Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kid Houdini and The Silver Dollar Misfits - A Review

Kid Houdini and The Silver Dollar Misfits by Writer Dwight MacPherson Art Worth Gowell - Publisher Viper Comics

This looks to be a wonderful all age story. It is a FREE COMIC DAY book from Viper (May 3).

The Story:
The story starts in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1886. Since much of Harry Houdini’s early history is not 100% verifiable we still know that Harry started out in Appleton, Wisconsin in that time frame.

Harry appears to be 10- to 12 years old and is running away from home. He jumps a train and meets a bunch of young children locked in a cage. The children are Harry’s age but they are locked in a cage because they are the carnival Misfits for a traveling circus.

The Misfits are Lydia, a snake charmer, Hans, a boy with no legs, and Jacques and Joe the ever arguing Siamese twins.

We jump ahead a few months and find Harry practicing his escape tricks and the Misfits, now including Harry, solve mysteries for children who require there services. A young girl whose father is gone missing hires the gang, for a silver dollar, to investigate. During the course of their investigation, the Misfits go to the little girl’s house. The story leaves us hanging as a girl’s scream echoes in the house they are investigating.

The Art:
Jim: The artwork is very well done. It is a sophisticated cartoon style that is very fluid and has terrific clean lines. The page layouts are great and the story telling is top notch. I loved how the mood was switched with both color and art from lighthearted at times to a kid’s scary as they are exploring the house.
Lee: I really liked the art too. The storytelling was clean and concise. What really sold me was the facial expressions. In all ages books, it’s really important to get the faces right to help convey the mood. And the artist did a great job of it. I was equally impressed by the colorist too. Unfortunately, these days it appears the colorist only muddies the artwork but such is not the case here. He/she did a great job of using color to highlight the moods and tones of the book.

The Story:
Jim: Personally I can’t wait for the graphic novel. Dwight has this ability to tell a modern tale fairy tale type story that appeals to the adult in me and makes me long for the days when my kids were young enough for me to read to them every night.
Lee: I am of split mind on this book. On one hand it’s a great all ages book but on the other it’s a kinda bland all ages book. I like all ages books and I read lots of them but something was missing from this one.

If I put on my “I’m Ten Again” hat on (easily accessible) this is a great story. And, as a parent, this is a great story and I look
forward to giving it to my kids. I regard this as a “library book.” It’s a great book to get kids into reading, is easily accessible to the mass market, and would be a great addition to your local library. And that is no small achievement.

Now then, as an adult reading this story, it fell flat for me. The characters were almost too generic in nature and the motivations to plain. There was the stock angry kid who wants acceptance (Hans), comic relief (Jaques and Joe), and love interest (Lydia). There’s nothing wrong with using the archetypes but there needs to be a great take on the story to compensate. Overall, It’s a great little adventure story for my kids who haven’t read 100 plus adventure stories already.

The Opinion:
Jim: Highly recommended, Grade A
Lee: As a book to sit on my kids bookshelf for them to read over and over again, A+.
As a book to sit on my personal bookshelf, B.

It's a free book and hopefully your retailer ordered some of them (as the books are free to us, but a small price is paid by retailers for each book).

Look for the graphic novel later this year for only $9.95.

Check out an interview Dwight did with the fine people from Newsarama about this book.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review, Jim and Lee. Lee: I think we'll win over your adult self after you read the entire graphic novel. ;-)

    Thanks again,