The Incredible Rockhead vs. Papercut!
By Scott Nickel and C.S. Jennings
Published by Stone Arch Books
The concept is a little odd, but it works: An action graphic novel based on the old rock, paper, scissors game, with superheroes taking on the attributes of all three. The action is strictly played for laughs, and the crude art gives the story a goofy vibe.
This is actually the third volume in the series, but it doesn’t take much for a new reader to catch up with the story. Chip Stone is an ordinary boy who turns into The Incredible Rockhead when danger arises. Rockhead is a rather limited superhero, with more bulk than brains—think of The Incredible Hulk in second grade, played for laughs.
The action gets under way when the school bully, Troy Perkins, sees an ad on TV that offers to turn him into a super-bully. Troy takes the bait, and a mysterious man gives him an injection that turns him into Papercut, a paper super-villain—and everyone knows that paper covers rock! He heads to the school and causes general chaos until Chip’s pal Spencer dons his sparkly sidekick costume and becomes Scissorlegz, quickly reducing Papercut to a string of paper dolls. That’s it. This is a pretty straightforward story without a lot of complications or side plots, so it’s easy for early readers to follow.
The humor is fast-paced and smart-alecky; the only authority figure, a teacher, spends most of the story pinned to the wall while the kids get on with their battles. Jennings packs a lot of action into each panel, but the story is clearly drawn and easy to follow. Most pages have just two or three panels. This is not a wordy comic—there are a lot of word balloons and text boxes, but they are short, and the pictures really carry the story. Although the story is self-contained, there are allusions to previous books and a promise of more to come, so it’s clear to the readers that this is one of a series.
The comic includes a few nods to traditional comic books—a variant cover and a couple of fake ads—as well as vocabulary and discussion sections in the back. At 36 pages, it’s a fairly short story and a good choice for kids who are not quite ready for Captain Underpants but are definitely on that wavelength.