As kids (and their parents) throng to see films like the just released “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” interest in comic books and graphic novels is again on the rise, and 92-year-old Marvel legend Stan Lee is proving that his characters have staying power that will carry them through unlimited sequels and spin-offs.
Thanks to Lee, along with co-author, Stuart Moore and illustrator, Andie Tong, the new book “The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence,” offers parents and child literacy advocates the opportunity to parlay this Marvel madness into quality reading time for middle grade adventure seekers.
In this, the first book in a planned trilogy, readers are introduced to hero Steven Lee, a Chinese-American teenager who has thus far struggled to find his place in the world. Endeavoring to balance his Asian heritage with mainstream American culture, Steven has always felt a step or two outside the circle.
While on a trip of a lifetime to Hong Kong, Steven finds himself in a museum being led down into its basement by his mysterious tour guide, Jasmine. While in the bowels of the museum, Steven finds out about the powers of the Zodiac – super-powers corresponding with the animals of the Chinese zodiac that have been unleashed by the requisite evil bad guy, Maxwell.
Steven himself becomes unintentionally infused with the powers of his zodiac symbol, the Tiger, while Maxwell and his minions have claimed other powers for themselves. Each of the twelve zodiac powers have found a human host – some on the side of good, some working for world dominance, and others, who, unaware of their powers, are as yet loyal to neither side.
Steven, Jasmine, and their friends must now set out on a mission that will take them around the globe, to try and find these “rogue powers,” preventing Maxwell and his agency, the Vanguard, from recruiting them to their side, and thus becoming all-powerful and virtually unstoppable.
Peppered throughout with illustrations reminiscent of the book’s comic hero inspiration, it is full of enough action to keep any super-hero fan turning pages right up until the end. As an added bonus, with a standard cliff-hanger, and two more books on the way, interest will stay piqued for even the most reluctant reader.
While waiting for books two and three to make their debuts, it would be a perfect time to check out “Who Is Stan Lee,” by Geoff Edgers. Part of the popular “Who Was…” biography series for kids, the book offers young readers a look at the life of the man who is almost single-handedly responsible for revolutionizing the comic book industry.
Born Stanley Lieber, Lee took his first position in the comic book world at the young age of seventeen. Responsible initially for tasks such as filling the inkwells of those who actually made the comics, within two short years, he had written his first comic book text under the pseudonym Stan Lee. Interestingly enough, with thoughts of still pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a “serious writer,” he wanted to save his given name to use in those pursuits.
Now, some seventy-odd years later, he has finally published his first prose novel – still under the moniker of Stan Lee, a name to which he legally changed years ago. I’ll bet that young man from the Bronx had no idea how far his silly comic-book nom de plume would actually take him.
Written with children from grades 2 to 6 in mind, the book is appropriate for younger readers, while still being a good read for any fan of Lee, or his comics, who would like to learn a little bit more about what inspired this living legend to create the characters we have come to love.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]