Friday, April 8, 2011

Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel

This graphic novel is a retelling of the original first Alex Rider novel, Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz.  I picked this up because the Alex Rider novels are incredibly popular among kids and teens at the public library where I work, and I was wondering what all the fuss was about.  I figured the graphic novel would be a good, quick way to get a taste of the series.

The story is about teenager Alex Rider, who lives with his uncle and an attractive and talented young housekeeper, a woman named Jack.  As the book opens, we see Alex's uncle, who appears to be a James Bond-type of super secret operative.  Alex believes his uncle has a supremely boring and uneventful job at a bank.  But when his uncle dies in the course of his job, Alex begins to discover that everything he believed is wrong - and that his uncle had actually been training him, with all the martial arts and world language classes, to become an operative, too.

The group his uncle works for recruits Alex to go under cover and infiltrate the company of a man they believe is hatching a diabolical scheme.  Alex is initially skeptical, but in the end he decides to help out, and much action, adventure, and hair-raising excitement ensues.

I can definitely see the appeal of this series to teens.  As an adult reading it, though, I did not manage to suspend my disbelief very well.  It seemed patently absurd that a group of experienced operatives would see no other way to achieve their goal other than throwing in a teenager, giving him some admittedly cool gadgets, and hoping for the best. 

There was spy cliché after spy cliché - to the point that it had me laughing.  We see the gigantic Portuguese man-of-war in the massive aquarium in the villain's house, as the villain gleefully informs Alex, "Killing rare animals is one of my hobbies...but not this one.  This one I had to keep."  Guess who gets tossed into the man-of-war tank later on?  Yup.  One thing like that happens after another - and a series of convenient coincidences, interspersed with spy-movie clichés, leads us to the helicopter/bombs in schools all across America/dangling from the top of a skyscraper finale.  It's a lot of fun, but nothing I could really take seriously, and with such little character development that I found it hard to really care what happened.  It seemed so unbelievable to me that the villain could find that many sociopaths to work for him - they had no qualms at all about killing millions of children all over the country, simply to for the villain to take revenge on people who had taunted him at school.  Really?

Despite my personal misgivings about the book, I will of course recommend it to teens looking for a fun and exciting read.  The story is definitely fast-paced and full of interesting adventure, along with twists and turns that may surprise less experienced readers.  The artwork is vibrant and colorful, and it makes the action sequences very clear.  There are some intriguing questions left unexplored, which should make readers eager to pick up the next book in this series - and for those who want to know more details Alex and his adventures, there are the text-based novels, as well. 

Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel by Anthony Horowitz; adapted by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Kanako Damerun and Yuzuru Takasaki (Philomel, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
ArtSeblis:  "I liked the artwork, which looked like it was a fusion of manga and Western art."
Miss Huang's Top Reads:  "it has a rocketing plot, its characters hold your attention, and the illustrations merge perfectly with the text to tell the story."


  1. how is it that i can see you laughing as you read this - lol.

  2. Virginia Gal - Yeah, it was pretty funny. It annoys me a bit because I think that sometimes writers fall back on cliches when they write for kids because, since kids aren't as experienced, it probably seems fresh and new to them. But they deserve more than that, you know?


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