Superheroes and supervillains alike populate a fictional metropolitan city in this laugh-out-loud graphic novel by debut solo creator Nicholas (Fist Stick Knife Gun). Black fifth grader Leon only wants two things: to get a smartphone, and to be a superhero. Though he has no powers of his own, Leon and his comics enthusiast best friend Carlos, portrayed with brown skin and square specs, use well-crafted zingers and book smarts to contend with bullies at Guillaume Elementary School (“My common sense is tingling,” Leon says during a confrontation with a “jerk face” tormentor). When Leon’s former best friend Clementine, a shape-shifter whose parents are heroes, deploys a cruel prank on Leon, he gets discouraged. But after noticing his classmates obsessing over a mobile video game that’s turning them into zombies, he uses his common-sense skills to save his peers. Full-page spreads of supers fighting giant villainous plants—coupled with Leon’s internal dialogue, which is often presented as flowcharts, putting a meta spin on classic superhero narratives—are rendered in bold, poppy palettes. Nicholas’s innovative tale, brimming with fully fleshed out characters and bombastic battle sequences, is one to revisit again and again. Ages 8–12. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Oct.) ■
★ "Nicholas's innovative tale, brimming with fully fleshed out characters and bombastic battle sequences, is one to revisit again and again." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This is a silly and fun-filled story with a heartwarming throughline about not needing special abilities to have an impact on one's community... A solid, action-filled comedy with a crucial message." Kirkus Reviews
"Jamar Nicholas delivers an engaging story about finding your own power... an uplifting read." Book Riot
"It's a refreshing change of pace to have a kid hero who's Black at the center of the story. Supersize panels with bold coloring truly make the stylized character designs pop and the action sequences come to life with plenty of classic superhero action. The various body types and skin tones represented in the artwork underscore the narrative that anyone can be a hero." Booklist
"Nicholas crafts a heartfelt story highlighting the power of doing the right thing and the strength of mothers... The range of diverse characters and relatable situations, such as bullying, jealousy, and personal growth, will provide readers with recognizable characters and feelings... Belonging on library shelves, this book will leave readers wanting more from Leon and his crew." School Library Journal
Praise for Fist Stick Knife Gun, illustrated by Jamar Nicholas:
"This is exactly the sort of broadly appealing and gripping nonfiction graphic novel that librarians need to be adding to their shelves." Publishers Weekly
"Jamar Nicholas is a master of his craft his drawings are full of life and truly stunning." Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A young boy tries to figure out how to prove himself in a world of superheroes in this graphic novel series opener.
When he’s not inventing his own problem-solving gadgets, Leon is studying superheroes, daydreaming, and hanging out with his best friend, Carlos. In this universe, some people just have superpowers and some don’t. Clementine, the bully hall monitor, for example, can shape shift, and one-eyed Thaddeus grapples with the legacy of his villain grandfather. To his dismay, Leon himself doesn’t have any superpowered abilities, though he dresses in a spiffy matching ensemble of bright green glasses, cape, and gloves. He wonders about his place in the world as an ordinary person and his ability to make a positive difference. Thankfully his loving mother is there to offer support. In addition, something strange is happening with students who can’t look away from their cellphones, and Leon might be the only one who can help save the day. This is a silly and fun-filled story with a heartwarming throughline about not needing special abilities to have an impact on one’s community. The art uses exaggerated features and expressions to produce a comical, cartoony style that fits with the jovial plot. Leon is Black, and the supporting cast is racially diverse.
A solid, action-filled comedy with a crucial message. (Graphic fiction. 8-11)
Gr 2–5—Leon wants nothing more than to be a super kid at Guillaume Elementary School, where some students have fantastic powers and almost all the students have personal cell phones. If Leon did have superpowers, he would continue the work of keeping his peers safe from bullies, which proves to be tricky, especially when said bullies have extraordinary abilities. Leon yearns for the chance to help others and do good in this world, but he becomes a laughingstock when he announces this to his class. Clementine, Leon's former bestie and super-kid, has let the fame of her super-parents get to her head. To make matters worse, Leon is forced to attend her birthday party amid a cell phone zombie apocalypse. Nicholas crafts a heartfelt story highlighting the power of doing the right thing and the strength of mothers. The cartoon style and vibrant colors of the illustrations bring Leon's action-packed story to life. The variation in panel sizes and text per page keeps the story moving at a fast pace, which matches the tone of the graphic novel. The range of diverse characters and relatable situations, such as bullying, jealousy, and personal growth, will provide readers with recognizable characters and feelings. VERDICT Belonging on library shelves, this book will leave readers wanting more from Leon and his crew.—Angie Jameson