Meet the Invincible Boy-Bot, a young boy who’s created an indestructible robotic suit that’s a little bit of Iron Man and Superman put together. With the touch of a button on his chest, the suit instantly pops out. When he wards off evil doers, he leaves a wake of destruction. He’s got a lot of learning to do, from blasting through less ceilings, walls, and the entire town, in general. The book is divided up into what feels like chapters, but are actually four individual books put together into one.
In “Super Zero”, we are introduced to our main character, Zach, who is a comic loving youngster that is bullied in school for his nerdy ways. He decides to do something about it, so with his pet spider alongside him, he builds a robot suit. He sets out to help Metro City by stopping a runaway train, though clumsily, as he gets used to navigating his new invention. His parents are clueless about what he’s doing. Their oblivious comments add humor throughout the story.
After saving the day, Zinc Alloy is praised, so in “Revealed!”, he reveals his identity. Suddenly, the kids who bullied him want to help him, and love comics too. He confidently enters a swim race, which pushes his robotic suit to its limits.
“Vs. Frankenstein” has Zach disastrously tackling a tornado which angers the town. While running away from a mob he ends up meeting Frankenstein, a cast off from society. They become friends and work together.
Finally, in “Coldfinger”, Zach, while on winter vacation, stumbles into the evil Dr. Icee and defeats him easily. While his parents have no idea that he’s once again saved Metro City from destruction, we have a side story of them consuming cup after cup of cocoa. Zinc Alloy accidentally wins a ski race, and simultaneously, the heart of his crush, Monique.
Australian illustrator Douglas Holgate does an excellent job of bringing Lemke’s characters to life. Throughout the comic he uses different color palettes to add to the atmosphere of the scene he is capturing. For example, when Zach has a crush, we see not only lots of hearts drawn, but there is a strong emphasis on the color red in all the panels that she’s in. Frozen scenes with Dr. Icee feature icy blue backgrounds, and the coldness is further highlighted with icy blue action words. It’s a subtle but effective way to aid the text in producing the mood the author is aiming to get across. This talented and award-winning artist has a pleasing drawing style that children will enjoy.
Overall, I have issues with this comic. The parents are in extremely traditional roles. We have scene after scene of his father not parenting, not helping with housework, and instead indulging in selfish activities. This leaves the clueless, but loving mother in the kitchen to do 100% of the parenting, and all domestic duties. The family dynamics feel like you are reading a comic set in the 1950s, however, it is set in modern times. Also, “Coldfinger” concludes with Zach’s father passed out on the drive home, after a long day of gulping down cocoa. The story is emphasizing Zach’s father giving into his own weaknesses, versus Zach, who overcomes his weaknesses. However, the depiction of cocoa consumption and its after effects are more consistent with alcohol consumption than cocoa, possibly exposing young readers to a parental figure that has a drinking problem.
Furthermore, the lack of explanation as to where and how Zach is suddenly able to create a futuristic robot can leave the reader feeling confused. More background is needed, it reads like it’s an incomplete thought. There is a violent scene when Zinc Alloy is fighting, and a zoomed in image of a starting pistol is included. Both feel too mature for the recommended age range. Lastly, a panel is included that shows what appears to be a Japanese city, as a building has Japanese writing on it, and a speech bubble with Chinese coming from a man shouting. There is a clear difference in these two languages. This panel comes across as lacking cultural awareness for one of the most basic differences between China and Japan.
Considering all the great comic books out there, if budgets are of concern I’d pass on this comic, it’s just missing the mark on too many key areas.
Zinc Alloy: the complete comics collection
By Donald Lemke
Art by Douglas Holgate
Capstone Press, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)