Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin by Nadia Shammas, Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali

Ms. Marvel Stretched Thin

Information

Goodreads: Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2021

Summary

Months after receiving superpowers, Kamala Khan is trying to balance being a superhero with a being a good friend and daughter. But the stress of attending training at Avengers Tower, babysitting her nephew Malik, keeping her readers happy with fanfic updates, completing her homework, and still attending family dinners is starting to take its toll. Then a robot villain threatens to infiltrate Avengers Tower. Kamala will need to rely on her friends if she is going to defeat the threat before it is too late.

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Review

The stress of trying to do it all has been a constant theme for Ms. Marvel, so perhaps it is no surprise that this latest spin-off (meant for younger readers) has a familiar plotline. That would not necessarily be a problem; readers new to Ms. Marvel might well find the concept original, or at least relatable. However, the plot proves a little too simplistic (and Ms. Marvel a little too conveniently oblivious) to make Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin a notable addition to Kamala Khan’s legacy.

Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin is a thin story. The main antagonist, so to speak, is Kamala’s busy social life; plenty of scenes see her rushing from Avengers training to babysitting duty to fanfic writing. A secondary–and less impressive–villain is a robot who seeks to use the internet/technology to break into Avengers tower in order to access Tony Stark’s research. The entire plot hinges, however, on one key detail; even though Kamala has witnessed a very recognizable purple and yellow robot already try to break into Stark’s computers, she does not recognize the exact same robot when it shows up at her house. No, she decides to plug it into her computer instead. To buy into this story, readers also have to believe that Ms. Marvel is really, really dense.

Vague references to areas of concern for Gen Z such as internet privacy and capitalism are vaguely scattered through the book, in an apparent homage to the original teen comics, which are very concerned with social justice and other political issues. However, other than a nod to the fact that the villain has access to the internet–and the implication that Kamala should have been more careful about what she posts online–the story does not actually explore these issues. Even Kamala ultimately gets a pass for posting sensitive information about the Avengers on her fanfic forum because, according to her friends, it is really the villain’s fault for taking advantage of it.

Ultimately Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin adds nothing new to the Ms. Marvel story, but arguably actually makes it lesser. The story makes Kamala seem unobservant and foolish, and the villain is defeated too easily to make it seem like a really impressive win. Kamala’s ultimate desire to spend more time with family and friends is, I suppose, meant to be heartwarming and laudable, but, without more room for the story to expand on Kamala’s character development, the ending seems unearned and perhaps a little too easy. All it takes for her to repair her relationship with her parents is inviting them to watch a movie with her?

I was excited to read Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin because Kamala Khan is one of my favorite superheroes. However, the book really just reignited my desire to return to the original comics.

3 Stars

I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki, Yoshi Yoshitani

I am Not Starfire

Information

Goodreads: I Am Not Starfire
Series: None
Source:
Library
Published:
July 2021

Summary

Mandy is tired of the expectations that come with being the daughter of Starfire. Everything thinks that she has superpowers, which she doesn’t, and, worse, everyone thinks that they can use her to get to her mother. Mandy just wants to get through high school–preferably without her mom learning that she walked out of her SATs and has no desire to go to college. Then an old enemy appears to target Starfire. Is Mandy strong enough to save her mom?

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Review

I have never read a Starfire comic and I know nothing of the Teen Titans, so I went into I Am Not Starfire with few expectations. I assumed I would be reading a coming-of-age story focused on Mandy, Starfire’s daughter, and what it means to be related to somebody famous, when you feel like you are just average. Because I did not expect a Starfire comic and because I have no clue what Starfire is like in any of her other appearances, I enjoyed I Am Not Starfire for what it is: a look at one teen’s search for identity while trying to come out from the shadow of her mother’s reputation.

Even if one accepts that I Am Not Starfire is not a Titans story, but rather Mandy’s story, I think that the comic may be admittedly difficult for some to enjoy. Mandy is almost a stereotypically angsty teen, angry at everyone and mean for no reason. Readers who prefer their protagonists to be likable may struggle with Mandy’s attitude and the way in which she shuts everyone out. Her struggle to accept herself is real, of course, and will gain her some sympathy. But not every teen searching for themselves is rude and hurtful. Mandy’s projection of her self-loathing onto others is difficult to watch.

The plot probably will not capture readers, however, if they fail to connect with Mandy. It is a rather standard affair, with Mandy trying to get through high school, deal with crushes, and figure out what her future will look like. The fact that her mom is famous is pretty much the biggest spin given to an age-old storyline. Refreshingly, the superheroes do not come into play much until the very end, when an old nemesis of Starfire’s appears for a showdown. This moment proves a weak point in the story, however, since a gladiator-style fight in front of Mandy’s high school seems both out of place and ridiculous. The day is then saved by a deus ex machina, which essentially destroys the idea that Mandy can be average and still valuable and accepting of herself.

The illustrations may be the biggest strength of the book. I enjoyed Yoshi Yoshitani’s work in Zatanna and the House of Secrets, and was pleased to see the artist’s work once again here. Yoshitani tends to draw kind of cute illustrations with pleasing color palettes, which make the book a joy to read.

DC has released many great graphic novels for tween and teen readers lately. I Am Not Starfire is a solid offering, but not one of the best. The idea is good; the execution is only so-so.

3 Stars

Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds & Pablo Leon (Illustrator)

Miles Morales Shock Waves

Information

Goodreads: Miles Morales: Shock Waves
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2021

Summary

Miles Morales is still trying to figure out his new life juggling school and protecting the neighborhood as Spider-Man. Then, a new classmate’s friend goes missing. Can Miles help his friend while still finding time to be there for his family?

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Review

Miles: Morales Shock Waves is a graphic novel for the middle-age crowd that introduces Miles Morales as Spider-Man. While the story starts with an extremely brief overview of how Miles got his powers, Miles is still new to the superhero business and, like many other of his stories, this one focuses on the challenges of balancing school and family with his new vigilantism. Bold, bright colors along with a short narrative that packs a lot action into a short space make this an ideal comic for its tween target audience.

Readers may likely already by familiar with Miles Morales from Jason Reynolds’ 2017 novel, Miles’ previous comics, or the Into the Spider-Verse movie. This new interpretation of the character remains true to its predecessors by focusing more on Miles’ personal life than on his superhero adventures. Even as he tries to keep his neighborhood safe, Miles finds himself pulled in too many directions as he attempts to work on his school art project, assist with fund raising for the earthquake in Puerto Rick, make family dinners a priority, and be a friend to the new kid Kyle–whose father just so happens to be missing, apparently as the result of supervillain activity. Miles wants to be able to do it all, but he is not sure he can.

The narrative is pretty straightforward, and most readers will likely not be surprised by any twists or turns. It is Miles’ character that makes the story, rather than the plot. Justin A. Reynolds is noted for writing banter, and it works particularly well for Spider-Man. Readers will find themselves rooting for Miles to balance his workload while still managing to save the day.

Miles: Morales Shock Waves is a solid Spider-Man graphic novel, sure to appeal to tween readers. The focus on Miles’ life as a teenager makes it accessible even to readers who might not typically pick up a superhero comic.

4 stars

Shuri: Wakanda Forever by Nnedi Okorafor, et al

Shuri: Wakanda Forever

Information

Goodreads: Wakanda Forever
Series: Shuri
Source: Library
Published: December 2020

Official Summary

The Black Panther’s techno-genius sister stars in her own incredible adventures! T’Challa has disappeared, and Wakanda expects Shuri to lead their great nation in his absence! But she’s happiest in a lab surrounded by her inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to rescue her brother yet again – with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot! But what happens when her outer-space adventure puts Africa at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat? Then, Shuri heads to America to investigate a lead, with Ms. Marvel and Miles “Spider-Man” Morales along for the ride! But with her people in peril, will Shuri embrace her reluctant destiny and become the Black Panther once more? Prepare for a hero like you’ve never seen before! COLLECTING: SHURI (2018) 1-10

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Review

Shuri: Wakanda Forever focuses on Shuri as she attempts to find her place in the world. When her brother goes missing in space, everyone expects her to step in as the Black Panther once more. But…what if Shuri does not want to? She is comfortable working in her lab and she has been gaining mastery over her powers as the Ancient Future. Wakanda is grappling with new ideas about how to move forward as a nation, and Shuri wants to help. She just wants to do it on her own terms. Shuri: Wakanda Forever is a moving look at one young woman’s journey to balance her people’s expectations with her own.

In many ways, Shuri’s emotional journey stands at the heart of this volume, connecting what otherwise can seem like a disparate chain of stories, some of them more about fan service than service to the narrative. For instance, while seeing Shuri in space with Rocket and Groot is fun, it also seems random. And her team-up with Iron Man, while given a logical reason, also seems like it is more about the opportunity for well, yes, another superhero team-up. By the team she’s teaming up with Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel in the U.S., the plot has gone everywhere, with none of it really tying back to her ostensible quest to discover the whereabouts of her missing brother. The strongest parts are when Shuri is in Wakanda, talking to her people, conferring with the powerful women who are leading the country in T’Challa’s absence, and wondering what her role in the universe is.

Complicating matters is that Shuri has been losing some of her powers as the Ancient Future. Of course, Shuri’s mind and her amazing technology can help her solve just about any problem–she does not really need super powers. But it is concerning to see her losing connections with her ancestors, a sort of tangible representation that Shuri is feeling a little lost at the moment as she tries to navigate the competing interests of her country. Fortunately, Shuri is strong, smart, and capable–readers know that she will always manage to save the day.

Shuri: Wakanda Forever is both a thrilling superhero comic and an emotional look at Shuri’s journey of self-discovery. Fans of Shuri and of Marvel will not want to miss this latest installment in her story.

4 stars

House of El: The Shadow Threat by Claudia Gray

House of El

Information

Goodreads: The Shadow Threat
Series: House of El #1
Source: Library
Published: 2021

Summary

On the planet of Krypton, citizens are genetically modified to be the best at what they do. Zahn is one of the privileged elite, born to lead. Sera is a soldier, trained to give her life for her people, without even caring that they ask of her the ultimate sacrifice. Living in two different worlds, the two should never meet. But groundquakes are threatening the stability of Krypton, and the leaders do nothing but deny it. Now, Zahn and Sera must work together to uncover the web of lies that will doom their planet.

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Review

The first book in the House of El trilogy provides a background story for the destruction of Superman’s home planet Krypton. Set in the planet’s final days, the book follows two teens: Zahn, born to be a leader chosen from the elites, and Sera, born to give her life as a soldier. Most Kryptonians are genetically modified to be “perfect” at what they do, meaning most never question their lifestyles or the choices of the tribunes who lead them. But Zahn and Sera have noticed that the groundquakes are becoming worse, that the terraforming experiments on neighboring planets have failed, and that the tribunes are lying about it all. So begins a story full of action, danger, and intrigue.

The choice to explore Krypton before Superman is a very compelling one. I imagine that generations of readers have wondered about the planet’s destruction. What was it like? Did people know? Did they try to stop it? Why did they fail? The answer here presents Krypton as a utopia gone wrong, a planet so dedicated to being perfect that they can longer admit to having made mistakes. The effect is chilling, the realization that, not only will the leaders fail to act to save Krypton, but they will do everything in their power to ensure its destruction.

At the heart of this story are Zahn and Sera, two teens who transcend their genetic programming to realize something has gone badly wrong. The back cover presents the two as sort of star-crossed lovers, but, aside from a page or two awkward flirting, the story itself steers away from the romance its cover so boldly advertises. Instead, readers get to know Zahn and Sera separately, the one attempting to join a clandestine group dedicated to warning the people of Krypton, the other going on a series of failed missions to salvage equipment from disastrous terraforming attempts. Only in the final pages do the two inadvertently team up, promising future drama to come as they do not yet trust each other.

The book is far from perfect. I did not ever feel like I truly go to now Zahn or Sera, and I still have many questions about the world of Krypton itself. However, the story does do a great job at raising interesting questions. How much do genetics determine who we are? Can we ever overcome our genetics to be our own person? What qualities should we look for in people? Do we sometimes overlook the qualities one should have–such as a scientist who needs creativity as well as logic? These questions will likely inspire much reflection on the part of readers. And that, I imagine, would make the author proud.

3 Stars

Marvel Avengers Assembly: Orientation by Preeti Chhibber, Ill. by James Lancett

Marvel Avengers Assembly Orientation

Information

Goodreads: Orientation
Series: None
Source: Marvel: Avengers Assembly #1
Published: 2020

Summary

After she ruins a few buildings during some superhero fights in Jersey City, middle schooler Ms. Marvel is invited by her idol, Carol Danvers, to train at the Avengers Institute. There she teams up with new best friends Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Squirrel Girl. But can they learn to work together to pass the decathlon at the end of the semester?

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Review

Avengers Assembly: Orientation imagines popular new heroes like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, and Miles Morales as middle school students who need to train at a special institute to develop their superhero skills. It is told in a multimedia format, with chapters switching among blog posts, diary entries, fan fiction, text messages, and comic strips. The concept will likely appeal to comic book lovers and reluctant readers. However, the multimedia format is not used to great advantage and the story line ultimately falls flat. I wanted to love Orientation because it features so many of my favorite heroes, but the book is simply not well executed.

One of my main critiques with the book may admittedly not be shared by young readers: the book makes very little sense. The multimedia format means that Kamala Khan and her friends are constantly sharing top-secret information about their identities and their superheroing over unsecure sites. They text openly about their secret identities, keep details of fights online (on “private” blogs that could easily be hacked), and publicly share videos of mistakes they have made like recognizing their best (non-superhero) friends in the middle of a battle. Apparently Kamala and her friends are extremely naive about online privacy. Maybe their new institute should address that?

Even if readers are also unconcerned about online privacy, however, the story line is rather lackluster. Most of the book is really just Kamala attending a new school and making friends. [Spoilers] But there is sort of side plot involving a truly ill-conceived plan to harm another student so a villain can time travel. The plot is purposely ridiculous and even the other villains do not understand it. The plan is so poorly designed that it never takes place. The villains are basically foiled within two pages by their own incompetence. Exciting? Not really. The whole thing feels like a slapdash attempt to add something more to a book that would otherwise just be Ms. Marvel attending school, but the concept is never properly integrated into the story.

Avengers Assembly: Orientation stars with an exciting concept of having beloved heroes all attend school together. But the plot is not well executed and the story ultimately fails to deliver. I had looked forward to this new release, but I, unfortunately, am not impressed.

3 Stars

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, Illustrated by Morgan Beem (ARC Review)

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefavater Cover

Information

Goodreads: Swamp Thing: Twin Branches
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: October 13, 2020

Official Summary

#1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater (the Raven Cycle series) and artist Morgan Beem unearth the primal power of memory and how it twists the bond between two brothers.

Twins Alec and Walker Holland have a reputation around town. One is quiet and the other is the life of any party, but the two are inseparable. For their last summer before college, Alec and Walker leave the city to live with their rural cousins, where they find that the swamp holds far darker depths than they could have imagined.

While Walker carves their names into the new social scene, Alec recedes into a summer-school laboratory, slowly losing himself to a deep, dark experiment. This season, both brothers must confront truths, ancient and familial, and as their lives diverge, tensions increase and dormant memories claw to the surface.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a story of shadows, both literal and imagined—and those that take form and haunt us.

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Review

I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing while listening to the Raven Cycle series on audiobook. Stiefvater’s work impressed me as highly original and intelligent, with a special talent for creating realistic teen characters. So when I saw she was writing a YA graphic novel for DC Comics, which has lately been releasing a stellar lineup of middle grade and teen titles, I knew I had to read it. Her choice of Swamp Thing, whom I have to admit I had never even heard of, was intriguing. But the darkness of the tale seemed a perfect fit. While Swamp Thing: Twin Branches does have weaknesses, ultimately I believe that fans of Stiefvater will not be wholly disappointed. The book showcases Stiefvater’s signature writing style and characterization, delving into the secret lives of plants and linking them to her protagonist, a troubled teen who finds it easier to interact with plants than people.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches immediately drew me into its world as twins Alec and Walker Holland move to the countryside to spend the summer with their cousins. Rural life is vividly depicted, with Alec feeling appalled that his cousins spend their days driving around town beating mailboxes with baseball bats and going to raving parties, and Walker doing his best to embrace the social scene. Their relationship lies at the heart of the story, with both twins trying to bridge the differences between them–Alec, more interested in his biology experiments than in making friends, and Walker, trying to carve a space for himself in their new life—but finding it increasingly impossible. I loved both twins at once, and longed for them to reclaim the close bond they clearly once shared.

Characterization is one of Stiefvater’s specialties, and she makes her characters come alive as much as possible with the limited space she has. Admittedly, however, the story seems too short to do all the characters justice. Alec and Walker are clearly defined, but their cousins receive scant attention, making them seem more like a plot device than anything else. And Alec’s love interest receives only a cursory backstory, making her attraction to Alec and their subsequent romance seem a little too quick and forced. The outlines of what the characters could be are all there, but they are never fully fleshed out. And readers may see this as a weakness in Stiefvater’s first foray into the graphic novel format.

Where Stiefvater does shine, however, is in her signature prose, which manages to be truly evocative, without falling into the pitfall of being over-the-top. Her emphasis in Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is on the intelligence of plants, which can sense danger, seek out scarce resources, and even communicate with each other. Her research into the topic and her fascination is clearly evident, and she manages to insert educational facts about plants into the narrative and actually make them seem necessary and beautiful. Readers begin to understand why Alec is so obsessed with biology–there is something mesmerizing about their mystery.

Unfortunately, however, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches seems just a little too short to be the five star read I was expecting. The characterization feels incomplete, but so does the ending, which is too sudden to evoke more emotions than a sense of confusion and disappointment. Stiefavater was evidently going for an origin story, but such a story needs to go beyond the first transformation. Imagine if Peter Parker’s tale ended with him being bitten by a spider–no villain to fight, no adjustments to be made as he comes to term with his new powers, no…anything. Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is basically that–an origin story that stops immediately after Alec realizes what he can do. It feels like half a story–and I think readers will be a little let down.

Still, despite its flaws, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is well worth the read for fans of Maggie Stiefvater. She introduces readers to two lovable protagonists, creates an immersive world, and makes plant life seem absolutely fascinating as she links their quiet intelligence to the dark downward spiral Alec Holland seems to be on. The book is not a perfect graphic novel, but it is a mighty first attempt. And I would love to read more by Stiefvater should she choose to continue the story with a sequel.

3 Stars

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones

Supergirl: Being Super Cover

Information

Goodreads: Supergirl: Being Super
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020 re-release

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Kara Danvers has pretty great parents and great friends. She should be happy. But she also possesses powers she cannot explain–and now they seem to be going rogue. Then an earthquake strikes her small town. Will Kara embrace who she truly is? Or will she continue to hide away from the world?

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Review

Supergirl: Being Super is a phenomenal introduction to the Girl of Steel. Kara Danvers has wonderful adoptive parents and two great best friends, but she is still troubled at night by her strange dreams and how she cannot remember her past. Worse, her alien powers seem to be malfunctioning, but she is afraid to talk about it to her parents, because they fear what would happen if their small town found out Kara is different. Supergirl: Being Super introduces readers to a teenage girl who has not yet decided to become a superhero, but whose story of self-discovery is as gripping as it feels relevant. Readers will fall in love Kara, and cheer her on as she decides what she wants out of life.

Supergirl: Being Super is so wonderful in part because Kara feels so relatable. Even though she has super speed and super strength, she feels like the average teenager. She loves her parents, but does not want to admit it to them. She feels a little ironic about school. She is worried about her future and trying not to think too hard about things like impressing college scouts. Her weird fluctuating powers may be a big concern to her, but readers may feel Kara is not so different, after all. She really wants the same things most people do: a loving home, a certain future, a general sense of safety and stability.

This message of common longings is the subtle heart of the story. Mariko Tamaki never says it explicitly, but Supergirl: Being Super is about who embraces or does not embrace the stranger, the refugee, the person who is different. Some of Kara’s relatives love her unconditionally, but others do not. And there are some who believe that Kara does not deserve protection or dignity simply because she is not from Earth. Kara herself grapples with these issues, sometimes fearing to reveal her true self in case of rejection, but also sometimes clearly fearing that she might, after all, not really belong. Her story is about reminding others that she is worthy, but also about reminding herself.

I fell in love with Kara from the start. Though she doubts herself, she possesses bravery and a true heart. Even if she never decided to be a superhero, she would have been enough. I think most readers will fall in love with Kara, too. So if you were wondering where to start with Supergirl, or even if the Supergirl comics were for you, Supergirl: Being Super might just be the book you were waiting for. The book that will show you we all need a little bit of Supergirl and her love in our lives.

4 stars

Primer by Jennifer Muro, Thomas Krajewski, Gretel Lusky (Illustrator)

Information

Goodreads: Primer
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 2020

Summary

Ashley Rayburn’s father is a well-known criminal, now in prison. She’s been bouncing from foster home to foster home. Her latest foster parents are Kitch and Yuka Nolan. Kitch is an artist and Yuka is a geneticist, who has just stolen and hidden a top-secret project–a set of body paints that grant super powers to the wearer! When Ashley finds the paint set, she assumes it’s a gift. Soon, she’s trying out her new powers to fight evil. But when Yuka’s superiors realize the paints are missing, they will do anything to get them back.

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Review

I have eagerly been anticipating the release of Primer, a new graphic novel from DC for middle grade readers. The premise is undeniably cool: Ashley Rayburn can use a set of body paints to acquire up to three super powers of her choice. The possible combinations are seemingly endless! This fascinating summary, along with the cover art, convinced me that Primer would be a must-read graphic novel of 2020. And, for the most part, I was not disappointed.

The concept of Primer was the first thing to attract me to the book. I liked the idea of a hero having to choose her powers based on a given situation. It means the hero has to be creative and clever in order to select a combination that will be right for the job. You don’t want to be stuck with freezing powers only to realize you need to set something ablaze! And, if you are stuck with a power that does not seem right, you have to figure out how to make that power useful, anyway. The ability to choose your powers adds an intellectual component to a fight that I am not sure all superheroes need to consider.

I was also attracted to the vibrant illustrations. Since Primer is a book about an artist, it uses plenty of bold colors to show Ashley’s upbeat and confident personality. There’s just something really aesthetically pleasing about the artwork. And Ashley looks amazing with all her body paints on! She may be new to the whole superhero thing, but when she puts on her paint, she exudes nothing but confidence.

I loved Primer so much that the one negative I can point to is that the book feels too short. And not just because I wanted the story to continue. I finished the book in about 45 minutes, and that seems too fast even for a graphic novel. I felt like I was reading the first part of what should have been a longer story, almost like it was issue one of a collected volume. The book really needed to delve more into Ashely’s relationship with her father, her relationship with her new foster parents, and her acclimation to a new school and new friends in order to feel truly complete.

I enjoyed Primer, but it does feel a little like a half-developed story. The ending, however, leaves room for a sequel, so, hopefully, readers can follow Ashley on new adventures. And get to learn more about her and the people in her life along the way.

4 stars

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, Leila del Duca

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed

Information

Goodreads: Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 2020

Summary

Princess Diana is excited to be accepted into the Amazon tribe on her 16th birthday–she hopes that the weird changes she has been experiencing will disappear, and the others will recognize her strength. But then a group of refugees make it through the weakened Themysciran barrier. The Amazons want to leave them to their fate, but Diana believes that it is their duty to help those in need. But when she leaves the island, it disappears behind her. Now a refugee herself, Diana has to try to figure out what it means to be home.

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Review

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed continues the noble tradition of superhero stories engaging with real-life social justice issues. In one slender volume, Anderson manages to address war and refugees, child trafficking, child hunger, gentrification, homelessness, immigration, and teen activism. It’s a lot to pack into one story, but it is valuable for readers to see the world through Diana’s eyes. Themyscira may be a paradise, but our world is not. And Diana shows that it is up to each individual to stand up and make a difference.

I grew up watching the Wonder Woman TV show with Lynda Carter, so Wonder Woman holds a special place in my heart. I admired that she did not seek to meet violence with violence, but, rather, routinely saved the day through truth and love. She does, of course, fight when necessary, but she is an inspirational superhero to me because her superior strength and speed are not really what helps her uphold justice. They are, rather, supplemental to what makes her heroic: her belief in the goodness of humanity and her willingness to help humanity to live up to that ideal. Anderson’s Wonder Woman, though just starting out on her superhero journey, continues to look upon humanity as what they could be, rather than as what they are–and I loved that about her.

Also important to me is that Anderson’s Wonder Woman fights evil as part of team of strong women. To end injustice, we all must work together, and Anderson’s story illustrates that we are more effective when we do. Wonder Woman may have the physical strength and the bullet-proof bracelets, but she succeeds because she is surrounded by people who care–about her and about the causes she champions. It would be easy for Diana to dismiss the humans around, to imagine that they can never measure up to the power of the Amazons. But Diana chooses, instead, to see that she can learn from them–from their empathy, their concern, and their passion. We all have our strengths and we all have a role to play. And Diana, time and again, chooses to appreciate the inner beauty of everyone she meets.

To say that Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed is important and inspirational feels a little like an understatement. Anderson has given readers a perfect superhero for this moment–one who will not turn a blind eye to injustice, who is willing to suffer to do what is right, who is dedicated to forming a team of people who care as actively as she does. Just thinking about it makes me a little teary-eyed. And I really hope that this is just the start of Diana’s new adventures.

5 stars