Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in  whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in  before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By  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.
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.
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)
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?
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Ultra Squad
Also in this series: Ultra Squad
Published by Justice Studios
on 12th November, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
The Ultra Squad series:
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
Converse via: #UltraSquad, #GraphicNovel & #SuperheroFiction
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit and #diverselit or #WeNeedDiverseBooks