A new challenger has entered the ring! Katie Jones, Black twelve year-old wrestling vlogger extraordinaire, is taking on her heroes—the Agents of S.L.A.M.! Well … she’s interviewing them, that is. She’s been invited to the White House by the president of the United States (who just so happens to be the head of S.L.A.M.) to do a livestream with her idol, Bruno Bravado, and the rest of the team!
But when the World Domination Society threatens S.L.A.M. mid-stream, Katie is suddenly thrust into the top secret side of S.L.A.M. operations: protecting the world from all kinds of dangerous threats. Allegiances and trust are tested as the agents of S.L.A.M. wrestle their way all over Earth and into outer space! Will the team’s prowess be enough? Or will it be down to Katie’s superior wrestling knowledge to save the day?
From the luchador who never takes off his mask to the intimidating, scary wrestler who’s really just a sweet mama’s boy at heart, middle grade readers will have plenty to enjoy in this story filled to the brim with both wrestling and superhero tropes. The familiarity of the tropes is what helps to make the story entertaining and easy to read. After all, what good is a villain without bumbling henchmen and a secret lair? Can a team of heroes really band together to save the day if there isn’t a plucky young newbie thrown into the mix to help guide them? What about the wise grandma who’s been around forever, but can absolutely still throw solid punches in a space suit? And of course, what about a magical object that can give ultimate power to those who wield it?
Agents of S.L.A.M. has all of these and more, thanks to Dave Scheidt’s fun, engaging writing style. Scheidt’s narrative decision to have the story begin as if readers are watching one of Katie’s vlogs was a smart move, as it brings readers into the story with her from the start, and they’ll want to stick by her to see what happens next. The dialogue throughout is quick and quippy in an age-appropriate, superhero movie way that will appeal to readers looking for something fun and funny. And sprinkled in amongst the adventure and action are beats of deeper emotion, focusing on things like hero worship, sibling relationships and family bonds, and making difficult choices.
This graphic novel is taken to the next level, of course, with Scoot McMahon’s illustrations. McMahon’s thick, smooth line art combined with the incredibly vibrant, lively palette used by colorist Heidi Black leads to an overall look and style that evokes a kid’s cartoon. This fast-paced, animated vibe makes it feel like you’re really watching the action (especially the wrestling matches) come alive on the page, and is perfectly suited to the narrative Scheidt has created. The character design and body shapes for this diverse cast also feel quite superhero comic book-esque, almost like a more kid-friendly version of a Marvel or DC universe, which works well in combination with the many superhero tropes being evoked here.
TV wrestling is already a campy, over the top form of entertainment, so why not add, “but what if they were superheroes?” to the mix? It certainly pays off for Agents of S.L.A.M., and middle grade readers will enjoy it whether they know anything about wrestling or not. A solid addition to any library collection, hand this book to readers who enjoy graphic novels that are funny and action-packed, with super cool girls leading the way.
Agents of S.L.A.M. Vol.
By Dave Scheidt
Art by Scoot McMahon
Oni Press, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: African-American,