Saturday, May 31, 2008


I’m writing reviews like mad right now. I just finished a second draft of a comic-related project I am working on. Lots of fun, but not much of a break. One more week and then I start back to school.

The goods this week:
  1. The Batman Strikes Vol. 2: In Darkest Knight
  2. Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #13
  3. Power Pack Day One #3 (of 4)
  4. Teen Titans Go! #55
  5. Thor #9
  6. Usagi Yojimbo #111

Friday, May 30, 2008


AUTHOR: Andrea Gianopoulos
PUBLISHER: Capstone Press
GENRE: Biography & Science

FORMAT: Reinforced library binding
PAGES: 32 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 0-7368-6847-X
ISBN-13: 978-0-7368-6847-1

Part biography and part science lesson, ISAAC NEWTON AND THE LAWS OF MOTION tells more of a tale than a falling apple and the theory of gravity. We learn about the perseverance of Newton and how his laws of motion have impacted space travel and daily life. Who knew that equations and ellipsis, tides and orbits could be so interesting?

Heavy inks and only a few panels per page make for a straightforward read for kids and young teens. The illustrations tend to explain Newton’s theories, so the reader can grasp the information presented. A perfect example is the discussion of velocity and gravity as it applies to the firing of a cannonball around the world. At the end of the page, the theory makes sense.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grades 3-4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 3-9

Guided Reading Level: T
Lexile Level: 790L
ATOS Level: 4.7
AR Quiz No.: 112281
Dewey: 530.092

This text is designed for use in the classroom. A student could use it for a research project on Isaac Newton or on his scientific theories. With the illustrations, an elementary student could easily create a presentation to demonstrate his knowledge of gravity and how it applies to the world.

This is a part of Capstone’s “Invention and Discovery” series. Other titles include:

  • Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone
  • Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
  • George Eastman and the Kodak Camera
  • Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System
  • Henry Ford and the Model T
  • Jake Burton Carpenter and the Snowboard
  • Johann Gutenberg and the Printing Press
  • Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine
  • Levi Strauss and Blue Jeans
  • Louis Pasteur and Pasteurization
  • Madam C. J. Walker and New Cosmetics
  • Marie Curie and Radioactivit
  • Samuel Morse and the Telegraph
  • Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and the Personal Computer
  • Thomas Edison and the Lightbulb
  • The Wright Brothers and the Airplane

Highly Recommended
It is great. Kids love to learn about how things are made and they will be especially interested to know that Newton started experimenting at age 11.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Comics are in the news again this week. This time my local newspaper, The Springfield News-Leader did a feature on The Manga Bible and a few of us who have been involved with studying it.

As you may recall, I am working on a series of articles and reviews on making religious texts available in the classroom, with support from the ACLU, by the way. Of course this includes as many religions as I can find (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.). The paper picked up on this somehow and wanted to write a story about it.

The story will only be accessible for a week, so read it quick.

UPDATE: If you know of any titles that I should consider, please let me know. This would also include any graphic novels that might address non-faith or non-religious views as well. I'm not interested in anything too didactic or trite. You can email me (Chris Wilson) at

Friday, May 23, 2008


AUTHORS: Eric A. Anderson and Manny Trembley
ILLUSTRATOR: Manny Trembley
LETTERING: Eric A. Anderson
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
GENRE: Humor

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: 168
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-58240-820-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-58240-820-0

Dahlia is home alone on her birthday; her father is nowhere to be found. She waits for him for four days, surviving on the ultimate kid food – peanut butter – but when he never shows she decides to ride out on her panda to find him.

Little does Dahlia know that her scientist father has been kidnapped by the evil Goat in order to develop an army of fighting robots. Goat, you see, wants to take over the world. In order to keep the scientist oppressed, Goat sends a roller-skating samurai-for-hire to deal with her. Little does Goat know that his plan will backfire. Together, Dahlia, her panda, the samurai assassin, and a double-naught agent set out to put old Goat in his place.

Think AUSTIN POWERS meets Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and you have a good idea of what PX! A GIRL AND HER PANDA is about. Humor? Oh yeah, plenty of it. This book is a riot assuming you think a roller skating ronin and a world-dominating cig-smoking goat are funny. I do. Just check your disbelief at the door, go in and have a good time.

The art is unique. The page backgrounds are black and the inking is light. The details come in the form of coloring, which are what give this book its look. I am down with it.

My Rating: Teens and older

The humor and the vocabulary are most appropriate for teenagers and adults. Not that the book is inappropriate for younger readers. It is not, but I think younger readers would miss out on the best parts of the book.

Goat smokes cigarettes. Now he is the evil character so it is easier to justify using this book in a school if the smoking is not cool. Cigs in school literature are a quick way for a teacher to get into trouble, so be aware. One could argue that the Goat is a cool, evil character and that this would promote smoking among rebellious teens. There is also a bit of gun play.

PX! is interesting in that it has multiple story lines occurring at the same time through a large percentage of the book. This is a perfect time to study parallel storytelling and the converging of those stories later on. The creators also used flashbacks, adding another writing tool to the curriculum.

This was originally published as a web comic and finally found its way to print. Click here for the official web site.

Recommended with Reservations
Schools take smoking very seriously, especially in the Midwest, so teachers in conservative school districts may want to steer clear. I think the book has a lot of merit in both escapism and in curriculum. I could find lots of ways to use this book in the classroom, but I would be fearful that parents or administrators might object and cause problems. So I have decided to recommend this book but to do so with reservations.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This summer is choked full of comic-related movies. Some of the movies may or may not be appropriate for the classroom, but rest assured your students will be aware of the characters and storylines. If nothing else, you might find the research fun. Mainstream characters like The Hulk, Iron Man, and Batman have different versions for different ages. In this case, all three titles have all ages versions and versions for older audiences. That may not be the case for some of the other titles.

Have fun with these movies.

May 2
Iron Man
comic published by Marvel

May 9
Speed Racer
comic published by IDW

May 22
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
comic published by Dark Horse

June 13
The Incredible Hulk (a new movie)
comic published by Marvel

July 8
Batman: Gotham Knight (DVD)
comic published by DC

July 17
The Dark Knight
comic published by DC

July 11
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
comic published by Dark Horse


Have you seen Iron Man yet? You need to. It’s good. Really good. Now is the perfect time to introduce some Iron Man to students. There are good Iron Man titles for all ages and also for older readers. Keep a watch out for a review of MARVEL ADVENTURES: IRON MAN. Better late than never, eh? Dark Horse has an entire line of INDIANA JONES graphic novels. I haven’t reviewed any of them yet, but I hope to soon.

  1. Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #24
  2. Igor: The Movie Prequel
  3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull #1 (of 2)
  4. The Nicest Naughty Fairy
  5. Writing Pictures & Drawing Words

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Brian K. Vaughan
ILLUSTRATOR: Niko Henrichon
PUBLISHER: Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics)
GENRE: Animal Fantasy

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: 136
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-1-4012-0315-3

Inspired by a true story, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD follows the struggle for survival of four lions freed from the Baghdad zoo after the US invasion in 2003.

PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is not about the lions or the zoo or the war in Iraq, but rather it is about survival, life, freedom, and in the hands of Vaughan the story becomes a piece of unforgettable modern literature and is well deserving of the designation of “classic”.

This is comic realism at its best. Henrichon’s desert-hued palette brings the setting alive, ripe with the smell of sand and the piercing heat of the sun baking the back of the neck.

My Rating: High School
Publisher’s Rating: Mature readers
School Library Journal’s Rating: Grade 9 and older

Considering the mature themes of the book, this is only appropriate for serious students who wish to study real literature and make deep connections.

There is some language along with animal procreation, pain and sorrow, blood and death.

Despite the mature themes, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is worthy of study, even in a public school setting. However, it should be reserved for the serious, mature student and the literature or an advanced social studies classroom. It’s good. It’s great. It’s just not for everyone.

A hardcover edition is also available.

Recommended with Strong Reservations
I offer strong reservations because the book will likely be controversial especially in some communities, and it is certainly not appropriate for just any high school classroom. But it could be, and should be, used in the right circumstances.


Finals are over and now I begin work on a comic-related project, which will hopefully be announced much later in the year. I will also spend the next few weeks (between semesters) writing reviews and reading comics, along with assorted honey-do items.

What we received this week:
  1. The Batman Strikes #45
  2. The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #14
  3. Marvel Adventures: Hulk #11
  4. Tiny-rannosaurus
  5. Tiny Titans #4

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


This month's INSTRUCTOR, a magazine from Scholastic, has a good story on ... you guessed it, comic books in the school room.

Click here for the story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Civil War #1

Civil War #2

Civil War #3

Civil War #4

Civil War #5

Civil War #6

Civil War #7

Mark Millar
PENCILS: Steven McNiven
INKS: Dexter Vines
COLORES: Morry Hollowell
LETTERING: Chris Eliopoulos
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics
GENRE: Superhero

FORMAT: Monthly comics
PAGES (#1): 48 pages
PAGES (#2-#7): 32
COLOR: Full color

Superheroes are great, saving the world and whatnot, but sometimes their techniques tend to leave the city in shambles, people hurt or even dead. Something must be done, so the government passes the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires all persons with super abilities to register with the government and reveal their secret identities. Those superheroes that comply will be trained as agents of the government. Those that refuse will be hunted, captured and permanently detained.

The super community is split on the issue. Captain America and others reject the law, claiming it infringes upon their civil rights. Spider-Man becomes the front man for the pro-registration movement, unmasking himself on national television.

Battles ensue, superheroes switch sides, unsavory super villains are recruited, and destruction runs rampant.

Here is an issue-by-issue breakdown from the Marvel website:

Issue #1
The landscape of the Marvel Universe is changing and it’s time to decide: Whose side are you on? A conflict has been brewing in the Marvel Universe for over a year, threatening to pit friend against friend, brother against brother – and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse! As the war claims its first victims, no one is safe as teams, friendships, and families begin to fall apart. Civil War, a Marvel Comics event in seven parts, stars Spider-Man, the New Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the entirety of the Marvel pantheon! Civil War – the crossover that rewrites the rules – begins here in this double-sized first issue!

Issue #2
The super-heroes split as the CIVIL WAR heats up! Registration has become law, household names have gone rogue and a Marvel legend makes a decision that will change a life forever. Featuring the New Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Young Avengers and pretty much everybody else! And – no fooling, true believer – this issue features one of the most shocking climaxes in Marvel Comics history. Miss this one and you might just regret it for the rest of your life!

Issue #3
The battle lines are drawn as the conflict between the Super Hero Registration Initiative and the Underground Resistance fighters explodes in a live firefight as the future of the Marvel Universe is decided! But before the dust settles, a familiar figure will emerge from a strike of lightning to change the odds – and the sides! Witness teams and families torn apart as the Civil War touches all and the momentous events of last issue changes the world, as our heroes understand it!

Issue #4
A death! A funeral! A betrayal! And a team reborn as the war takes a deadly turn!

Issue #5
Featuring villains, villains, villains! Sides change and chaos reigns as the evildoers of the Marvel Universe make their presence felt in a new and shocking way! But when the underworld gets involved, can the Punisher be far behind?

Issue #6
Captain America’s depleted forces have determined the secret of File 42, setting them on a last-ditch collision course with Iron Man and the Pro-Registration heroes! It’s the beginning of the battle of the century – a conflict in which virtually every superhuman on Earth will be forced to choose a side to fight on!

Issue #7
It all ends here! The startling battle that will determine the future of the Marvel Universe!

To the writer’s credit, CIVIL WAR does not take a stand on the controversy. The characters do, and then they change their minds, but the story moves in an ebb and flow that makes it hard for the reader to make up his or her mind. As it happens, both sides have strong, valid and appropriate arguments.

CIVIL WAR, for all its inventiveness and possible social commentary, has trouble meeting its own lofty goals. The writing is weak – rushed – and the motivations behind the pro- and anti-registration choice is muted at best. In the end, Captain America, abruptly switches sides without so much as a single inkling. It occurred in issue seven and certainly left many fans discombobulated, as if the series had to be published in only seven issues and once the publishers got to issue seven, they just wrapped it up with a mottled brown bow.

I thought the art was worthy of the subject and was expertly rendered. The line art, the inking, and the coloring are powerful.

My Rating: Ages 13 and older
Publisher’s Recommended Age: T+ (Ages 13 and older)

It is unfortunate that this book was written as a T+ because it could be and should be enjoyed and explored by kids younger than 13. Aside from the cursing, which also shows up in HARRY POTTER and other works of literature, there is really no reason for it to have such a rating. If an upper elementary aged child followed the Marvel universe, then I would let him or her read it. Using it in a classroom is a bit trickier.

I am not offended by cursing, even in children’s literature. However, this mini-series is full of blue words. One could argue that the characters, feeling as passionately as they do, are possibly experiencing the greatest challenge of their lives and that we are seeing the stress from that, so they curse. It’s really a fair argument. If I were in that position I would probably be cursing a lot too. Interestingly enough the powers that be choose to use symbols in one frame in issue #1: “Holy $@%&.” The rest of the time the real words are displayed. There is also some blood, but I did not find it gratuitous.

CIVIL WAR is about civil rights and could easily be compared to movements past and present. Kids will have no trouble linking this story with real events and making deep connections about the importance of our civil rights. Most governments, maybe all of them, have had instances where they discriminated or violated the civil rights of a particular group. The United States has battled with such an issue in contemporary society with September 11 and the Patriot Act. This list is extensive and many parallels could be drawn if one were so inclined to do so.

I believe this title has literary merit to be used in the classroom, even with children who are younger than 13, but it would be a tricky endeavor. I doubt there would be much trouble if it were used in a high school history or social studies classroom. If a classroom is studying the constitution or civil rights then that teacher has a good case to use this in the classroom. It boils down to understanding the community in which one teaches. CIVIL WAR would not be the first piece of controversial literature used in a classroom.

Also available as a trade paperback and hard bound. The CIVIL WAR event extends beyond these seven issues. Other titles and spin-off stories include:


Recommended with Reservations
This title has merit and could be powerful. It also could be controversial, so care should be taken before introducing it to a classroom. Use caution and good common sense.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I can’t even find all of the comics that came in this week as the pile on the desk grows ever taller, ever wider – a dank pit of snippets, notes, notebooks, papers, research, comics, cameras, and more. My mind is a ramshackle shed of incomplete thoughts, final exam studying, and electronic portfolios. I can barely string two words together. This poor bit of writing, which resembles a paragraph and a list of comics, took much too long to craft. I did get a poem out this morning. It came in a flood of stream-of-consciousness writing in response to another poem by a real poet and good friend. My hands hurt from writing and the to-do list grows with the desk clutter. I plod on, knowing that when I become a real teacher, nothing much will change. Time is always the enemy to the teacher.

Here are the comics that I remember getting. If I left one out, it will likely show up next week. As for the review this week, I beg your many pardons. Tis finals week and I am spinning, twisting and losing sleep. Hope beyond hope, I yearn to put out two reviews this week to make amends. I hesitate to promise, to guaranty, to even mention it, for fear that I will fall flat and disappoint. I did manage to publish the comics made by the fifth graders in my practicum. I hope you enjoy them. Please, drop me a note and tell me what you do what the information.

Remember, I am looking to publish comics from other classrooms as well. If you are interested in a comic book contest for your classroom, or just want to pick some great comics from your students, let me know.

On to the list:
  1. Franklin Richards – Son of a Genius: Not-So-Secret Invasion
  2. The Merchant of Venice
  3. A Moment of Clarity: The Big Boss on Level 10
  4. Sonic the Hedgehog #181, #184
  5. Thor: Ages of Thunders

Sunday, May 11, 2008


It took them over a week to make write their stories and make their pages, but the fifth graders in the classroom where I am a practicum student created their very first comics. The assignment was to create a comic that included one of the biomes we were studying in science. To create more authenticity, The Graphic Classroom held a contest. The top three comics, as judged by an independent panel, would be scanned and published at TGC. All comics were posted on the bulletin board in the hallway. Here are the top three in no particular order:

By Breanne

By Corrine

by Noah

I wanted a lot of creativity and a baseline from which to build, so I gave them wide parameters and few requirements.
  • Minimum of 2 pages and maximum of 10 pages, plus a cover.
  • Cannot be a wordless comic (this time).
  • Must include one of the biomes we are studying in science as a setting.
I split the students into groups, from which each group picked one of the writing prompts provided. Groups could also create a prompt of their own, but it had to be approved by me and the classroom teacher (although no one choose their own prompt). Each student within the group had to write about the group’s chosen prompt, but each child was responsible for his or her own individual comic. The writing prompts are as follows:
  • Writing Prompt 1: A Day in the Life of a Bug
  • Writing Prompt 2: The Hero
  • Writing Prompt 3: Friendship
  • Writing Prompt 4: The Worst Day at School
  • Writing Prompt 5: Someone has a Secret
  • Writing Prompt 6: It’s Gone!
  • Writing Prompt 7: On Being Different
I encouraged the students to make an outline and I modeled the process to help them. Very few students took advantage, choosing instead to get started. I allowed this as I wanted to see what the students were capable of doing on their own. From this assessment, I can better tell what the students need to work on and can then design lessons to address those specific topics.

Overall, the class have a hard time writing a cohesive story with a strong beginning, middle and end. Many of the stories start out strong, but then have weak or nonexistent endings. Focusing on the basics of the story and pre-writing would help them craft stronger stories. That is where I would begin my writing lessons. A few students had a hard time with coming up with an idea to write about. I suspect that may occur when they are forced to write about what the group decides to write about. Therefore, I would allow the individual students freedom in writing. I might, however, require them to share their story ideas (outlines) with the group and get feedback from peers.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I didn’t get a chance to post the titles that came in last week, so I am pulling double duty this week. Technically I will also pick up titles tomorrow for Free Comic Book Day, I won’t be posting those titles. You can go to the comic book store and see for yourself.

On to the list:
  1. Another Dirt Sandwich
  2. Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath
  3. Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #12
  4. Mice Templar #4
  5. Power Pack Day 1 #2 (of 4)
  6. Tales from the Brothers Grimm
  7. Teen Titans: Year One #4 (of 6)
  8. Teen Titans Go! #54
  9. Thor #8
  10. Usagi Yojimbo #111
  11. White Picket Fences Double Feature


Kazu Kibuishi
PUBLISHER: Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic)
GENRE: Fantasy & Sci-Fi

FORMAT: Hardback
VOLUME: Book. 1 (The Stonekeeper)
PAGES: 187
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 0-439-84680-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-84680-6

Emily and her brother, Navin, have already faced loss, with the strange disappearance of their grandfather many years ago and then the tragic death of their father during an automobile accident. When they move to a new town, and into an old family home, they find that their lives have only begun to change. They are only in the home for a day before their mother is kidnapped by a mysterious tentacled tick-beast, and the children set off to save her.

Quick-paced and action packed, AMULET hits the ground running: The father dies, the family moves into the missing grandfather’s old home, and their mother is taken. Readers who enjoy a book that gets right to it, will enjoy AMULET. Magic, robots, and all manner of beast and bad guy. Everyone wants what Emily, affectionately called Em, finds in the grandfather’s home before the monster comes, and she is the key to it all. It’s nice to have a female hero with a boy sidekick, although this is not a girl-oriented story. The first in a series of books, kids will be hard pressed to put the book down until it’s finished, and they will certainly ask for more.

I introduced AMULET to the fifth graders in my practicum classroom and they loved it. So much so, the teacher bought a classroom copy at the Scholastic book fair. She also bought Bone. AMULET, my friends, is a keeper.

The characters, except for the grandfather, are rendered without much detail. The settings, however, are more detailed. The coloring sets the different tones and moods and reflects the situations. I think the scary events are offset by the cartoon nature of the characters. It is a great looking book.

Prologue page 1

Prologue page 2

Prologue page 3

Prologue page 4

My Rating: Ages 9 and older
Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 9-12

It is scary, yes, with kidnappings and death, but I really see no reason why children younger than 9 years old could not read this book. It may not be appropriate for all young children, but I do not think the Age 9 rating should be concrete.

There is magic and death in this story.

The classroom that wants to explore the hero myth (called the monomyth) could use AMULET. A boiled down version of the monomyth could be used for elementary children. For more information on monomyth go here and here or do a Google keyword search for “monomyth.”

A lot could be made of the decisions that Emily and her brother make. Specifically, there is a scene where Emily must decide to accept the amulet and its power or not. If she accepts it, then she can become the ruler of Alledia and also turn back time and save her father and mother. She is also told that she will obtain “glorious great power beyond anything [she] has imagined.” This is a pivotal moment in the story and if written well will come full circle by the end of the series. Great power means great responsibility doesn’t it Spider-Man fans? I am anxious to see what writer Kibuishi does with this.

This is book one in a larger series. It is available in paperback and hardcover. The entire prologue is available as a pdf here.

This is an exciting book to introduce to kids. Children of both genders will enjoy the action and girls will be drawn to the female protagonist.


Time for Kids: Elementary school teachers use it to teach social studies. Created by Time Magazine, TFK is a glossy, color 8-page magazine covering current events that impact the lives of our children. I love using it when I teach and the kids seems to enjoy it.

This week’s edition was of particular interest to me as it dealt with using comic books in the classroom. From TFK:

"In some places, they are part of the lesson. Schools around the country are using comic books to teach reading and other subjects. The Maryland State Department of Education has developed a comic book curriculum using classic Disney comics. After a successful test, it is being used in about 200 classrooms, and continues to expand. The state has introduced a new series of original comic books, Toon Books, in first and second grade. The series was created by Francoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker magazine, and her husband, Art Spiegelman, a prizewinning comics artist."

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. That’s okay. Those of us who are using them can see the impact on student engagement and learning. As for reading, it takes no time to figure out that the interest in reading skyrockets once comics are added to the curriculum.

Read the Time for Kids article here.