Responsibility isn't a sexy trope. Sure, it makes appearances in some great ways in Tolkein and The Wheel of Time, but it doesn't seem to me that many books being put out that focus on responsibility as a central tenet become overwhelmingly popular. Joey McCormick may never say the word in his all-ages book, but it's the spine of the story that he writes, and the unshakable and solid truth that holds the plot, characters, and reader together.
If you're a fan of Adventure Time, then you'll feel right at home in McCormick's world of magic and mayhem. He brings character designs and story elements that feel like they could be from the land that came before Oo...or after. The story begins as a great evil resurfaces, and the forces of good must combine to fight it. Beyond that trope trap, McCormick blows the doors of off expectations as he writes what ends up feeling like a Western with high fantasy tossed in for funsies. Every character has history that is explored slowly and beautifully, and though this is quite a far cry from "gritty realism," there's still a deep and lasting emotional impact left on the reader from every well-crafted moment. The crux of the story is really how the main characters hold each other to their agreed-upon standard, bringing each other up when they can and calling actions to the carpet when needed. Bean is our innocent who's brought along without knowing quite what is required of her, and the best part of the story is when everything is laid bare for her. It creates an emotional core that binds the group together, new and old, in a lasting way that is quite engaging for the reader.
I do think that the finale gets a bit of the Harry Potter finish, though here it's actually tied to the narrative Before the dénouement reveals that fact, however, I felt a bit cheated, as though I had been brought on a journey without a destination that I felt I had earned. The story is told well, and drawn brilliantly, but I felt that the emotional stance that was kept up throughout the work kind of fell apart at the finale.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the read; it's familiar enough to make the reader leap to attention when something goes in a new kind of direction where the narrative truly sings, and the grounded aspect of the characters belies the fantastic nature of their quest and look. I'd gladly join any of the main characters on other travels in their lives; there's a sensational amount of implied history in them all, and it makes me want to dive in again and again. I've already read through more often than I do on most pieces I review for the pure enjoyment of it all. The great little moments cascade into a wonderfully told story that kindles a warm fire in my soul each time. If you want to take a step out of the world, this story will make you blink a moment or two while you "come back" to ours.
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Creative Team: Joey McCormick (Writer/Illustrator), Whitney Cogar (Colors), Warren Montgomery (Letterer)
Publisher: KaBOOM! (BOOM! Studios)
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