Comics furthering book series or straight up adapting them tend to be quite good. It’s basically one step removed from adapting them into movies or TV shows given the visual medium of comic books. It’s also a great way to get introduced to a book series in a quick, entertaining snippet. I did just that with Max Ride–is it good?
Max Ride: Ultimate Flight HC (Marvel Comics)
The Marvel official summary tells us more about the book:
Author James Patterson’s bestselling heroine Maximum Ride returns for a second sensational series! Max and her Flock are back – and more determined than ever to unlock the secrets of their past. But when a new stranger comes into their lives, she’ll turn their whole world upside down! They’re going back to school, but can the Flock hide their gifts and pretend to be regular kids? That might be hard for Max when classes are disrupted by an enemy invasion. Someone has been watching her…but who could it be? And as the search for the truth goes on, will it expose a traitor in their midst? Questions will be answered and mysteries solved, but will Max be able to save the world and her family?
Why does this book matter?
James Patterson might be best known for his Alex Cross series–at least by me–but the man has written quite a few books. That doesn’t mean his creations are a sure bet, but it’s a good start for an adaptation like this one to say the least. The fact that this is an adaptation of the second book in the series might mean folks can’t go in blind (though I did) but it also means this isn’t a formulaic origin story either.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Maybe it’s because I’m open minded about experiencing stories, but I had no problem jumping into this book and enjoying it from the start. I assumed I’d be a tad confused about details, but writer Jody Houser keeps new readers attuned to the important bits we missed. It’s all about children who recently freed themselves of the school that turned them into winged creatures with powers. They of course see these powers as a curse–much like many teenagers and pre teens view puberty and growing up–which makes for a conflicted and complicated group of characters. Fans of X-Men should be able to drop right into this story as the main characters, and female protagonist Max Ride, exude that otherworldly vibe.
Intro to the heroes.
What makes this book so entertaining is how each chapter, originally broken up by each issue, brings on a new threat or story element to keep things fresh. Bullies and boyfriends kissing other girls? Check. Doppelgängers? Check. A promise of a better future for one of the kids that turns sour? Check. As you get to know the kids and Max Ride’s undying need to keep her friends safe you’ll adventure with them through new trials.
For the most part Max is the most developed character, as we follow her through captions and understand him best. She goes through things all teenagers face in this book and I think the younger audience can relate. That said this comic doesn’t talk down to its audience and adults can find it entertaining too. Going in not knowing a thing about this book wasn’t a problem when it came to enjoying it, but it did make me want to read the first book as to see who these bad guys are and what their deal is.
Artist RB Silva draws quite well with a good distinction between characters. When the wings kick in and the kids soar they look powerful and at times angelic, which helps sell their abilities as more than just metal wings. When the action kicks in Silva does well to showcase the speed and force these kids can throw down, but ultimately this is less a superhero type book and more a melodrama of young kids trying to stay safe and live ordinary lives. Silva does a great job with expressions and you’ll never feel confused as to how these characters feel.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The teen angst and confusion is strong, but the threat behind it all isn’t so clear. This might be due to skipping the last chapter, but when bad guys do show up they stand around looking scary and not much else is revealed as far as why and what they are up to. There are moments in this book that suggest maybe they aren’t so bad, but it’s hard to say since the good guys are so scared and being toyed with so much. A strong villain could have made the dramatic narrative stronger in the later chapters for sure.
The characters all have different powers too, but I’m not sure who has what as that’s not delved into very deeply in this book. Their dynamics aren’t explored much either. For the most part it’s all about Max taking care of the flock, but I wish it went deeper with the other characters at times. It would certainly help the reader care a bit more about them all.
Damn, I want those wings!
Is It Good?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked this graphic novel open, but what I found was a lot of good character moments and plenty of surprises. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of X-Men, except the kids were on the run and on their own and their powers weren’t the focus of the narrative. Instead, it’s all about kids–orphans, really–trying to be normal when they’re not allowed to with threats coming always. It’s definitely written for a younger audience, but adults should find it entertaining too.