The ultimate blend of high-tech machinery and good old-fashioned teamwork, Voltron—a flying robot formed by the linking together of five lion-styled vehicles and their pilots—is a formidable force for good. Sound familiar?
The animated TV series, Voltron: Defender of the Universe, aired in the mid-1980s, spawning other projects through the years and establishing a cult following (look out, Optimus Prime—a live-action feature film is currently in the works). Set several years after the original, Voltron Force (TVY7), an animated show launched in June 2011 on Nicktoons, pairs the first generation of Voltron pilots (Keith, Allura, Lance, Hunk, and Pidge) with three young cadets—impetuous and mischievous Daniel, tech-savvy Vince, and martial-arts-wielding Larmina.
As they train with and battle beside their heroes, the novices must learn how to utilize the amazing fighting abilities of this metallic giant and master its updated powers (different robotic lions are now able to form the head, creating new possibilities) to protect the universe from evil, most often in the form of the tyrannical King Lotor. Kids can visit the official website for info about the show and its characters, video clips and entire episodes, and a multi-level arcade-style video game.
VIZ Media’s series of graphic novels is sure to get fans of Voltron Force—and other villain-vanquishing robots—reading. Each volume begins with a quick introduction to the show’s premise and characters and relates a stand-alone tale. In Shelter from the Storm, Lotor and his “devious techno-scientist” minion, Maahox, let loose a terrifying tempest with the power to alter minds. Pulled into the vortex during a training mission, the three young pilots suddenly believe that their worst nightmares have become reality; that is, until help arrives and Vince comes up with a plan to squash the storm.
When the cadets and their mentors are tricked into landing on a mysterious planet, the youngsters soon find themselves forced to compete in a Tournament of Lions (both 2012; Gr 3-6) against imposing alien warriors who are determined to take their place as Voltron pilots. The tales combine clever plot twists and electrifying battle scenes to grab and hold readers’ attention. Concise dialogue balloons propel the events forward, while conveying the individual personalities of the characters and adding touches of humor. The artwork is crisply rendered and brightly hued, and cleanly laid-out panels make the storyline easy to follow. Themes of teamwork and finding one’s unique strengths underscore the fast-paced action. A third installment, Twin Trouble, will be released this month, and three more volumes are in the works.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
This award-winning animated series aired on Nickelodeon for three seasons (2005-2008), was adapted into a live-action movie in 2010, and inspired a sequel TV series (The Legend of Korra) that premiered in April. The action is set in a fantastical world that consists of four great nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Each domain is home to certain individuals who possess the ability to “bend”—or use martial arts movements to manipulate—their native element.
Only the Avatar, here reincarnated in the person of the charismatic 12-year-old Aang, is capable of bending all four elements, and is thus charged with maintaining balance among the realms. With the help of his friends, Aang must embrace his destiny and try to stop the Fire Nation from conquering the other kingdoms. Kids can get the scoop at the official Avatar website, which features info about the show and its characters, an episode guide (with plot descriptions, photos, and clips), an array of videos (including several full episodes), and numerous online games.
Aang and his friends still have plenty of devotees, and interest has been reignited by The Legend of Korra’s premiere. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise (Dark Horse, 2012; Gr 4-7) picks up where the show left off and bridges the two animated series. Written by Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese (First Second, 2006), this three-volume graphic novel begins with a recap of evil Fire Lord Ozai’s defeat and the end of the Hundred Year War. Aang soon discovers that the hard-won harmony is difficult to maintain.
When his longtime friend Zuko, now the Fire Lord, reneges on his promise to force his citizens to vacate colonies established in the Earth Kingdom, things get complicated. Can a compromise be worked out, or are the two nations destined for war? Aang also struggles with a promise of his own…he has made a vow to Zuko to put an end to his life should he become a tyrant like his father, Ozai. As this epic tale unfolds, the two protagonists become increasingly conflicted, looking both inward and outward to determine what is right. Meanwhile, side plots keep the action perking along, as Aang’s romance with waterbender Katara heats up, the ever-spunky Toph tries to teach her unique metalbending skills to three inept recruits, and Aang encounters his very own fan club. The script balances weightier themes with lighthearted moments, and Aang’s irresistible goofiness consistently provides comic relief. The characters are multidimensional and the resolution is logical and satisfying. The artwork uses eye-catching color contrasts to create a fully realized world. The first two volumes are already available and Part 3 will be released in September. A must-have for collections serving Avatar fans.
SMITH, Brian. Voltron Force: Shelter from the Storm. Vol. 1. illus. by Jacob Chabot. ISBN 978-1-4215-4153-2.
_____. Voltron Force: Tournament of Lions. Vol. 2. illus. by Dario Brizuela. ISBN 978-1-4215-4154-9.
ea vol: VIZ Media/Vivkids. 2012. pap. $7.99.
YANG, Gene Luen. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise: Part 1. ISBN 978-1-59582-811-8.
_____. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise: Part 2. ISBN 978-1-59582-875-0.
_____. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise: Part 3. Sept. 2012. ISBN 978-1-59582-941-2.
ea vol: illus. by Gurihiru. Dark Horse. 2012. pap. $10.99.
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