Friday, August 24, 2007


(Issue #1)

(Issue #2)

AUTHOR: Antony Johnston and Dan Evans
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
GENRE: Western/Fantasy

PAGES: 32 pages each
COLOR: Full Color

The world of TEXAS STRANGERS is a semi-alternative universe that has connections to our own. Not quite our world and not entirely new either, this story makes use of known landmarks and history and combines that with magic and fantasy, all of which is centered around a western backdrop.

Twins, Madara and Wyatt, have come back from Alaska to claim back their family’s homestead located in the Free Nation of Texas. During their travels they run into Black Bart and his gang of thugs. Fortunately for these two, the Texas Rangers (known as Strangers) get them out of a jam and save the Shimshi tribe from annihilation over corporate greed.

Beneath the adventure, there is a darker story. Before leaving Alaska, Madara found a knife in her father’s old things. For some reason she decided to take it with her. Whenever she brandishes it, the knife seems to take on a life of its own, speaking to her and controlling her thoughts.

A western fantasy is not everyone’s bag. So TEXAS STRANGERS will not appeal to everyone. For those of us who thrive on a good genre mix now and again, it can be a real adventure. Kin to the now defunct television show, Firefly, and the subsequent movie adaptation, Serenity, TEXAS STRANGERS is a western themed story with fantasy elements intertwined. There are six shooters and cowboy hats, horse-drawn carriages and old time saloons. There are also ogres, orcs, and elves all topped off with a heaping dollop of magic.

That is right up my alley, so not only was I excited about finally getting my hands on this book, but I devoured it in nothing flat. I like the escapism of it all and the adventure. I also appreciate that I have questions about the mysterious knife. I want to know about its background and history and discovery why “it must be laid to rest where it was born,” an obvious nod to Lord of the Rings.

This book is aimed at young kids; however, the story is so packed that it might make it hard for some readers. I know that young comic book reviewers, Sarah (8) and Shelby (11) both had a hard time following the story without help. Having high expectations for students is a good thing.

Likewise, it has some elements that teachers and parents will want to know about ahead of time. It is a western, so there are saloons and whiskey, guns and gambling. Then you throw in magical spells and some may be offended. I wasn’t. I found it all to be harmless, but you deserve to know everything.

This is where you can identify this book as a children’s title. The art is created in such a way as to appeal to a younger audience. It is colorful and concise. The backgrounds do not distract the younger reader, but rather add to the progression of the story. Considering some of the dialogue might be hard for young kids, the illustrations add stability to the story helping kids to decode the story.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: All ages
All Ages Reads: Ages 8 and older
Comics in the Classroom: 12 and younger

Kids may need a lesson in Yoda-speak in order to make sense of the way the elves reverse words. Help them to understand you may be required. Students may also need help deciphering the Scottish accent of the ogre. As I described above, some children may have a hard time with the story. This is not a bad thing. Indeed, it can be a benefit in learning about storytelling about the beauty of re-reading in order to fully understand something. Sometimes enlightenment comes from study. Besides, we teachers need to remember to allow kids to try aim high.

I wonder how this title would work in a classroom that is exploring Native Americans and frontier days? While TEXAS STRANGERS is obviously not historically accurate, it could be used in combination with a classroom text or trade book to help spark interest in the pioneer time period. So many students find history boring. This might be a way to introduce the subject in a conceptual way. The title lends itself to a discussion of the influence of the French, the Louisiana Purchase, Mexico, and of native cultures.

I suspect that this TEXAS STRANGERS will appeal to more boys than girls, even though one of the two main character’s is a strong female. That is just hunch.

A preview of TEXAS STRANGERS is available here.

Recommended with Reservations
I think this book is perfectly fine for use in the classroom; however, I acknowledge that there are those who would object because of the fighting, firearms, saloons, whiskey, gambling and magic. So I recommend this book with reservations in hopes that most will be willing and able to use it in their classroom. I will.


Skipper Pickle said...

i really like Texas Strangers, but i objected a bit to the ads in the book as not being very appropriate for younger ones.

This will be a great collection to have though. i hope it happens.

Jim McClain said...

Jack, I think your blog is great! As a classroom teacher myself (8th grade math) I have a superhero theme going this year. I am often on the lookout for all-ages comics to share with my students. Better readers solve word problems more often than poor readers! I am going to recommend your blog to our media specialist to use as a guide for adding graphic material to our school media center.

admin said...

You make a great point. Sometimes the collected volumes are better for that reason. I will need to keep a closer look at that and include inappropriate ads in my reviews.

Thanks for your kind words. You are right. Good readers = good problem solvers. I appreicate your forwarding this site to your media specialist. If I can help you or another one else for that matter, don't hesitate to email me.