Saturday 7 August 2021

Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron - reviewed by Dawn Finch


First the blurb...

Alex and Freddy are two normal bickering brothers - who also happen to be super-powered robots! They're just like regular brothers...they try to avoid getting into trouble with mum and dad, head off on school trips, and juggle their school work - but at the same time they are agents of R.A.I.D - an elite government unit that protect the world from robotic attacks.

Readers of The Phoenix comic will already be familiar with Alex and Freddy's thrilling adventures (and I'd absolutely recommend buying any child in your family a subscription to the Phoenix). David Fickling books have published an updated and reformatted graphic novels featuring their adventures. 

Set in a futuristic London, Alex and Freddy are adopted by a scientist and her husband and (even though they are both robots) they are sentient and behave to all intents and purposes exactly like regular kids. They are not the only robots in London, but their mother knows that they are "the most complex cybernetic intelligences ever created by humanity".... although the "poopy butts" song does show them be very much like regular kids.

In Power Up, Freddy and Alex are off on a school trip to a theme and spend plenty of time annoying each other right up until they have to battle the other robots of London under the control of the evil Robot 23.

In the sequel - Double Threat - the boys have a new enemy. The so-called genius inventors of Team Robotix are targeting the brothers with gigantic evil robots.

It is easy to like Freddy and Alex. Anyone who knows or has worked with young lads will recognise them here and you can't help smiling reading their adventures. The dialogue is very natural and believable even in a futuristic setting and the reader quickly feels both absorbed and invested in the adventure.

Cameron's London is effortlessly inclusive and diverse in a way that feels completely authentic and recognisable (even with flying buses!) The graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and coloured and can stand confidently alongside the best graphic novels for adults. It really is a thing of great beauty and I found myself going back over it again to take a longer look at the depth and detail of the illustrations. The dialogue is witty and absorbing and the young reader I passed this on has raved about it too.

The extra characters are hilarious and memorable - and I laughed so hard at Stupid Philosophy Penguin that it's worth having a copy of Power Up just for the absolute gold of a robotic penguin that offers Sartre quotes at key moments. Freddy and Alex's London is complete in so many details and it feels like the most exciting place to live while still being recognisable.

These books explore a lot of what it means to be human, and to be a child in a place where you stand out as being different - but that never feels predictable or preachy and I enjoyed them a great deal.

Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron - published by David Fickling books

Power Up and Double Threat out now RRP £8.99 

Dawn Finch is the current chair of the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group at the Society of Authors.


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