Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Review: Mail Order Ninja 1-2

Graphic novels, as we all know, are hot. So hot, Joshua Elder pokes fun at the phenomenon in his wonderfully cheeky Mail Order Ninja.

5th-grader Timothy James McAllister is a normal kid in the oh-so-exciting town of Cherry Creek, Indiana (pop. 23, 745). He has a mom, a dad, and an annoying little sister, Lindsay. When mom (who wears a "Soccer Mom" baseball shirt) calls him down to breakfast, she shouts, "Timmy! Stop reading that comic book and come downstairs for breakfast!" Timmy answers, "Mom, it's not a comic book! It's a graphic novel! Jeez!"

Mail Order Ninja is often laugh-out-loud funny. Even the plot is over-the-top perfection. Timothy is having a hard time with bullies at school. Making life even more unpalatable at L. Frank Baum Elementary is Felicity Dominique Huffington--local "stuck-up rich girl." So, when Timothy reads about "the greatest ninja warrior gunshyo giveaway" in a JacQues Co. catalog, he enters. And wins. Before long, his personal ninja , Yoshida Jiro, arrives at his house. And his parents, who know it's a "bad idea," allow Timothy to keep his ninja nonetheless.

Well you know what happens. Timothy and his ninja bring peace and justice to L. Frank Baum Elementary. Until, at the very end of Vol. 1, Felicity calls forth her own ninja, Hakuryuu Nobunaga Esq. ("Ninja Assassin and Attorney at Law. Fun Fact: Nobunaga once sued his own mother for 'emotional anguish' because he didn't like the birthday present that she got him. Yes, he really is that evil.") Volume 2 brings ninja vs. ninja action in a battle for L. Frank Baum Elementary and, indeed, Cherry Creek, Indiana. Felicity has taken control by means of mind control and a ninja army. Will Timmy prevail? You'll just have to read Mail Order Ninja, Volumes 1-2 to find out.

Kids will love the action in Mail Order Ninja, but will be slayed by the humor as well.* Even Erich Owen's art is infused with humor. When the Timothy's ninja arrives in a box to his house, for example, Timothy knocks on the box and says, "Mr. Yoshida? Are you in..." and a sword shoots out of the box with a "shunk" before Timothy concludes, "...there?"*

Brought to you by TokyoPop, Mail Order Ninja will be a huge hit with the six- to-eleven-year-old market. This is a series both girls and boys will enjoy. It's also perfect for reluctant readers and for kids ready to move beyond the venerable underpants man.

There's also quite a bit of "adult" humor (of the clean variety) in Mail Order Ninja. Towards the end of volume 1, Timothy's parents, unaware of the Ninja battle that just took place at L. Frank Baum Elementary, are reading the paper. The headline reads "Aliens Invade Again!" Dad says, "Another alien attack, honey. The Asimovians this time." Mom answers, "At least it wasn't those awful Hubbardi. They're just so...cliche." Hah!