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For generations comic books were thought of as children's books, but all that has changed with comic books now being marketed primarily to adults often under the more sophisticated name of graphic novels. This book brings comics back to their roots. This comic is part of Marvel's new Comic Reader range. While Marvel themselves state most of their comics are appropriate for ages 13+ now, these small simple comics are listed as appropriate for all ages. In all honesty though, I don't see adults collecting these. This comic, just like the original comics is written for children, and the price reflects this.
This comic sells for £2.99 new, which puts in the same price range as a child's magazine at a newsagent. It is put together more like a magazine than a book. This book has a thicker cover than ordinary comics, and like many modern comics, it has gloss pages, but it is still just 16 pieces of paper folded in the middle to make 32 pages and held together by a staple in the middle. I don't know how many of you remember having treasured comics as a child - but one of the reasons a good one is worth so much money now, is they didn't last long unless you took good care of them. This book will not survive being trailed about and slept with like a good quality child's book might, but that isn't the point. The idea of comics was to put out cheap, mass produced reading material that was just fun to read.
This is also more like the comics from my youth in terms of artwork. There is nothing wrong with the art - but these are not the artistic masterpieces you can find in some graphic novels. The drawings are simple, blocky and what I would class as comic style. The pictures do illustrate the story well though, which means a struggling reader can grasp a lot of the content from illustrations alone, or use illustrations as clues in decoding difficult words or passages.
This book is only 32 pages, and slightly smaller than most comics at 9" x 6". It does still manage to fit in three complete stories. The first story centers on Captain America, although it also has a number of other heroes. After a brief spat with an old enemy, Batroc Le Zeaper ( who by rights should be collecting a pension by now), the Captain and other Avengers battle a gigantic android called the Adaptoid, which has the ability to adapt to any fight by mimicking it's opponents strengths. Soon teh creature appears like a gigantic version of Ironman with Thor's hammer and the Captain's shield. It's a nice quick story with plenty of action for the children, although the struggle the Captain is going through to adapt to a changed world may be lost on younger readers.
The second story is called Trust and features Hawkeye and The Black Panther. My 7 year old especially liked this one as Black Panther is one his favourite characters, and one of the more difficult ones to find. This story had a nice twist though, and a bit of humour thrown in. The final story is called Enter the Mandarin. The Mandarin is an old enemy of Ironman's, but this time he has help a huge dragon which he controls with his ring. Both of my son's liked this story the most, especially the ending which they found very funny. Captain America, Ironman, Wasp, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Panther all appeared in the story.
Although I have really enjoyed many of the graphic novels I have read with my son, this book really doesn't have enough depth to the storyline for me to read this on my own. I'm happy to read it to the children, but teh stories are too quick and too simple for an adult. But my sons both enjoyed this and even my 3 year old can easily understand these stories. My seven year old did enjoy them as well, and asked for the the second book in this series, which we have bought. He wants the third as well, but it won't be released for a few months yet. My youngest also chose another Marvel Comics Reader - Spiderman as his last choice when picking books from Amazon.
I think these books are ideal for children who have not really started reading the more adult versions of Marvel Comics. You do not need any previous knowledge of the Marvel characters to enjoy this, the story is simple and easily understood by even the youngest of readers, and the reading level is simple enough for my 7 year old to read this , but he did need help with a couple of words, like "analyzing". The text is quite small, and while this is standard for comics, as this series is billed as comic readers for younger children, I would have liked the text to be just a little bit larger, making it easier for developing readers. That said, my son did not have any difficulty with the size of the font and I think a slightly less complex vocabulary would make this accessible to even younger readers. As it stands I would recommend this for ages 7+ to read alone. I think much younger children will enjoy this if a parent reads it, but do keep in mind the book will require careful handling if it is to last a very young child for many years of repeated readings. I would note that as this comic is written for younger children, violence is very mild, there is nothing that I think likely to frighten a child, and no material inappropriate for the youngest of readers.
I am absolutely delighted to see Marvel producing comics specifically for children again, and hope this a trend which will catch on, giving us many more of these books. I have so far purchased 3 out 4 available titles and I will quite likely be buying the 4th with my next Amazon voucher. I do wish these were available in newsagents. I can remember racing to the corner shop whenever I had any pocket money hoping to buy a new comic, and I think that is something missing for children today, being able to leaf through and choose comics with their own pocket money. I also wish Marvel were pumping these out a bit faster, I feel that one edition a month would allow children to maintain an interest in the series, and give them something to look forward to each month. All complaints aside though, I am still a very happy to have this book in our library.
I have recently been reading quite a bit on children's literacy, and it seems that more and more experts are recommending comic books as an way to encourage children to read. Many famous authors state that comic books were what got them interested in literature, as did Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and a number of current experts on literacy today. It has been pointed out that comics utilise both words and art, appealing to multi sensory learners, and various studies and facts are trotted out in support of comic books. Finland, with the highest literacy scores for children also boasts the highest readership of comics by children, with over 50% reading a comic every week. But the simple explanation, in my opinion, is that comics make a child want to read. If we could get 50% of British children reading anything for pleasure at least once a week - I think we would make huge inroads in literacy. I really can not recommend comic books highly enough to get children reading, and I am over the moon to see comics specifically for children on the market again.