My earliest memories of my elementary and middle school Scholastic Book Fairs saw massive collections of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps, loads of nonsensical ’90s tech, and the burgeoning mystery genre before it really took off in young adult literature. Super hero graphic novels were almost nonexistent for kids and teenagers in school spaces in the late ’90s and early 2000s, so it goes without saying that best-selling author Justin A. Reynolds (Opposite of Always) and Eisner-nominated artist Pablo Leon’s Miles Morales: Shock Waves is a gift to the teen in me.
Shock Waves heads Marvel’s original graphic novel program aimed at young readers and adds to the depth Miles Morales has received on screen, in print, and through video games. Miles finds himself face-to-face with a growing number of responsibilities, both heroic and not, that for him seem to be spiraling out of control. After an earthquake devastates his mother’s birthplace of Puerto Rico, the family helps organize a fundraiser that garners the attention of a seemingly innocuous and generous donor.
Reynolds and Leon introduce us to Vex and Trinity, two inhumans who have gained superpowers through Terrigneisis, a process explained further by a pair of dope heroes who make a brief cameo in the novel when Spider-Man needs help investigating the matter. He not only has his hands full defending the city from Vex and her partner but when a new classmate has her father go missing , he ultimately learns the disappearance involves the generous donor from the fundraiser. Miles’ relationship with his parents is strained as his commitments stretch him thin and the realities of superhero life begin to weigh on him mentally and emotionally.
Reynolds captures Miles’ youth in practical and engaging ways, highlighting the important mentor/friendship he has with Peter as he grapples with personal and heroic responsibilities. While some events in the graphic novel avoid the necessary pressures of coming-of-narratives, it still drives home the significant transformations and internal struggles young characters face throughout. Leon’s artwork is captivating and lively, complementing the comedic tone of Miles in costume as he tries to take down Vex and Trinity before further damage is done.
The novel is a welcome addition to the growing collection of diverse literature for kids and teens, and is set to swing onto shelves June 1.