Today I'm reviewing two new books from Scholastic Publishing. It's a new series called The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks and the first two books are Secret Identity Crisis and Freezer Burned. These book aren't really comics — they are actually text books, although each has a "comic book" insert in the middle — a separate "comic book" that exists within the larger text stories. Since each book includes at least some comics I suppose we don't have to change the name of the site to write about them.
Written by Jake Bell with art by Chris Giarrusso, both books got a very positive reaction from the x-daughters. In the first book we meet Nate and his family who just happen to live in a world full of superheroes, including the brand new Ultraviolet. The second book introduces the villain Coldsnap. When the superheroine Ultraviolet makes her appearance in Nate's town, the whole community tries to figure out who she is. It doesn't take too long for Nate to figure out Ultraviolet's secret identity: his sixth grade social studies teacher, Miss Matthews. Nate then gets a chance to give Miss Matthews advice on how to be a proper superheroine. Ultraviolet, we learn from the comic book insert, is a reluctant superhero to begin with. In the second book Coldsnap tries to steal the famous Princess Diamond and takes on Ultraviolet.
It's a pretty entertaining story, if not hugely original. Nate is both the clever protagonist who solves the mystery (familiar from many tween tales) and a budding side kick to Ultraviolet (a familiar enough superhero trope). While it mines well-worn superhero ideas, it does so in the original kid-friendly, fantastic mode that superhero comics began as, but no longer seem to be interested in. That means it's probably going to feel at least somewhat new to its intended grade school audience.
The combination of comic and text is okay — but it's not an organic enough fit though to really become integral to the book as a whole. Still having the comic is a fun "extra" to each book and Chris Giarrusso's work is really good here — enough to wonder why they didn't just do the whole thing as a comic. If having the comic in the middle is enough to hook more kids into reading it, then probably mission accomplished for this particular gimmick.
The publisher provided free copies of both books to ComixTalk for review purposes.