By Mike Lawrence
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence is a heart-warming tale of an intergalactic misfit scouting group at the Star Scout Andromeda Camp, where competition and humanism play out. A universe in which the badges you can get are in teleportation, lasers, robotics and more (of course, `xenoscatology is a badge!) and the graphic novel captures the feel of a ‘scouts group’ to a tee. I was instantly reminded of scouting Jamborees and badge earning from my youth.
Avani, a young Indian girl who has trouble making friends at her new school, and has reluctantly joined the ‘Flower Scouts,’ accidently gets teleported onto a Star Scout Alien ship. Using the Star Trek ‘Universal Translator’ trope, she forms a bond with the young alien scouts and proceeds to join them as Earth’s first representative in the Star Scouts. With a few instances of mishaps, They are off to the Camp, where methane breathers and O2’s (Oxygen breathers) have a bit of a rivalry. When Avani accidently calls one a “toot breather,” completely by accident, it quickly escalates, first into rather humorous practical jokes, then almost into a fight that is interrupted by the heads of the camp: their solution, whoever gets the best of seven badges gets to stay a Scout and the other must leave. Avani’s stakes are a little higher as she represents whether Earth becomes a recruitment grounds for new scouts. Her rival, faces humiliation – wild antics occur, and Earth’s future hangs in the balance.
The story is linear but entertaining. Aimed at ‘Scout ages’ that youngster to “tweenie’ demographic, the story and its humor are apt. Never wavering (or missing the opportunity to make a joke) Lawrence gracefully pulls the reader through the tale, giving multi-culturalism, mythology, science and moral ethics a good covering (alienation is a de facto standard in multi-species sci-fi). The word choice is apt and a little of the Hindi language is thrown in for good measure (and added realism). The story plays out in a manner in which adults see the future, whilst the young sees the present. In all of the badge events, I could pull myself away as an adult and foresee the endings, however, in the back of my mind (and often on the forefront) there was this inner child that wanted to keep turning the pages.
The artwork in Star Scouts is commendable and well executed. The various aliens and Avani are drawn in a tight, yet loose style. Let me explain: the lines are crisp and clear, perspective is maintained, a uniform style is established and nothing looks out of place – in this sense the drawing is tight; it is loose in the sense that everything is constantly in a state of motion, pushing the reader from panel to panel in an inconspicuous manner – in this sense it’s loose. All in all the artwork was cartoonish, but sustained the sense of disbelief until you finished the story. Mike Lawrence did a phenomenal job in the artwork for this zany piece.
Inevitably, I would recommend this book to Scouts (of any type, even ‘Flower Scouts),’ and young readers who are finding a transitionary displacement hard. Star Scouts is about inspiration to aspire and overcome cultural and species differences, and gives hope in cooperation and compassion. The ending is not forced, it flows naturally from the story, and this graphic novel deserved a space on any young person’s shelf.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*