#WyrdAndWonder Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” (Book Two of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Posted Tuesday, 19 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in [2015] whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in [2018] before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By [2020] as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.

I received a complimentary copy of “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow (Graphic Novel)” direct from the author Julia Devillers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I felt this would be a good series to showcase during #WyrdAndWonder:

I participated on my first Graphic Novel blog tour during #IndieApril – wherein I was first introduced to the Ultra Squad series. I felt the series had some positives going for it and a few choices within the context of the story which I felt were either irrelevant or missed the mark a bit for me. For instance – it has the marketing of being a diverse universe and thereby a diverse cast leads us into the stories themselves but there isn’t a lot of development within the characters (at least in book one) to where you can see those individualistic qualities and distinctions; each of the girls’ nearly collide into each other visually because their own voice wasn’t as strong as I had hoped they would become.

Also – there was a maze for the reader to solve in the middle of the story – which to me felt out of context with the overall vibe of the story itself. I hadn’t remembered those being inclusive of the previous graphic novels I’ve read in the past and how it was inserted just struck me as being rather odd. However, it did have a few strong points too – about friendship, finding leadership and living outside your comfort zones.

Part of hosting the original blog tour – I was given the option to read the sequel – which is why  I elected to run it during my #WyrdAndWonder showcases. The key reason is because this is a bit of a genre bender – it is part Science Fiction and part Fantasy; wherein I would deem this #SciFantasy as it has a few bits from both genres to give readers something to contemplate as their reading the series. It is also a perfect blend of ‘wyrd and wonder’ if you think about the origins of our event and why we started hosting it. It isn’t quite like what you’re expecting to find and it is in of itself a wholly new way of seeing a story come to life.

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What my takeaways were about the first Ultra Squad story:

There is definite cheeky humour – although also a few words I think had a few liberties taken with their usage – as studenting might have raised a few brows for me as a middle grade reader. The humour itself thought was how Devillers was referencing the danger imagery and how she was anchouring the foreshadowing into the action of the present within the series itself.

Ooh my dear ghouls – when the secretary requests the presence of the four girls’ in her office – this is when Ultra Squad meets Galaxy Quest! In such a stroke of genius really – as similar to what you love about the film transitioning seemingly regular and quite ordinary humans into outer space to counter-act against a reptilian terrorist – you now find yourself at the mercy of ULTRA and what this entails for the girls’ being recruited to aide in their missions!

The segue into meeting the girls’ families was lovely because you had the chance to see their different backgrounds – including how one of the girls’ has a military family. It also showed a bit of back-history of the Ultra Squad as it was implied this was a legacy appointment and not just a random bit of good news in the middle of an ordinary school day where your not expecting much except homework, class-time and a disappointing lunch!

There is a lot of verbiage in the storyline which is slightly more urban slang than contemporary cool – mostly as the context has to be understood before you proceed with reading it. I was never the kind of kid who was clued into contemporary slang or acronyms as they were difficult for me to process as a dyslexic reader and learner. Therefore as an adult dyslexic reader entering into this series – I’d have to say, if I were to give this to a middle grade reader I’d ask them a few questions about shortcuts in contemporary language patterns and if they knew shorthand for certain phrases as the wordplay is altered and is attempting to come across as ‘clued in’ to the language of younger children although for me, I felt it fell a bit short on that end of it. I almost thought the author was trying a bit too hard to pull that off and should have just kept the girls’ speaking in a language pattern which was more reflective of their own personalities than what would be considered the ‘best’ en-vogue collection of terms and phrases.

Where the story grows in empathy is showing how each of the girls’ have their own strengths and weaknesses – which proved to be a learning curve for their ‘sidekicks’ which were really quite the awkward collection of aliens! Their superhero strengths played off their own individual talents on Earth and thereby gave them superhuman qualities in space! I liked how the girls’ acted their actual age and showed how they still needed a bit of guidance to understand new situations and new experiences where they might have felt a bit overwhelmed by the circumstances.

The ending reminded me a heap of what happens in Back to the Future Part II – in fact, that was one of the films I loved watching at the age I would have naturally picked up this to read. There were some moments where I wish we could have understood more about the girls’ themselves – what made them unique and different from one another – I know the story focused on their individual talents and weaknesses, but I wanted a bit more back-story about the girls’ themselves. I would have preferred a lot less slang and shorthand as well – as again, even as an adult dyslexic reader I find half of that distracts from the story as I am constantly trying to sort out what the abbreviations are referencing and referring to whilst if the story just said what it had meant I would have been able to follow the story a bit easier.

Overall, the biggest surprise was really the unmasking of the villain which reminded me why we always looked forward to that reveal during an episode of Scooby Doo. I felt Ultra Squad borrowed a lot from other pop cultural stories and superheroes – wherein, it was struggling to have its own identity from the crowd. There are some good moments between the sidekicks and the girls’ but there was a bit of a downside in having them stay in-scene and not sound ridiculous too. I think this would be good for readers who might be even a bit younger than projected for the story itself as it is definitely geared towards newer readers who are not actively reading every week or month but might occasionally pick up a story.

-quoted from my review of Ultra Squad (Book One)

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#WyrdAndWonder Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” (Book Two of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael RosadoUltra Squad
Subtitle: Adventures under the Strangebow
by Julia Devillers
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours

An evil, strange rainbow! A former nemesis! And four girls who look exactly like the UltraSquad! It’s an epic battle on an alternate universe for the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice. Can the girls and their sidekicks, the Pallies, once again save the world and make it a better place through teamwork, positivity, and unstoppable fierce girl power?

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Children's Literature, Graphic Novel, Illustrated Stories, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade, Superhero Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732703025

Also by this author: Ultra Squad

Also in this series: Ultra Squad

Published by Justice Studios

on 12th November, 2019

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 96

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The Ultra Squad series:

Ultra Squad (Book One) by Julia DevillersUltra Squad Under the Strangebow by Julia Devillers

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Ultra Squad (book one) – (see also Review)

Ultra Squad: Adventures Under the Strangebow(book two)

Ultra Squad: Galaxy Dance Off (book three)
← *forthcoming 1st March, 2021

Ultra Squad: Time After Slime (book four)

Available formats: Trade Paperback

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Converse via: #UltraSquad, #GraphicNovel & #SuperheroFiction
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit and #diverselit or #WeNeedDiverseBooks

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my review of Ultra squad: adventures under the strangebow:

Ultra Squad Characters collage provided by Lola Book Tours.

Meet the Ultra Squad!

– Posey (Pink): She loves acting and has a passion for fashion,
especially anything with sequins and glitter! Her motto is “Born to shine!”

– Anna (Turquoise): She is a gymnast who loves to stay active both through sports
like lacrosse and rock wall climbing. Her motto is “Girls run the world…and the galaxy!”

– Lyric (Purple): She lives for music and her guitar and also loves writing poetry
and volunteering at the dog shelter. Her motto is “Girls rock!”

– Sky (Green): She is super plugged into technology and loves science experiments
(like slime!). Her motto is “Problem? Problem solved.”

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In this sequel, to the Ultra Squad series – we find the girls’ are super hyperactive in the opener of the story – I would imagine they were jazzed and psyched about how their first adventure was a success but they literally barely stop to breathe! The Pallies were leaping all over the place as well – almost like they hadn’t been let out of the girls’ backpacks in awhile. I know this is geared towards Middle Grade readers but one thing I can do as an adult reader is remember what it was like as a younger reader – the stories I gravitated towards and the style of narrative I enjoyed at those ages – for whichever reason, I get the vibe this series is at times written in a style which doesn’t represent younger readers very well. It tries – I admit it, but it just fails to hit that mark for me.

More than once it feels contrite or forced – especially how there are even more informational dumps in this sequel than in the first (a feat in of itself) whilst I gathered that part of the issue is the dialogue for me. The girls’ either sound like their on a different planet altogether (as they rely heavily on slang and wordage I’m not sure I’d ever here most kids use in such a rapid succession of each other – or they just seem to regurgitate something someone else is saying. I wish it had a bit more realism in the characterisations of the girls’ and the Pallies. When it comes to the informational segues – they just randomly appear in green boxed text inserts and sometimes take you out of the sync of the story. Rather than having this omnipotent narrator threading into the background of the story, I felt it would have served better to have the girls’ make those reveals as they explored and sleuthed out the truth for themselves.

I love cute alien characters – these guys are like your hyperactive pets you cannot quite get to settle down and they bounce off the walls faster than you can get them to chill. I suppose some might think that that is wicked awesome of them but for me, its a bit exhausting chasing after them in the frames.

One thing this story had an advantage of doing is talking about Quantum Physics and concepts of Science which I think younger readers could grasp and handle because it was using real world events to prove the theories – such as when two of the girls’ go to visit their homes but because they’ve been jettisoned into an alternative dimension of Earth, their proving how despite the appearances of this Earth being the home they had left to save the universe in their last adventure, this place is definitely not what it appears to be at all. This working theory is a good foundation to understand the harder concepts in Quantum Physics. Similarly this is why I advocate and suggest readers to seek out “A Wrinkle in Time” before they read “Flatland” as the concepts within the novel allow you to visually ‘see’ the concepts in “Flatland” without feeling its all over your head.

Whilst at the same time – everyone in this particular part of the universe definitely is playing into what I previously disclosed as the Back to the Future, Part II segue of interest – where the same people are present but their personalities and their characters are wholly different than their original counterparts which does stand true if you get into dimensional shifts in both time, dimension and place.

I thought it was a bit more interesting when the villain of the last installment became a kind of anti-hero of the sequel. He was a different kind of antagonist in this story – wherein even the Ultra Squad had trouble not acknowledging that despite their history with him, no one deserves to be mistreated. Of course, they also trust him as far as they can throw him! Laughs. It was curious because when he came into the scene again, the dialogue started to even out and the girls’ started to take their turns to speak which helped with the pacing of the story itself.

This installment also has more cleverly placed action shots – where you see close-ups of the characters’ expressions and the timeline moves quite quickly towards the conclusion. It is a bit more enjoyable from that standpoint as you feel more connected to the action and thereby have a bit more fun moving through the graphics and the sequencing of the characters showcasing their special talents.

I appreciated the puzzle was included at the end of the story – as it made better sense to have it placed there. Overall, some of my concerns about this series were addressed in the sequel – it had a rough start for me but it redeemed itself by how it showed how through compassion, empathy and forgiveness whilst staying open to the possibility of friendship almost anything is plausible!

This series tries to strike a chord with younger readers who are transitioning through middle school and trying to sort through the different dynamics of the school experience as it co-relates to groups of students who pair off and start to form their own friendship groups. It is about celebrating who you are and finding people who accept you just as you are right now without putting pressure on you to change. Unless of course, they see you making bad choices and want to help encourage you to develop a better path forward.

In regards to the Sci-Fantasy aspects of the story, it is really quite out of this world – from the illustrations of the fantastical creatures who occupy the series to the flash and glam styling of how the Ultra Squad uses their superhero strengths and talents to undercut the villain’s who try to gain power and momentum over them in their adventures. It is definitely the kind of series to read if you need a boost of encouragement or a light read to put you in a happier mood if something is stressing you out. The Pallies especially with their antics will keep you in more smiles than frowns!

About Julia Devillers

Ultra Squad Characters collage provided by Lola Book Tours.

Julia Devillers is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than two dozen middle-grade and teen novels including How My Private Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, Liberty Porter First Daughter, and Girlwise. She also created the first retail branded book series for girls, Tween Brands (Justice/Limited TOO), and USA Today called it "a novel approach for retailers." She has appeared on the major television networks and in the New York Times as an expert on tween girls. She lives in Ohio with her husband and their two children.

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Questions for my Readers:

What do you love most about reading Middle Grade stories?

Do you regularly read Graphic Novels?

Who are your favourite authors & illustrators for Graphic Novels?

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This book review is courtesy of: Lola’s Book Tours

Lola's Blog Tours

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Ultra Squad Graphic Novel blog tour banner provided by Lola Book Tours.

This blog tour included the option to read and review the sequel to “Ultra Squad” after the conclusion of the blog tour. I decided to run my review during #WyrdAndWonder – as the story is hinged between the worlds of Science Fiction & Fantasy – in that genre bent section of Sci-Fantasy. If you clickover to the tour route you can find other bloggers thoughts on the series as well as other features which ran on the tour itself.

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This book review is part of my showcases during #WyrdAndWonder: Year 3:

#WyrdAndWonder 2020 event banner created by Jorie in Canva.

This is part of my showcases for a Fantasy event I am co-hosting during our 3rd Year of #WyrdAndWonder – follow us socially via @WyrdAndWonder – stalk our tag (across social media) and/or join us in a month long celebration of how the fantastical realms of Fantasy give you wicked JOY.

Ideas of how you can participate – an initial welcome post by my co-host Imyril as well as the first Quest Log (map into the book blogosphere for #WyrdAndWonder) and the first Roll Call Log by my co-host Lisa!

Read our Creative Roulette #WyrdAndWonder Interview!

Be sure to visit my Announcement & TBR List!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Ultra Squad (Book one)” and “Ultra Squad: Adventures Under the Strangebow” (Book Two), synopsis for “Ultra Squad”, promotional images for Ultra Squad (the series) as well as the author’s biography were provided by Lola’s Book Tours and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Book Trailer for “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” was able to be embedded due to codes provided by YouTube. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Book Review banner, #WyrdAndWonder Year 3 banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 19 May, 2020 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Book Review (non-blog tour), Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

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2 responses to “#WyrdAndWonder Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” (Book Two of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

    • Hallo, Hallo, Gayathri!!

      Sorry for the lack of replies this year – I seemed to have fallen behind on responding directly to my commenters this year. I’ve cherished all the notes left behind for me and tonight, I am making a positive difference in starting my replies at long last!! For all the cuteness of the Ultra Squad books – I honestly wasn’t overly charmed with them myself. I think they might suit a different reader than me to be honest. Though I am glad something I’ve shared on their behalf sparked an interest for you – as that is lovely because even if its not for me, if I can help someone else find them, I feel as if I’ve done the stories justice.

      I’ve been quite safe since the pandemic broke out – we modified how we did everything very early-on; from changing how we shopped and the hours we shopped to re-falling in love with drive-thru picnics and we’ve only been back to eating at a restaurant twice in three months after they re-opened them. We could go another three months before we go back again, as it is not work the risks. Getting out to have a bit of normalcy was smashing though because it broke up the routine. We had a family friend help us by making us 3x masks and our library gave out a pack of extra masks from our health department about four months ago? We wash and use those whenever we leave the house. We try to avoid major crowds (esp at stores) and we keep ourselves mindful of what is going on. It is the best all of us can do.

      Thank you for your note of concern and likewise I hope you and yours having been getting through this pandemic as well as we have ourselves. What really made the difference for us is our local farmer’s markets. We did go three weeks having to fight to get toilet paper like everyone else – but after that? All the supplies started to come back to the stores and within two months the restrictions were lifted which suited us just fine. We are so used to things now it is interesting seeing others still stressed when in all reality things are a lot better now than they were in March and April!

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