Mark Andrew Smith & Matthew Weldon, The New Brighton Archeological Society (Image, 2009). $17.99, paperback.
The New Brighton Archeological Society came out this spring, but as the dog days of summer begin to stretch out upon us I wanted to mention it for all who are looking for a good summer read for their precocious rapscallions. Unlike many graphic novels geared at younger readers, this one is crafted both visually and verbally with a great confidence in the intelligence and graphic literacy of its readers. Weldon’s visual style borrows a lot from the world of children’s book illustration and Smith borrows heavily from the style and feel of classic adventure literature, and so the book as a whole somehow magically combines the feel of Harry Potter or Spiderwick Chronicles with the visual energy and strange creatures of a Hellboy adventure (unlike Hellboy, however, it will definitely pass the litmus test of all but the most puritanical of parents). Let’s face it, we have seen an explosion of brilliant, smart books for younger readers in the past ten years or so, but we have yet to find a similar renaissance in graphic literature, particularly in American comics. Smith and Weldon’s New Brighton Archeological Society promises a serial adventure that will do for the pre-teen graphic novel what Rowling and Pullman did for the young adult novel. This is a gem of a book and it did not get nearly the attention it deserved when it came out in March. Grab it for your little explorer, or for yourself.