If you asked me DC Comics is putting out the best middle-grade and kids original graphic novels. From the heartwarming and endearing Dear Justice League to the introspective and meaningful Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale there is so much to love and so much DC is offering. This week DC is releasing something a little different in The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid. Not only is it an unconventional approach to a story, but it’s also all about a character very similar to the Swamp Thing, but is so much different.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
My name is Russell Weinwright and if you think you’ve got problems in middle school, try being a half kid, half algae swamp creature who’s terrible at sports! It’s not easy. I eat sunlight for lunch, I’ve got duck weed for hair, and I think a frog might be living in my tree trunk arm. I’m literally pond scum! Some kids call me Swamp Kid, but my best friends Charlotte and Preston keep me sane.
I wish I could let you read this notebook to get the real scoop on being an eighth-grade outsider (please ignore the doodles and ketchup stains!), but things have gotten a little crazy lately. Men in black are spying on me, my science teacher might be an evil mastermind, and a hulking beast in the bayou may or may not be my super swamp mentor. Believe me, you don’t wanna know! Turn back now!
This is The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid by writer and illustrator Kirk Scroggs, and you’ll never look at middle school the same way again.## Why does this matter?
Why does this matter?
If you’re unfamiliar with Kirk Scroggs you’ll be unaccustomed to his fun imaginative style that can shift on a dime and go from caricature to sketch, to superheroes at their finest. Mix that with the concept of a lined spiral notebook filled with sketches and realistic details (like leaves found in the swamp taped in).
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book is written in the first person which makes it feel very present as it reveals who Russel Weinwright is and how his strange life in school is made stranger due to the way he was born. The sketchbook stylings help make the notebook feel like a real notebook you may have found which makes the narrative feel even more present. Weinwright, The name has to be a nod to Swamp Thing creator Len Wein right, is a likable kid who is rather ordinary save for how his body can change, he eats mostly sunlight, and he’s pretty darn good at drawing.
The book opens revealing Weinwright, his parents, how he was adopted, and generally who the main players are at school. By the time you’re acquainted, Weinwright starts to explore the swamp which only makes his life more complicated and weird. As the story progresses the superhero element creeps in including familiar faces popping up like Swamp Thing and Arcane and a rather ferocious monster.
Regardless of who you meet on this journey or what happens Scroggs keeps the focus on the weird, from a toe that breaks off to strange fungal root rot Weinwright is experiencing. If you’re a teenager I imagine you’ll relate to the weird things happening to Weinright’s body throughout the story.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The book can look too clean for its own good. There are subtle touches here and there like burned edges of the paper, but the drawings aren’t quite what you’d expect from a doodling student. Words always seem to be on the blue line of each page too. I imagine it makes sense to make this easier to read, but the illusion of the notebook fails a bit here and there. This goes doubly for the extra-long exposition-heavy pages which serve the reader but don’t make a lot of sense in a notebook.
Is it good?
A lighthearted take on a middle school kids adventure to understand himself in a creative format. There’s nothing quite like this and should be a blast for middle school readers who might take some inspiration from the sketchbook within its pages.
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