In 2017, I waxed lyrical over the first collection of Will Henry’s Wallace the Brave comic strip collection. Full of humor, charm, and imagination, it followed the adventures of Wallace, his friend Spud, and new friend Amelia in a small fishing town as they experience all the delights of summer.
This third collection, in color, follows the three into more wild adventures, both in and out of school. Amelia continues to establish herself as the most daring and outspoken of the three, while Spud doubles down on a variety of quirky fears. Wallace himself is living his best life, always ready for an adventure, and full of ideas and enthusiasm. Wallace’s aggressive little brother Sterling is growing up and developing more of a personality, parents and teachers make many appearances, and there are also interactions with the neighbors and shop owners of the small town, not to mention more mythical creatures like monsters.
Most adventures star Wallace, from eating a super hot pepper to breaking his arm, with cameos of his friends and family. A hurricane hits, Amelia gets into trouble in school, the three get lost, and Wallace exults in following all his summer traditions, from visiting the beach (no matter how unseasonable the weather) to tossing his shoes in preparation for going barefoot.
Henry’s art has refined a little, but it’s still full of the wild lines and explosive speech bubbles that characterized his earlier work. Soft yellows, greens, and blues fill the landscape outdoors, while school sticks with plain white walls and the night is full of grays and pale yellow stars. Spud in repose has a square, tanned face with a single curl of purple hair, but he’s often shown with staring, red-rimmed eyes as he encounters various catastrophes and terrors from ants to sewer monsters. Sterling, Wallace’s little brother, is a little bigger and his red hair a little longer, but his head is just as pointy and his eyebrows wiggle across his narrow face like caterpillars. The town and countryside are distinctive and long-time readers will recognize the dock, beach, hills, and leaning towers of the various homes, but they are not so specifically drawn as to identify a particular place; they are every small coastal town, every northeast fishing harbor.
Full of humor, heart, and including not a few subtle commentaries on modern society, this is an excellent collection of outstanding strips from Will Henry’s work. For kids who want nothing but comic strips and parents and teachers who’d like them to read something a little deeper than Garfield, this is the perfect compromise and will fly off the shelves of any library.
Wicked Epic Adventures
By Will Henry
Andrews McMeel, 2021
Series ISBNS and Order
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)