Archive for Prudence Shen

Robots and Cheerleaders and School Funding!


Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Here’s a nice, thick, but light-hearted graphic novel written by Prudence Shen and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks.

Our lead character is Charlie, the captain of the high school basketball team, whose main interests outside of basketball involve not having terrible things happen to him. Unfortunately, he’s stuck between two opposing forces — his best friend Nate (and his cohorts in the robotics club) and his ex-girlfriend Holly (and her fellow cheerleaders). See, the robotics club wants funding to attend a robotics competition, and the cheerleaders want funding for new uniforms — and there’s not enough funding for both.

So Nate decides to run for student body president, and in retaliation, the cheerleaders register Charlie as a candidate, too. And from there, the campaign gets really ugly really fast, as both sides unleash a string of dirty tricks, most of which end up humiliating Charlie. After both sides end up defacing the football field, the principal declares that neither the robotics club nor the cheerleaders are going to get the funding they want. So what happens now? Both sides are going to have to team up to get the funding they want — with deadly robot warriors!

Wait, so it turns into a science fiction epic? No, not really, though the book jacket does kinda leave that impression. With the cheerleaders offering up some money to help out, the robotics club converts their robot — designed to compete in a standard autonomous robotics competition to demonstrate that the team is good at engineering and programming — into a fighting robot, designed to compete in remote-controlled robot fighting leagues, which have much different requirements. Like built-in chainsaws. Can Charlie, Nate, the robotics club, and the cheerleaders prevail? Can they get the funding they need to complete their projects? Can the survive the repercussions of ditching their families on Thanksgiving Day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great, fun little story. It’s the type of thing that looks kinda light and airy — oh, just a high school story. But there’s also action, high drama, comedy, angst, conflict — and robots. Fighting robots! They could make this a movie, and it’d probably make scads of money.

The characterization is great, too. Sad sack Charlie, arrogant Nate, cold, steely Holly (the other cheerleaders take their cues from her), passionate, robot-loving Joanna, the pervy, hilarious twins, and even Charlie’s camping-obsessed father. Again, you put these people in a movie, and it’d be hilarious.

A lot of what I love about this book is how much it does seem like a movie. I kinda get the impression that Shen originally planned to make this a screenplay before opting to go the graphic novel route. I could be wrong, of course — but either way, there’s a great eye here for fast-moving, kinetic storytelling. And if I’m the first person to ever think of making this into a movie, and it eventually does hit the big screen, I want a percentage on points.

And of course, there’s the art. We’ve talked before about how awesome Faith Erin Hicks is, right? Awesome, charismatic, emotive artwork. She’s great at showing action, great at showing emotions, great at showing big, dramatic moments. She’s a fantastic cartoonist, and we should thank our lucky stars she’s getting as much work as she is.

This comic was a blast. Go pick it up.

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