High Tech High Adventure: Should My Kids Be Reading ‘Mega Robo Bros’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today. Sometimes the best comics out there are aimed at younger readers, so we’re also here to help you pick out some of the best comics for kids.
Imagine for a moment that you're somebody else. You're... a young black British boy, adopted, with a past your parents tell you will be discussed "when you're older." You're bullied at school for being a robot and your little brother can't stop talking about bums (butts); you've got a shy little crush on Prince Eustace, the heir to the throne you saved from angry, exploding, mechanoid Royal Guards when you were out with your gran last week. Your best friends Mira and Taia think it's cute you're so protective of your lil bro Freddy, but really --- it's only the two of you, in the whole wide world, who are cybernetic lifeforms so highly advanced that it's taken for granted you're actually people. Just you and Freddy, the only ones.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The future! Where little boys are sometimes hyper-advanced robots, called upon to shoot lasers at runaway museum (robot) dinosaurs, catch sabotaged sky-trains (and their passengers) before they hit the ground, and demonstrate their ability to punch the circuits out of enormous, hulking war droids for the skeptical baroness in charge of the budget. An exceptionally deft mixture of genuine cyber-futurism and absurdist action sequences designed for nine-year-old readers, Mega Robo Bros is cartooned with a light hand that guarantees laughter, out loud.
WHO’S IT BY?
Neill Cameron, veteran Phoenix strip creator. Previous and current work includes Pirates of Pangaea, which he cartoons alone, and Tamsin and the Deep (collected by David Fickling Books in April), which is scripted by Cameron and illustrated and lettered by Kate Brown. Tamsin and the Dark, the sequel, is currently in serialization in monthly Phoenix issues.
Cameron deals in high adventure and relatable emotional connections, concentrating on the familial. Pirates of Pangaea followed a found family of shipwreck victims; Tamsin's first adventure was inherited from her father and saw her save her own brother from a mermaid's curse; and the Mega Robo Bros are each other's brothers before they're anything else.
Their parents' commitment to keeping their sons emotionally grounded, secure in the love they have for them, is never in doubt, even as their mother heads the research facility dedicated to understanding the technology and genius behind the brothers' creation. And Cameron's tendency to let limbs skew toward the spindly finds the home it's been looking for in the spare, reduced structures of their robot bodies.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Everything. This comic takes place in a recognizable cyberfuture --- recognizable for the conventions of digital futurism, but for the vision of England it presents, too. Things are familiarly faulty, but convincingly "advanced," too. Supermarkets have holograms, Buckingham Palace has mech security, and notably, the Royals aren't all white any more.
If you're an adult whose enjoyed robots, androids, or cyborgs in the speculative fiction you've experienced and you want to share that with your kids or kids you know, Mega Robo Bros will deliver all of the ennui and existentialism you're used to from Marvel's Vision, Star Trek's Data, Major Kusanagi, Molly Millions, or even Mega Man X --- in a package that directly appeals to the child reader.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
If your child feels different, is bullied, or just seems withdrawn these days, the first chapter of Mega Robo Bros sees Alex worry about his humanity after the school takes a trip to learn about human evolution. Amongst hijinks, jokes and action sequences, best friend Mira gives Alex reassurance that there's nothing unnatural about his robot nature --- that there's a reason and context for his presence, even if he is exceptionally rare.
People treat Alex poorly because he is a robot --- or so they may say. But actually, these people are treating him poorly because of how they think about robots. There's a lesson there, don't you think? Perhaps it's a lesson we could all learn again.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Mega Robo Bros Volume One is out on the second of June from David Fickling Books, and can be pre-ordered here. Their adventures can also be followed in Phoenix Magazine issues and backissues!