Review: Viper All-Ages

A Bit Haywire
by Scott Zirkel & Courtney Huddleston (Viper Comics, 2006; $11.95)

I’m a big fan of good all-ages entertainment, and whenever something really good pops up on the comics scene, I’m especially psyched because it means I have something new I can comfortably share with my 6-year old son who’s becoming an avid reader. Amelia Rules, Bumperboy and Superhero are three examples we’ve both enjoyed together and A Bit Haywire is the latest addition to the list and a stealth candidate for my Best of 2006 list.

Owen Bryce is a seemingly normal 10-year old boy who, while running away from an angry dog, discovers the first of several superpowers he possesses. The twist here is that his powers are a bit haywire, each one working under unusual and often inconvenient circumstances; ie: he can fly, but only when his eyes are closed. Over the course of this delightful 100+ page story, Owen comes to terms with his many powers; discovers his parents are superheroes, too; has a couple of entertaining adventures, and sets the stage for what will hopefully be many more, in print and, for some smart producer looking for the next Pixar-style breakout hit, on the large or small screen.

Scott Zirkel’s dialogue and pacing hit all the right notes as Owen and his peers all come off as genuine characters, and creator/artist Courtney Huddleston’s visuals (deftly complemented by Mike Garcia’s great color work) set the right tone, cartoony but crisp and distinctive. From Owen’s first costume, including a pink “HERS” towel as a cape, to his humorous attempts to discover what other powers he does and doesn’t have, Zirkel and Huddleston tap into the inherent joy and wonder of being a superhero that few creators seem to remember these days. More importantly, they do so without condescending to the reader by dumbing down their story; Owen learns self-discipline and responsibility without things ever resorting to an after school special tone.

Owen Bryce and the Noble 7 (the government-sanctioned super team his parents belong to) deserve as wide an audience as possible and anyone who’s enjoyed a Pixar movie over the past 10 years will love A Bit Haywire. Highly recommended for ages 6-60+! (Check out a preview at

Emily Edison
by David Hopkins & Brock Rizy (Viper Comics, 2006; $12.95)

If A Bit Haywire is Pixar-style all-ages entertainment, then Emily Edison is more like something Kevin Smith would come up with. Emily is the product of an ill-fated interdimensional romance, returning to our Earth with her father when her parents divorced, and later forced to use her “otherwordly powers” to defeat her maternal grandfather who wants her back in his world and is willing to destroy the Earth to make it happen.

The back cover blurb bills the story as “the ultimate interdimensional custody battle”, and it’s pretty spot on as more than half of the story is comprised of extended fight scenes. Emily battling the badbots, her half-sister, the monstrous Stefah’nee, and finally, her grandfather himself. David Hopkins (who wrote the similarly off-kilter Karma, Incorporated) does a solid job of balancing the fighting with some character development, doing a particularly good job of grounding Emily’s character as a believable teenage girl with believable teenage issues. Kudos also go to artist Brock Rizy for depicting Emily as a normal-looking girl, freckles and all. His distinctive overall style won’t appeal to everyone, but it gives this story a unique look and feel that lives up to Viper’s reputation for signature, quirky publications.

My sole criticism of Emily Edison is the aforementioned Kevin Smith-ish influence that creeps up in random places, like the occasional manga-style panty shot and the discordant chapter intros that unnecessarily inject both the writer and artist into the story. Like the best of Smith’s work, though, Hopkins and Rizy keep things light and entertaining, telling a fun story, and Emily Edison is a character I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the future. That it’s been nominated for the inaugural Great Graphic Novels for Teens list by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association should hopefully make that a more likely possibility. (Check out a preview at

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