By Jake Parker
176 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books
When I read Flight Explorer Vol. 1 a couple of years ago, one of the stories that stood out for me was Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse. It was a fun, exciting story that mixed fast-paced adventure with beautiful art. For that reason alone, I was delighted when Scholastic published the full-length Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher graphic novel. But even having read Parker’s short story, I’ll admit that I was a little surprised with the contents of Missile Mouse, which managed to give me both more and less than I’d hoped for.
Like before, Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher is an old-fashioned science-fiction adventure, with Missile Mouse himself working to try and bring in rare and important artifacts to the Galactic Security Agency. With The Star Crusher, the tone reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones if the movies were set in the future rather than the past. One the opening mini-adventure is done, though, Parker brings Missile Mouse down a route that readers will be familiar with as he’s assigned an assistant by the GSA to try and keep Missile Mouse under control. While Missile Mouse is aimed at younger readers (ages 8-12), I was a little surprised by how predictable this part of the book turned out. There aren’t any surprises that don’t get telegraphed well in advance, with every single plot beat hitting right where you’d expect them to. It’s the big disappointment of Missile Mouse for me, because in the past Parker hadn’t seemed to go for the obvious like we get here.
On the other hand, I also hadn’t expected to see a subplot about Missile Mouse’s deceased father, and how those final moments before death helped shape Missile Mouse into the adult he became. It’s a slightly grim series of flashbacks, but more importantly I also found it to be an emotionally affecting sequence. Parker doesn’t shy away from this portion of the book, and I became quickly impressed at his not fearing such a serious subject in the book. While the basic plot of the book didn’t surprise me, this portion was easily the exception.
The parts of Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher that turned out exactly as I thought were the sense of adventure, and Parker’s art. Parker keeps the book moving at a fast clip, and I like the lost treasures of technology aspect that Missile Mouse and the bad guys are both scrambling to obtain. The book never lets you get bored, with big ideas lurking around the corner for our hero at every single turn. Parker’s animation background is also a big help in the level of energy and flow of his characters. From getting thrown around by a tentacled monster to leaping into the sewers, images never look static or motionless for even an instant. If I had to describe Parker’s art in one word, it would be, "lively." When a book looks this good (and Parker’s character designs are also great; who’d have thought a mouse in a jumpsuit with goggles tucked up over his ears could be so right?), it’s hard to not enjoy the overall package.
I’d have liked to see a bit more unpredictably in Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher, but fortunately there are enough other parts of the book that will entertain the average reader. It’s an all-ages book that I think will have a greater appeal to its target audience than adults, but there’s still a little something for everyone. I know if I had a 10-year old, Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher would probably be an upcoming birthday present. I’ll definitely take a look at the next Missile Mouse book when it hits bookshelves early next year.