Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fantasy Sports No. 1

Usually, I try to be academic and critical when I review a graphic novel, but I have to tell you that this book, Fantasy Sports No. 1, made me laugh out loud at least 4 times before I even got to the main action bit. I think it's smartly written and deftly drawn. This is an energetic and exciting book that just made me want to share it with others as soon as I read it. Along with Nimona, with which it shares a couple of similar features, it is one of my favorites this year.

The main characters here are Mean Mug and Wiz-Kid. Mug is a mage, but a brutish one whose typical methods are to smash first and to grab what's valuable after. Wiz is more cerebral, a problem solver who tries to use her intellect first. In an interesting twist, he is the master while she is the apprentice. To say that their relationship is full of static and conflict would be an understatement, but their dynamic over time changes some in the space of the book, with them developing a kind of grudging respect for each other. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Check out the excerpt below to see how they variously approach the problem of breaking into a mystical tomb:
I do not think I am spoiling much by revealing that they eventually solve the puzzle and enter a realm of the dead ruled by the mummy "He of the Giant Steps." After a very comical exchange between Mug and the mummy, a challenge is issued and the two mages find themselves involved in a battle not only for the treasures of the vault but their very lives. They have to play a cosmic game of basketball, and the mummy, despite his decrepit outward appearance, has a whole lot of game.

The culprit behind this fantastical and fun adventure is Sam Bosma, who first self-published Fantasy Sports in a shorter form as the comic book Fantasy Basketball. This new format features larger pages and color, and I think that the whole package is so beautiful and enjoyable. Bosma is also known for his work as an artist on the cartoon show Steven Universe. He speaks more about his work on this book and career in this interview.

The worst thing I can say about this book is that I want more of it, right now. Luckily, Bosma has written that he is working on a second volume. All of the reviews I read of this book seem to share in my enthusiasm. Zainab Akhtar called it "an irrepressibly fun, knowing, and breezy tale of sporting playoffs, magical mages, and surprisingly cute skeletons." Megan Kirby wrote that "the large hardcover book looks and feels great. As a YA release with a standout female protagonist, it’ll hit off with readers off all ages." Richard Bruton called it "a stellar début book" and "the very definition of fast, furious fun."

Fantasy Sports No. 1 was published by Nobrow Press, and they have more information and some preview images available here. I feel that this would be a great book for older elementary or YA readers, and in the words of Bosma from his Tumblr page, "It’s funny and dumb and good for all ages as long as you’re cool with some rude ‘tude and some cartoon violence."

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