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Review: Star Bus: Attack of the Cling-Ons

“The voyages of the District 177 Star Bus! An ongoing mission for one gang of geeks…To seek out strange, alien video games…comics…and 3D movies. To boldly go where no bus has gone before!”

But before the intrepid crew of the Star Bus can get to the comic book convention and deliver their passenger, famous science fiction writer Zack Sturgeon, their bus is attacked by evil aliens from the Cling-On Cheerleading Empire. What do these cheering menaces want, and can the crew of the Star Bus stop their dastardly plan?

Star Bus: Attack of the Cling-Ons
Written by Scott Ciencin; Illustrated by Jeff Crowther
Publisher’s Age Range: Ages 7-9, Reading Level 2.3
Ages 7-10; Grades 2-5
Capstone/Stone Arch, 2011, hdbk ISBN 9781434226372/pbk ISBN 9781434230676
40 pages, hdbk $16.99/pbk $4.95

Ciencin and Crowther have a clear target audience: Star Trek fans young and old who don’t mind a parody that gently pokes fun at nerdy stereotypes of Trekkies/Trekkers without insulting them. And there are a lot of Star Trek jokes in here to enjoy, from little details like “Boney” constantly harassing “Smock” and “Hulu” wielding a fencing foil, to one truly inspired Wrath of Khan joke that made me both laugh and groan — exactly what a parody should do. The plot is simple — crazy things happen to the crew — and mostly exists as a set up for the Star Trek jokes. Frankly, that’s what makes it so much fun. There’s no focus on educational content or any attempt to teach a lesson, beyond the questions and writing prompts that are found in the back of every Capstone graphic novel. Star Bus still adheres to the Capstone philosophy of “safe,” so there are no content issues beyond some cartoon violence, but Ciencin’s writing is so much fun that it doesn’t really need anything added to it.

Equally fun is Crowther’s art. He favors a bold, cartoony style that is very eye-catching. Every character is completely unique — a nice touch that isn’t always found in comics — and his color palatte is bright and fun, a perfect fit with the story. Lots of fun visual touches add humor, such as “Smock” wearing pointed costume ear tips on his already pointed ears.

I have not always been a fan of Capstone’s graphic novel selection. I feel that in the past they’ve focused too much on keeping their titles clean and not enough on making them interesting and attractive. But with titles like Star Bus (plus some other new titles such as Princess Candy) that trend seems to be changing. Hopefully we’ll see more adventures from the crew of the Star Bus in the future.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Capstone/Stone Arch.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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