graphic novels can be a little strange, as some have subtitles and volume numbers, some have just subtitles, and others just have volume numbers. It might be worthwhile to look up the release order if you’re wanting to collect all of them or see if you are missing a few in the series.
Steven Universe, vol. 2: Punching Up
by Grace Kraft, Melanie Gillman
Art by Meg Omac, Rii Gillman, Katy Farina
Publisher Age Rating: 8-11