Discovering Recon Academy

By | Saturday, November 03, 2012 Leave a Comment
One of those travelling book fairs was at work this week, and I stumbled across a new (to me) set of graphic novels collectively called "Recon Academy." They were only asking $2.50 for each 60-ish page book, so I bought all four.

Conceptually, they're about four 13-15 year olds who form a team of secret agents, and they find themselves frequently at odds with a group known as Shadow Cell, who are behind various nefarious plots around the city. Each of the four books focuses on one character in particular, though they always work as group, with each kid contributing a special skillset. These are all decidedly in the Young Adult category, so it should come as no surprise that Shadow Cell gets their collective butt kicked each and every time.

The books were all written by Chris Everheart and drawn by Arcana Studio. They were published by Stone Arch, whom some of you may remember when I talked about their graphic fiction series a couple years ago. The stories and art were okay. Not great, but okay. And that's setting aside some of the basic concept holes like, why are these kids secret agents? Who are they actually reporting to -- they seem to be acting totally independent of any government group? Why is Shadow Cell's actual agenda -- they seem to be break the law for the sake of breaking the law?

Although I was intitially a little turned off by the fact that, of the four kids, you have four distinctly differnt races represented. It seemed a little forced but, to be fair, though, race is never brought up at any point; they're just four kids who happen to be Caucasian, Asian, Black and (I think) Latina. And most of the standard stereotypes are eschewed as well -- it's the Latina who's the martial arts expert, while the Asian kid is an expert in chemistry and forensics. Although it was the Caucasian who led the team, which I think was a bit trite.

I get the impression that this line was created so that Stone Arch had it's own (licensable) line of original comics. But it also seems like, as a publisher, they just farmed all the work out to whoever they might have in their address book. That's not meant as a disservice to the creators, but it seems to me like Stone Arch just wanted comics to have comics and didn't really know how to go about becoming a comics publisher in any sort of organic way. The whole thing seems just a little too forced and mechanical to me.

With their earlier takes on classic works of fiction, I could at least see using them to introduce kids to great authors like Jonathan Swift, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne. With these, while they're not bad by any means, I don't see a compelling reason to get them. Maybe it's just that I'm too used to reading YA comics by talents like Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Smith, Doug TenNapel and Jimmy Gownley. For $2.50 a pop, some of the Recon Academy books might make for a neat surprise to spring on your child if you stumble across them at a book fair, but I wouldn't expect them to fall in love with these in the same way they might with something like Drama.
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