X-Venture Xplorers Vol. 1: Rage of the Kings GN
Publisher: Papercutz
Release Date: October 28, 2020
Price: $12.99 (TP) / $16.99 (HC) 
Creator(s): Slaium and Meng (Writers); Black Ink Team (Artists)
Format: 160 pgs., Full-Color, 5.5" x 8", Trade Paperback/Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0550-3 (TP) / 978-1-5458-0549-7 (HC)
Age Rating: 7+
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This graphic novel is a mixed bag.  It is actually very informative about many of the species of wild felines, but the format is on the aggravating side.  Created several years ago as a Chinese graphic novel, this translation is the first American edition of this series, which comes from the same source as the previously-released Dinosaur Explorers.  This one, perhaps even more than its predecessor, depends on endangering the main characters, who are kids, on behalf of what amounts to a mad scientist/martial artist who awaits their scientific data for a truly bizarre experiment… sort of a holodeck fight to see which animal is better in a fight, a lion or a tiger.  Both groups of kids, who might be as old as middle school in age, seem oddly unprepared and ignorant for their apparent "jobs."

There is nothing particular new or unique about the data these kids bring back from their explorations, to the whole thing is purely an excuse for teaching about the animals, and for the big fight.  So, at least some kids will enjoy it quite a bit.  The artwork in the fact parts of the book is gorgeous, and is another strong point for the book.  The fiction parts, however, consist of very cartoony art of the characters blended oddly with realistic depictions of the great cats.  It’s okay, but jarring, like having Pokemon trainers show up in the middle of the CGI version of The Lion King.

On the other hand, both halves of the art are executed well.  The weaknesses in the story all come from the writing, which is not great, and relies on comedy that doesn’t always work.

There are a few cultural oddities that come close to being offensive, but the young African character is not one of them.  The Sumatrans, on the other hand, are very oddly portrayed, including the boy who gets sent along on the quest for tigers.

The violence in the book may be too much for younger readers, but at least some readers in grades 3-5 will enjoy this book.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.