Review Detail

A Great Graphic Novel Adaptation
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
This graphic novel adaptation of Gibbs' title from a decade ago is very true to the original. Ben is surprised when he is recruited by the CIA to go to their Academy of Espionage, which is cleverly disguised as a geeky science academy because aside from some cryptography skills, he's not that smart. Turns out that he has been brought in as bait-- the word is put out that he invented a special code, and people start coming after him. The daughter of the man who recruited him, Erica, tells him that all is not as it seems at the school, and there is a mole that must be found. Of course, if Ben can find the mole, he might be able to stay in the school. There is a lot of personal peril-- bombs under the building, people kidnapping and drugging him... but Erica is always saving him. Is the mole a fellow student who just appears to be stupid? Is the principal as stupid as he looks? And what's up with Erica's father? Once Erica tries her own plan to flush out the mole (emailing from the principal's account that Ben has developed Jackhammer, a super code hacker program), will everything work out?
Good Points
First of all, I like that the style of the original covers was maintained, with the addition of the comic style panels in the back ground. Very clever. My hope with graphic novel versions of chapter books is that young readers will eventually pick up the novel as well, so this tie in is important.

The illustration style is a little different than some I have seen; a little bit more like a comic book, but not entirely. The font is in all caps, but a very readable san serif font that is not as small as some books. The color pallette is heavy on grays, brown, and greens, befitting the sometimes militaristic aspect of the plot, but does have some pops of color when the mood is being lightened.

Ben abd Erica certainly have the most time on page, and their relationship is noteworthy, but in this version there were a couple of characters that really popped a bit for me; the doddering Professor Crandall who is just pretending to not understand what is going on, Erica's father, who is shown in a sharp suit, and Ben's friend Mike, who hovers on the periphery, trying to understand what is going on with his friend.

This alternates pages intense with word bubbles with pages that are mainly action, so is well paced and easy to get through. There's still a lot of text, so best for fans of wordier graphic novels. This is not quite as believable as Alex Rider or the Gallagher Girl books, since it walked right along the edge of goofy, but seeing the pictures somehow adds to the believability.

I'm a huge fan of Gibbs' series-- Fun Jungle, Moon Base Alpha, and Charlie Thorne, so it makes sense that his works would get a graphic novel treatment, and what better book to start on than Spy School?
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