Monday, April 12, 2010

Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel by Antony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru

Alex Rider is a normal English Schoolkid. His parents are dead, so he's being raised by his uncle, Ian, a boring, staid banker. But unbeknownst to Alex, his uncle isn't really a banker, but a spy, and he's been raising Alex to be a spy as well, if covertly. They also lived with Jack, a woman who took care of the house for them.

Ian Rider worked for M.I.6, and he was supposed to return for Alex's birthday celebration, but instead he was killed on the road back from Wales, where he had been undercover. At Ian's funeral, his boss, Alan Blount, wants to speak to Alex, and tells Alex that he will be seeing him soon. But when Alex and Jack get back to their home, they see two men in a van removing all of Ian's stuff.

Alex gives chase, only to lose them in a Wrecker's yard. There, though, he finds his uncle's car, and it looks like it hasn't been in a crash at all. Instead, it's full of bullet holes. Now, Alex wants answers. But he barely escapes when he hides in the car and it is sent to the crusher.

Back at home, Jack tells him that the men took everything- literally, even down to the pictures of Ian and Jack together. Later, Alex goes to meet Blount in Liverpool, and enters a picture booth, where he endures having pictures taken of him- until the seat slides away and he ends up in M.I.6's Special Ops center.

There, he's given the lowdown. Alex was trained to be a spy. All the trips his uncle took him on, teaching him to speak the languages of the places they travelled- all the sports they did together- all of this was to train Alex into making a well-rounded, active and flexible spy, able to go anywhere and fit in like a native. All Alex needs is a little combat training- which they will see he gets.

Alex doesn't want to do it, but Blount gets him with a carrot and a stick. The carrot being that Alex will be able to get his revenge on the men who killed his uncle. The stick? Blount threatens to deport Alex's housekeeper Jack Starbright unless Alex goes to work for them, so Alex reluctantly agrees. He aces the combat training, but causes quite a bit of damage in doing so, which lets Blount know he is ready.

Blount calls Alex in and lets him know his mission-his Uncle was pretending to work as a security guard for a man named Darrius Sayle. Sayle has developed a new computer system called Stormbreaker, and is donating one to every school in the country. But M.I.6 don't trust him, and they want Alex to pose as a computer nerd who won a contest to go see the new Stormbreaker in action. Not only will he be on his own, he'll get... gadgets.

He's excited, and he travels to Regent Street to pick up his gadgets- a yo-yo with an ascender line. Zit Creme that can burn through anything metallic, and a Gameboy that runs programs to find bugs and turn it into a smoke bomb, and not to mention a backpack that is also a parachute.

And then it's off to Wales to meet Sayle. Alex knows something is off when he meets the man. Sayle claims to identify with a Portuguese Man-o-War and his room is bugged. The Stormbreaker certainly seems to work as advertised, but there are lots of areas on Sayles' estate that are off-limits.

But when Alex slips up and gets found by Sayles's PR lady Mr. Vole, she takes his cellphone and traces the number back to where he really lives and attacks Jack, then gets away and reports on him to Sayle. But Alex has bugged the room, and decides to find the place depicted on a postcard his Uncle sent him. From there, he finds out that the entire scheme is because the Prime Minister, who Sayles went to school with, mistreated Sayles when they were in school together. But can Alex escape and put an end to Darrius Sayle's plan to kill millions of schoolkids just because someone was picked on as a boy?

I had read the print version of this book a long time ago, and enjoyed it, but the graphic novel version didn't quite click with me. Part of it, I'm sure, is that the graphic novel is missing the thoughts of Alex, and part of it is the manga-esque style. I honestly think this would have been better served with a more Western-style artist.

The art made Alex look much too young, in my opinion. He looks like he's 11 or 12, not 15, like he's supposed to be, which created something of a misleading impression of the book. I'm not saying I dislike manga-style art (obviously not, when I read so many manga!), but that the art didn't serve the character or the story very well.

Other than that, the story was interesting, and it set up the next volume very well, ending on a cliffhanger, but the story itself wasn't as thrilling as the written version. This one got a big "Meh!" from me.

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