Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Tobias, and Marco are normal kids until the night that a spaceship crashes to Earth in front of them. A dying alien emerges, tells them that humanity is under attack, and offers to grant them an ability they can use to fight for their species. Though scared and conflicted, they accept the alien’s gift.

Now, the five kids have the ability to transform—to morph—into any animal after touching it to “acquire” its DNA. They can fly as birds, pass unnoticed as lizards, even wreak havoc as elephants and tigers. (Conveniently, Cassie’s parents are veterinarians with access to a local zoo.) It’s an amazing power, even if they are still getting the hang of it.

But the alien threat is powerful, too. Ruthless parasites that hide inside the brains of other creatures and control their actions, these creatures have already enslaved many species from other worlds, and the human race is their next target. In fact, they’ve already started infiltrating Earth, and there’s no knowing which people are their puppets. They also have advanced technology and armies of mind-controlled alien slaves.

And humanity? We have five shapeshifting kids who are thinking of calling themselves Animorphs.

Fans of the Animorphs book series—a popular, many-volume phenomenon in the 90s—will note that this graphic novel is a largely faithful adaptation of the first book, also titled The Invasion. Like the original version, this one tells its story from Jake’s point of view. The other four kids are certainly prominent, and readers get glimpses of their personalities and circumstances, as well as meet a few other supporting characters. If the graphic novel series continues, then we can expect to see books from the other Animorphs’ perspectives.

Like the original series, this volume pulls no punches. The Animorphs face terrible odds. They are frequently in danger, and they both see and experience great suffering. Of course, the original version is not illustrated (except for the tiny morphing flip-book images that appear in the lower corners of the pages), so the artist of this book had a lot of choices about how to portray the grimmer events. He uses a light hand, not shying away from showing the violence, but certainly not making it gory or gratuitous. And he seems to have fun with the weird, quasi-body-horror scenes of the characters morphing into and out of animal forms.

The human characters are distinctive, and the animals are realistically detailed, not anthropomorphized or cartoonified. The backgrounds, outfits, and accessories are kept streamlined, but not overly simplistic. For instance, the heroes wear similar clothes throughout the book: jeans and t-shirts with hoodies or overshirts (very 90s), most of which are solid colors. Backgrounds, whether they involve mall parking lots or alien spaceships, are portrayed with a similar level of detail: clear and functional, if not intricate. The lighting and vivid, sometimes unexpected colors add drama and interest. The artist also makes good use of other visual techniques: where the original novels used punctuation to indicate thought-speak (the telepathic speech that characters use to communicate while in animal forms), the graphic novel simplifies and effectively uses a different style of speech bubble.

This adaptation captures the high stakes, danger, and desperation of the original story, as well as the small moments of humor and wonder: Marco’s snark, Tobias’s joy in the experience of flying as a hawk. Many fans of the original series will enjoy this interpretation, which follows the original closely but adds a rich visual element. Newcomers who like action, imaginative sci-fi, and high emotion, will also likely enjoy meeting the Animorphs.


Animorphs Graphix #1: The Invasion
By K.A. Applegate Michael Grant
Art by Chris Grine
ISBN: 9781338538090
Graphix, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 8-12 / Grades 4-7
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: African-American, Latinx
Related to…: Book to Comic

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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