SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION #1
Written by Josh Elder
Art by Adam Archer, Ben Bates, and Ian Herring
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: January 22, 2014
Before my nephew was even born, I had already purchased the DC Comics Character Guide for him. With its page after page of art and succinct history, I figured this tome was the easiest way to ensure he would be a lifelong super-hero fan — and guaranteeing its presence in his bookshelf from birth got the process going even faster. Fast forward to a 28 month old toddler whose favorite hero is Batman, but can name over 120 heroes and villains in the book by sight with perfect accuracy and recall. From knowing the difference between Batgirl and Batwoman, to giggling with delight when he yells out “Jonah Hex!” and “OMAC!”, the kid has a leg up on being a lifelong fan. Sure, he still calls his latest action figure “Red Tomato,” but he’s getting there.
Had I not put in this initial investment, Scribblenauts Unmasked would be the next best thing. The comic adaptation of the newest video game to hit all the consoles I don’t own (or am skilled enough to operate), this title — and the game itself — is perfect for that little miss or mister who you want to brainwash into a lifetime hobby of delight and continuity crankiness. Not knowing anything about the Scribblenauts property prior to this mash-up with the DC Universe, I found this first issue to be easy to jump into, getting to know quickly what the premise of Maxwell and Lilly’s world entails, through the adorable narration by otherwise chronically serious Madame Xanadu. That writer Josh Elder starts off with a quick recap (of either the game or a previous series, I’m not sure) and highlights a ton of characters, makes it flow smoothly into the action and not feel artificially blended.
Clearly, the art has a ton to do with that natural flow to the story, as Adam Archer’s pencils are just simply precious. It’s like Hello Kitty (a huge favorite of mine) met Super Friends, and they came together in the most magical way. That the Joker is one of the few characters who even exhibits a mouth makes it all the more childlike, but in a cleverly illustrative way that will appease the design sense of an adult reader. An almost pastel color palette by Herring keeps the book in that sort of magical place. The heroes and villains are cuddlier than their LEGO representations, but not as gawky as full grown manga style figures, and the resulting battle becomes a wild child-like romp. It’s sort of like when you were a kid and played “Justice League” in your backyard with your best friend (shut up. You know you did.). It’s crazy, the rules don’t apply, and anything can happen. This type of joy is exactly what every little kid needs to be introduced to the DC Universe with — and honestly, a few adults could use a dose of, as well.
The only real downfall of the book, however, is it honestly doesn’t go far enough. The true advantage of my nephew’s encyclopedic resource — and the currently advertised DC Scribblenauts game — is that it includes EVERY character you can imagine, not just a handful of Batman sidekicks and villains. For a Crisis of Imagination, I’d like to see the pages literally overflowing with characters, popular and obscure, so that you need to sit down with your kid and explain each and every one until she or he has them all memorized. And if you have to look a few up yourself, well, it wouldn’t live up to the original DC Crisis if you didn’t.
Give this book a try if you want to share what made you fall in love with comics as a little kid with your own little kid — or frankly, if you just want to remember briefly what it was like to strap on a towel and pretend to be Mister Miracle, zooming across the lawn on your astro-disks. Yeah, I did that. And I couldn’t have been happier. If this book captures just a smidgen of that for you, it’s well worth the read.
The Verdict: 8.0/10
P.S. Did I mention it comes with a 2014 Batman: Lil’ Gotham calendar and a rocking profile on the Anti-Monitor in the back? Um, yeah. That got your attention.