Scribblenauts Unmasked #1
The Phantom Stranger In A Kids' Book?
I saw this on the stand and thought, "hey, my son plays Scribblenauts. I wonder if he got this game?" Well, apparently so, because when I told him they had a comic (actually online first, with the print version coming out just this last week), he jumped up and asked, "Can we get it?"
So a trip to the comic book store and a ride home with lots of giggles coming from the back seat means that the nine-year-old crowd would really be into it.
But what is it?
Actually a sequel to the Nintendo DS game that mashed up a popular videogame franchise with the DC Universe, this book does everything right to get kids hooked on being DC readers. (I'd also throw a nod toward Li'l Gotham, which also does digital first.)
Writer Josh Elder digs deep into the mythos of the DCU, opening on The Phantom Stranger consulting Madame Xanadu about a great crisis coming. Despite these being two arcane characters, they're handled with a wit that does not betray their core selves. Xanadu criticizes the Stranger for acting as if he will do anything but provide exposition, and somehow even the blankness of the character design does not limit artist Adam Archer. A featureless Stranger still registers chagrin.
The two recap the game and provide portents of the future, bringing the characters from Scribblenauts Unmasked back to the DC Universe to stop a Crisis from happening -- a Crisis In Imagination.
I've played earlier installments of the game with my son, so I was excited that a DC version was coming. And it translates to comics form pretty well. Archer keeps well within model while introducing some characters not in the game, and Elder slips in some of the key elements of game play -- not just being creative in how characters overcome obstacles, but actually working to increase vocabulary.
When fighting Clayface, the Scribblenaut (forgive my memory lapse on the name) picks up Firefly's gun. The sound effects as he fires it at Clayface are a list of synonyms for what he's trying to do -- subtly educational, and each word getting more complex.
As cute and child-friendly as it is, Elder still leavens it with underlying menace. Though superdeformed, this Joker is just as demented and homicidal in intent as the New 52's version -- without being as scary. The next issue promises a look at Metropolis, and it will be interesting to see how Elder and Archer take on that dynamic.
The subtitle brings it home -- while I'm often feeling that mainstream DC books rely on violence to simulate edginess, this book relies on imaginative solutions and fun. Pick this up for your kid, or let him get it on her iPad. I like the Arkham series of games, too, but it's nice to know that this week, DC remembers they want to get kids involved with their characters, too. This and JLA Adventures at Target pack a one two punch of reaching out to the next generation.
Find this book and, of course, any comics you like at your local comics shop. We recommend Earth-2 Comics in Northridge, Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, Illusive Comics & Games, Hijinx Comics and The Comic Bug -- and many, many more in a neighborhood near you.