DC Superheroes Chapter Books
Across the dozen stories that comprise the DC Superheroes collection of chapter books from Stone Arch, you and your kids will get a full complement of what makes DC Comics great: bizarre bad guys, robots, epic science fiction, selfless heroism, intense battles, and vibrant art. Of course, there’s bound to be something sinister lurking beneath a world where superheroes are necessary, so when it peeks its head through, is it too much?
Ultimately, that’s for the parents to decide, but let this serve as a mild warning. In Last Son of Krypton, which is at reading level 3.2, the reader has to grapple with themes as intense as having both of one’s parents murdered by a genocidal, malevolent robot. In Five Riddles for Robin, which is reading level 3.5, Robin and the Riddler have a discussion (albeit briefly) about whether it’s better to die by a prolonged burning or instantly by electrical shock. These strange little things are spread throughout the collection. While my third-grade niece might breeze over these things, or even giggle with her own special brand of malevolence, a more sensitive reader might come away a little haunted.
Of course, the struggle between good and evil is a universal theme and shouldn’t be over-censored either. One might argue that your average pre-1980 Disney film is just as, or more, intense.
As an adult reader of these, I’m perplexed as to why DC Comics insists on teasing me with things drawn in the animated style after they’ve canceled some of the best DC Animated Universe shows to ever air. It’s a little cruel and nostalgic, all at once.
An adult comic fan can also appreciate the incorporation of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (though Parademons are referred to as “creatures”) and Mr. Mxyzptlk, who is presented without any kind of pronunciation guide until the end of the book—which I find hilarious.
Each book spans about 50 pages and usually includes a full-page illustration every fourth or fifth page. Sound effects are spelled out in classic 1960s Batman style—bright red KA-POWs and ZZZZZZINGs spotting the pages. Each book is concluded by a handful of reader questions, asking the reader to extrapolate certain information from what they’ve read, and some writing questions, such as (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Write about Superman as a teenager.” Also included is a list of grade-appropriate vocabulary words from within the story.
It’s a neat collection of books, and I can easily imagine them as a gateway to greater comic exploration.
(Note: The DC Superheroes chapter books are available only through the Stone Arch Books website.)-- Collin David