Review: Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat

By Dustin Cabeal

Having said this numerous times before I’m constantly forced to remind the audience of this site that I will read anything. I have read things that I have zero interest in and come away loving them and sometimes hating them still. The point being that for me to read a kid’s book isn’t uncommon even if this is your first time spotting one of them on the site. I’m telling you all this because I do tend to have a soft spot for them. Maybe it’s a misspent youth full of video games and TV, but I didn’t read a lot of books when I was a child, nor did my parents supply me with many. Whatever the reason, I enjoy checking them out.

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Review: The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

Stories of children and monsters is nothing particularly new, but Drew Weing brings a fresh take to the combination with The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo. What’s particularly rich about the story and world that Weing has created is the depth to the story. Weing is clearly setting up a world that can continue to tell stories, but he doesn’t lose his focus on the plotline he’s telling. Instead, there’s a great mix of interwoven moments.

The story follows Charles. He’s a young boy that’s none too happy about his family moving from the suburbs to Echo City, a place that looks and feels like New York, but can be its own creation thanks to it not sharing the name. His family is living in the penthouse of an old hotel turned apartment complex, while his dad remodels the place for the owner. We don’t know exactly what his mom is doing, but “grant forms” are mentioned. Again, this is one of those details that while mentioned, don’t play out in this volume.

Charles discovers a problem with the building… someone has stolen one of his battle beanies. He blames his dad at first until he finds frightening monster eyes peering out at him from his bedroom closet. The next day he runs into the only other kid at the building, Kevin, and asks him about it. Kevin gives him a business card to call to solve his problem. Enter one Margo Maloo. She arrives almost immediately coming in from the window which surprises Charles. They begin the investigation in the closet where a secret panel is revealed. Upon taking it down they find the old kitchen of the hotel and inside they find Marcus the Troll.

Margo Maloo 1From this point we learn that Charles is a kid journalist and he wants to blow the entire world of monsters open so that kids know about it. Margo forbids it and tells him that it needs to remain a secret along with her identity. Again, Weing sets up an element to be played on in future instalments of the series.

There is, of course, a lot more to the story as its broken up into three chapters. Charles continues to investigate monsters even if he can’t go to press with it. Because of this he ends up getting involved in two more incidents with Margo and one has his life on the line.

Weing’s characters are extremely relatable. Even if you don’t relate to Charles, you’ll find another character. Charles reminds me a lot of Hubert from Futurama. Not just because of his design, but some of his actions. While that was what I liked about his character, Weing manages to balance Charles out. He’s never too whiny, he’s never too “I’m a journalist,” he walks a fine line. Most importantly, though, we never forget he’s a kid. Margo is the only one that doesn’t act like a kid and that is with intention.

The format of the book is reminiscent of old Garfield books. That is to say that while it doesn’t follow a three by two panel layout, it’s roughly the same shape. Something about this format really works to Weing’s benefit and gave me familiar tingles of childhood comic strip collections.

Weing’s artwork is very impressive. The monsters have unique designs even if they have familiar labels. Marcus the Troll looks nothing like a troll you’ve seen before. The humans range from different nationalities to different builds/body types. Echo City as a result feels a lot like a big city in which a lot of cultures co-exist. Which is also a theme with the monsters when Margo takes Charles and us as the reader into their world. Weing’s sequential art is really fantastic. His range of layouts give a wonderful flow to the story and work well with the format. The art is extremely detailed, but very inviting. Just flipping through the pages you can find yourself lost in the world again.

Since this is a book published by First Second, I didn’t particularly doubt that I would enjoy it. I was, however, surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Yes, it’s for a younger audience, but it’s so well-written and accompanied by fantastic art that you really wouldn’t think that at first glance. I know a lot of people don’t believe in the term “all-ages”, but in my opinion The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo definitely fits the labelling.

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The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo Creator: Drew Weing Publisher: First Second Books Price: $15.99 Format: Hardcover; Print


Review: Bera: The One-Headed Troll

To begin with, I can’t wait until my son is of appropriate age to read Bera: The One-Headed Troll. It’s probably one of the first books meant for children that didn’t just outright say the moral of the story. It is clear and present if you pay attention to it, but there isn’t that strange moment in which a character breaks out exposition to make sure you got it. Bera is an emotional journey for sure and not just for the main character of Bera. As the reader I felt hope, sadness, joy, and a sense of family. And sure I could point out that I have a new family and that’s why the story touched me so deep, but I don’t think it’s that at all. Eric Orchard actually crafts a story that is just so wonderfully deep that it can crack the hardest of hearts.

Bera is the pumpkin gardener for the Troll King. As the narration is quick to tell us, the story isn’t about the King or the kingdom. Instead it’s about a child. After making her delivery, Bera hears some nasty mermaids playing catch with a human baby. Bera rescues the baby, but the mermaids vow revenge.

Bera The One Headed TrollNot knowing how to care for a child Bera asks an ancestor’s spirit. The ancestor isn’t much help, but suddenly she warns Bera of an evil approaching that means to do her and the child harm. It’s a witch that has fallen from grace and no longer serves in the Troll king’s court. Bera lies to her and keeps the child hidden, but this gives her the urgency to get the child back to where it belongs. Bera sets out to find a hero to help her because she doesn’t think she can do it on her own. Which, if you’re paying attention, is one of the lessons/morals that Bera will learn.

Eric Orchard’s story is paced wonderfully. Once the journey kicks off, it continues going and takes place over the course of just a few days. This keeps things going and gives a sense of urgency to Bera’s journey. Orchard’s dialogue is intentionally strange at times because we are dealing with fantasy creatures. It’s never difficult to read though and I enjoyed the way each character still and their own unique voice and yet each character fit in with the world.

Orchard’s art is also quite different from most books geared towards younger readers. These are trolls and witches after all. They’re all quite ugly or just a little off to look at and that’s okay. It fits the story perfectly and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Orchard’s designs. His fantasy creatures didn’t look like they were inspired by other people’s creations. Instead he gave them all his own twist.

Again, I can’t wait to share this book with my son one day. It was touching, full of adventure, and just heartwarming. Whether this is the one story we’ll get out of Bera, it will be memorable for me due to the amazing story and incredible artwork.

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Bera: The One-Headed Troll Creator: Eric Orchard Publisher: First Second Books Price: $17.99 Format: Hardcover; Print


Review: Mummy’s Always Right

Recently creator Joe Mulvey successfully kickstarted Mummy’s Always Right, which is of course a play on words of “Mom’s always right.” Which is the gist of this kid’s book written and illustrated by Mulvey. The catch, of course, is the inclusion of classic monsters which is a great touch since it introduces a new generation to the creatures, but keeps from being scary. To put it another way, your kid isn’t going to grow up afraid of mummy’s after reading this book.

Mummy's-Always-Right-1Mulvey’s story is pretty straightforward. It’s a series of events Gaws’ day in which he’s taught to do the right things. Each page is basically a big splash page and one action after another. It works, it’s a kids book style and the only thing I would say is that it’s a little long and the message is really hammered home. Kids… listen to your mom.

The artwork is really good. I personally dig Mulvey’s style and always have since his other creator owned series Scam. His style works for the story and it’s actually quite nice to see a full page dedicated to his art. The backgrounds are rich and full because of this. The character designs are classic and yet distinct. You know who everyone is, but they all have Mulvey’s unique design. In a way it’s like Muppet Babies meets Universals classic monsters.

Parents can feel at ease checking this out. It’s not gruesome, it’s not an ironic kids book actually meant for adults. It’s just a uniquely themed kids book that you can share together and hopefully there will be more in the future.

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Mummy’s Always Right Creator: Joe Mulvey Publisher: ComixTribe Price: $15.00 Format: TPB; Print