by Donald Lemke, Illus. Douglas Holgate
Stone Arch Books, 2009. [Graphic Sparks]
hardcover, comic is 31 pages.
for grades 1-3
If the Zinc Alloy : Super Zero‘s title page replete with the name of the Librarian Reviewer and Reading Consultant or the back cover’s “Guided Reading Level: J”* does not give it away, the additional pages** at the back will solidify your suspicions. This short, colorful, action-packed comic is a lovely little educational tool.
In this first comic in a series:
Zack Allen loves comic books, but he’s nothing like his favorite superheroes. He’s always getting picked on by bullies at school. Then one day, Zack builds a high-tech robot suit. Now he must decide how to use his new found powers. He as become Zinc alloy, the world’s newest superhero! ~back cover.
Zack is considered a nerd, nose buried in his comic books and evidently highly intelligent. He is prime target for the school bullies. With the final installment of his favorite comic book hero series, he finally understands what he must do to take care of this bully problem–build a robot suit. Once built, Zack has to figure out how to use it in a humorous sequence that reads like Iron Man’s own struggle to negotiate his new armor in the 2008 film Iron Man. What next: Save an out-of-control train full of helpless and increasingly nauseous riders, or take care of that pesky bully problem?
Zack does both. Zinc Alloy saves the day in a traditionally thrilling action sequence before leaving the authorities to clean up the vomit and heading off to the playground to warn the bullies to quit picking on the “young man” presently in their clutches and to ultimately stay away from Zack Allen.
One of the Discussion Questions at the back asks “Instead of getting back at the bullies, Zack Allen chose to stop the runaway train. Why do you think he decide to use the Zinc Alloy suit for good instead of evil?” Evidently, the questions are with small children in mind because: Is intimidating bullies in retaliation evil? Before the news interrupts Zack’s plans, he was gleefully contemplating “scaring the bullies in his robot suit.” Which he does after doing the most evidently heroic thing first. I guess the point is that he put others before seeking out his own agenda.
His mother, however clueless of his science experiments and the bullying, cares; but his father is fairly unconcerned–a classically rendered household–so Zack is left to his own devices. And in the end, Zack learns he can become the hero he needs to be on his own. And we learn that Comics are not useless, nor is that hyper-intelligent brain.
The comic adventure is humorous and exhilarating, and will definitely excite the most reluctant young reader. Some of the questions at the back are pretty good, and the writing prompts sound fun. Do with the message what you will, but this looks like a good series to have available for our young comic book fans.
*I think N was at or past J by the end of the 1st grade, certainly approaching it in Spanish, but this Scholastic guide has “J” at end of 2nd, beginning of 3rd.
**Glossary, “History of Comics,” Discussion Questions, & Writing Prompts.
I’m not that familiar with Stone Arch Books–yet, but their site looks interesting.