Truckus Maximus

First Second. Oct. 2019. 288p. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9781250196965; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781596438149.
Gr 6 Up–Welcome to a futuristic world that never saw the collapse of the Roman Empire. There are enormous disparities among social classes, with the rich cloistered away in temples with plenty to consume and the poor working themselves to death for a meager existence. One of the few things that unites everyone is watching Truckus Maximus, the ultimate car race. However, the drivers and crew are indentured servants who must race to keep themselves and their families from the mines. The most popular driver, Axl, on the most popular team, Team Apollo, will soon win his 100th race, earning both the title of Centurion and, according to rumor, his freedom. Axl’s forthcoming achievement is endangered when a brash young driver, Piston, totals another Team Apollo car and injures its driver, Tank. Instead of leaving Piston to her fate in the mines, Axl brings her onto Team Apollo as Tank’s replacement. García’s art owes much to traditional manga—characters have large, expressive eyes and artfully spiked hair. Creative paneling and great use of fumes, fire, and smoke capture the frenetic action. Peterson effectively conveys Piston’s journey as an underdog and Team Apollo banding together when facing obstacles. But the story fails to contextualize and capitalize on many narrative possibilities of a world where the Roman Empire never fell, and character development and story cohesiveness often take a backseat to the thrills of the race.
VERDICT Despite some flaws, this high-octane adventure will appeal to fans of manga or racing.

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