A graphic novel for younger readers! In my mind, the age group that this book is targeted toward, is the perfect age for graphic novels (8-12 year olds) — build a story with structure, using both images and dialog, to help develop a love for reading.
Cleopatra in Space is a fantasy/sci-fi/adventure tale using the historically recognized figure of Queen Cleopatra, when she was only a teenager. The idea is wonderful, and Mike Maihack’s art is a perfect blend of Cartoon Network, anime, and Scooby-Doo-style comics.
But what is the purpose of using a historical figure if you’re not going to actually play on that history? Other than that she’s waiting for her turn as ruler, there’s nothing here that suggests that its being Cleopatra is important to the story (perhaps that comes in to play in the next book, which doesn’t come out until next year).
The story is that Cleopatra falls into a time machine and is transported in to the future, where she is anticipated to be the savior of an up-coming battle. She still has to go to school (which she hated in her own time and isn’t enjoying any more in the future) and be tested on her skills. Her test turns out to be more than a simple test, of course.
The pictures are beautiful and it’s very nice to look at. There are a LOT of action/movement sequences without any dialog, but lots of “SNIK” and “SWISH” and other such onomatopoeic words. A few too many, so that it felt as though we were filling pages of the book rather than advancing a story. Depending on the target age of the reader, this is possibly appropriate.
Life in Ancient Egypt, and life in the future, is pretty much the same, except for the styles of clothing and weapons (and talking cats). I didn’t necessarily like this aspect. Again…if we’re going to use a true historical figure for the book, why not actually try to capture some of Ancient Egypt, and use it to contrast with how different the future is? Again…is it because the intended age of the reader is young enough that we’re trying to relate to them on a social level only?
My biggest ‘beef’ with a book like this, is the treatment of behavior. We’re clearly going for a young audience, one that will most likely be looking at the pictures primarily, and learning to read with the words. But the social behavior of our characters is not something we want to be teaching those same, impressionable readers.
Our heroine, Cleopatra disobeys are teachers. She drugs (albeit with chamomile tea) her tutor. And her best friend gets intentionally kicked out of class so that they can have a great adventure. Is this what our children want in their escapism literature? And what do our pair do once they are truant? They take target practice at a live, sleeping animal from their slingshots. The animal, while a lizard, still looks awfully cute, with the great artwork. A final shot brings a ton of stone crashing down on the animal. As fun as the adventure might be, this is not behavior I’d want my children reading about and admiring.
What is the purpose for a digital clock to read 5:68? If this is targeted toward children, regardless of whether or not we look at time differently in the future, should we at least try to make some things recognizable to our youth?
Looking for a good book? This book has beautiful art, and some interesting ideas for a story, but the execution of character and story are not appropriate for the target audience.
* * * * * *
Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice
author: Mike Maihack
artist: Mike Maihack
paperback, 176 pages