By Chris A. Bolton, Illustrated by Kyle Bolton
Candlewick Press, 145 pages, $18.99
In a world where comics grow darker and grittier every day, writer-artist duo Chris and Kyle Bolton have managed something truly unique: an all-ages graphic novel that will actually appeal to all ages. In the first printed volume of their popular webcomic, Smash: Trial by Fire, we meet Andrew Ryan, a ten year old boy who in a flash of light receives super strength, super speed, and the ability to fly. What follows is a healthy mix of action and comedy as Andrew gets used to his new powers (and over his fear of heights) while dealing with homework and bullies at school. But where one comic might milk this premise for all its worth, Smash manages to blend the lighthearted and whimsical with more serious elements. Things don’t always go well for Andrew and, as the real danger of being the only superhero up against a ruthless villain dawns on him, we get to see a child superhero faced with grown-up concerns. This is the first chapter in a story about growing up, and while it might not match the complexity of a truly adult graphic novel, the story and art work together create a narrative that will appeal to children without talking down to them.
Reviewed by Michael Weingartner