The Animorphs are back! In the previous volume, five normal kids gained the ability to shapeshift into animals and learned that Earth is under attack by mind-controlling aliens called Yeerks. Now Rachel, Jake, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias continue to learn more about their morphing abilities as they debate whether or not it is too dangerous to take action against the alien menace. After all, the Yeerks are ruthless and have already infiltrated human society. And the Animorphs are just kids. But if they don’t fight for humanity, who will?
Readers of the original Animorphs series will recognize the basic pattern that begins to appear: the team identifies a problem, comes up with a specific animal form they could use to tackle this challenge, then must locate the animal and touch it to “acquire” its form before shapeshifting and taking on the original problem. This pattern appears in many, though not all, of the original books, but is broad enough to allow for huge variation in the plotlines.
Here, the Animorphs decide to spy on one human they know is being controlled by the Yeerks: their school principal, Mr. Chapman. And how to get close to him? Well, Rachel used to be friends with Mr. Chapman’s daughter Melissa, and recalls that she has a cat. Nobody would think twice about revealing their secrets in front of the family pet, would they?
As with volume two of the original series, this graphic novel focuses on Rachel, the most impulsive and action-oriented member of the team. She is determined to find a way to fight the Yeerks, especially when she realizes how her old friend Melissa is suffering—her parents no longer seem to care about her, and Melissa has no idea they are both being controlled by aliens. Rachel acquires the form of Melissa’s cat to spy on the Chapmans. While this yields useful information, she takes risks that worry the rest of the team.
This book furthers the development of the Animorphs’ personalities. We see how Rachel’s behavior alarms her friends, especially Jake, the leader, who feels guilty when his friends are in danger. We also see Tobias’ level-headed strategy, Marco’s nervous humor, and Cassie’s thoughtful consideration of all the angles. There are moments of real emotional impact, too, as when Rachel stays in her cat form after a spy mission—risking being caught or running out of time and being trapped in cat form forever—to comfort Melissa.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be an Animorphs book without plenty of action and lots of gross-out morphing scenes. Though tense spy missions occupy much of this book, the team also fights aliens and undergo grotesque transformations between human and bird, shrew, cat, and even flea forms. Not to mention the disgusting maggot-centric dream that Rachel has the night after having turned into a shrew. Also under “gross,” Rachel has a couple of run-ins with a pair of redneck stereotypes who first try to shoot her when she’s in eagle form, then reappear later to aggressively hit on her when she’s a human. In both situations, Rachel’s violent reaction, though perhaps justified, showcases her reckless nature.
The art is straightforward and expressive. The backgrounds have enough detail to ground the action, but the focus remains on the characters, human, animal, and alien. There are a lot of visually complicated scenes—transformations, combat, holograms, and more—which the art makes clear and easy to understand.
Readers who enjoyed the first Animorphs graphic novel will enjoy this strong follow-up. This volume doesn’t stand alone especially well, so recommend that readers pick it up after volume one.
Animorphs: The Graphic Novel, vol 2: The Visitor
By K.A. Applegate, Michael Grant, ,
Art by Chris Grine
Scholastic Graphix, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Black, Latinx,