Getting Dizzy

Fifteen year-old Desideria “Dizzy” Olsen just knows she’s destined for greatness. One day, anyway. But so far, it seems like everything she tries—from ballet to trumpet—just ends in total disaster. So when a portal opens up right in front of her when she’s about to toss her roller skates into the donation bin along with the rest of the accouterments from her abandoned hobby attempts, it suddenly seems like everything is falling into place after all!

It turns out that fate (and new mentor Chipper) has a new mission for her: take on the mantle of ‘Burb Defender and use her newfound powers (plus super cool gadgets like the Helmet of Helping and the Blaster Bracelet) to save her hometown from evil monsters known as Negatrixes and their bad vibes. 

As the pressure mounts and Negatrixes multiply, Dizzy starts to realize that there might be more to being a Chosen One than potential fame and cool superpowers. With her own personal Negatrix looming, will the ‘Burb Defender and her new friends the Rollers be enough to defend Ruseberg from the biggest threat yet?

A sweet, silly, and action-packed romp that touches on Chosen One tropes, new friendships, and figuring out who you are, Getting Dizzy is a delightful and enjoyable read for teens and tweens. Refreshingly, the core cast of characters is diverse without being didactic about it: Dizzy is Latine-coded, Scarlett seems to be East Asian (unspecified), Payton is disabled (born without a left hand), and Av is Black and non-binary. This cast is a reflection of the world teens are currently living in, and it’s nice to see them just exist, and not have their identities pointed out in any specific way. Specific traits of each member of the friend group come into play in a vital way later on, and are things unrelated to their race, gender identity, or ability. Instead, what’s important about each friend are qualities like always seeing the beauty in everyone or being incredibly smart. 

With the story opening on a younger Dizzy’s dream of ballet stardom clashing with the reality of name-calling at school, the tone is set right from the start. Fiercely independent (just like her mom), Dizzy isn’t afraid to rise to a new challenge. At least, not at first. Like many young people, she’s a big dreamer who probably wishes life was more like a movie montage, especially when learning to fight the Negatrixes means re-learning how to roller skate (and falling. A LOT — an experience writer Shea Fontana is quite familiar with as a former roller derby player).

No stranger to the superhero genre herself thanks to her experience writing for the DC Super Hero Girls series, Fontana infuses the graphic novel with a solid mix of one-liners, goofy idioms, and moments of seriousness. From quick-witted dialogue like Payton’s quip about leaving the rest of her left arm behind when she moved from Seattle to Chipper’s speech about participation trophies and why sometimes it’s the people who aren’t good at something who get chosen, the dialogue helps Dizzy and her friends feel grounded in reality, even when they’re blasting Negatrixes back into portals with colorful magic. While the superhero antics are fun, teens and tweens will likely find themselves drawn to the themes of friendship, perseverance, and figuring out how to fight against our own anxiety and negative emotions, even when it feels easier to just give in.

Illustrator Celia Moscote, known for their gorgeous work on the graphic adaptation of Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath, succeeds again here in bringing Fontana’s cast and this imaginative setting to brilliant life on the page. The Negatrixes feel scary in a Pokémon-esque, cartoonish sort of way, keeping the terror lower stakes and accessible for both younger and older readers. Emotions are rendered in great facial expressions, and the visual pratfalls are hilarious. The colors are bold and vivid, especially the magic: that sparkles and swirls give off a magical girl element perfect for our resident ‘Burb Defender. 

A welcome addition to tween and teen collections, Getting Dizzy is a lighthearted but meaningful compilation of an initial run of four comic issues that leaves readers on a cliffhanger and hoping for a potential sequel. Hand it to fans of graphic novels like Sebastian Kadlecik’s Quince, Sam Humphries’ Jonesy, and anyone who enjoys stories featuring magical girls, superheroes, and the power of friendship.

Getting Dizzy
By Shea Fontana
Art by Celia Moscote
BOOM! Box, 2022
ISBN: 9781684158386

Publisher Age Rating: 12+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Latine,  Nonbinary ,  Character Representation: Assumed Hispanic or Latine,

Jules Verne’s Lighhouse

Bringing Jules Verne’s work to the distant future, this story of secrets, trauma, and survival captures the spirit and adventure of classic literature while also embracing a new vision for a story many may not have encountered before now.

From Image Comics, Jules Verne’s Lighthouse adapts the early 20th century novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World into a sci-fi epic set in the far reaches of the galaxy in the year 2717. In a time where humans, aliens, and robots live and work together, a small band oversee the isolated, advanced supercomputer known as The Lighthouse, which guides interstellar ships safely through a series of wormholes on their journeys to outer reaches of space. However, when a violent band of pirates arrives at The Lighthouse and seizes control, military veteran Vasquez and her robot assistant Moses are the only ones to escape into the dangerous landscape around the installation. Cut off from help and low on resources, it falls to Vasquez to uncover the pirates’ reasons for seizing the facility and try to stop their plans before it’s too late—if she can face the demons of her own past and survive long enough to see the job done, that is.

Opening with Vasquez’s narration, this miniseries immediately captures something of the tone of the classic adventure novels that form its foundation. Though I have not read Verne’s original novel, many of the markers of its plot are alive and well in this adaptation from Hine and Haberlin. From the dramatic arrival of the pirates through Vasquez’s desperate struggles to escape and into the final confrontation, this comic is a classic conflict of wills and might as our beleaguered hero faces incredible odds and ever-increasing stakes. However, the creators do not tie themselves wholly to the source material. Making use of the sci-fi reimagining, they create and expanded world of inter-planetary conflict, factious alliances, and world-razing warfare. It is in this blending of traditional adventure and grand science fiction that the comic finds life beyond a simple retelling of Verne’s work.

Though some of the thematic work around race, trauma, and warfare doesn’t always have quite enough room to breathe over the course of five action-packed issues, the creators achieve a great deal of depth and complexity within this single volume. Though there are plenty of action sequences, the story does not shy away from the darkness of its heroes or the nuances of its villains. With bold twists and a larger world always creeping in at the edges of the narrative, Hine and Haberlin show that they understand the dual genres they are working in and strive to do justice to both.

Meanwhile, Haberlin’s artwork does a great deal to capture the reimagined world of this version of the story. Opening on The Lighthouse floating amidst a starry expanse dotted with wormholes, the beauty and isolation of the story are immediately clear. The art brings a roughness and realism to the pages while still bringing style to the realism, displaying both the grand and the personal in bold fashion. The paneling and art move the story along, delivering a quick pace, occasional humor, and moments of shock in just the right places. Personally, Moses’s perpetually awkward robot grin was a highlight of a consistently dependable visual style.

Image gives Jules Verne’s Lighthouse a Mature rating, and with strong language, violence, and some mature thematic material, it is definitely intended for older audiences, be they mature teens or adults. For any collection that prizes adventure stories as well as science fiction, this title is well worth adding to the shelves. While being a complex and exciting tale in its own right, it’s also a great way to introduce readers to a novel they might never have encountered before. For a miniseries with great ambitions—that are mostly achieved by the end—Jules Verne’s Lighthouse isn’t the most remarkable comic out there, but it’s certainly worth considering for a place on the shelves.

Jules Verne’s Lighthouse
By David Hine, Brian Haberlin,  ,
Art by  Brian Haberlin
Image, 2021
ISBN: 9781534319936

Publisher Age Rating: M
Related media:  Book to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Assumed Hispanic or Latine,  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder