The Renegades: Defenders Of The Planet Flames Of Amazonia (Vol 2) by Jeremy Brown, Katy Jakeway, Ellenor Mererid, Libby Reed and David Selby

The Blurb On The Back:

The Amazon is burning.  Fire-breathing creatures run amok through the trees and The Renegades must unite with indigenous activists to stop them

Protecting the climate are Professor Katelyn, who is haunted by sinister visions …

What do these new visions mean?

… Leon, whose stealthy spying skills have risen to the next level …

I’m going to find out where these creatures come from … 

… And Mo, who can blast solar energy from his fingertips.

I hope I can protect my friends from danger.

CAN THEY STOP THE LATEST THREAT TO EARTH?

You can buy THE RENEGADES DEFENDERS OF THE PLANET VOLUME 2 – FLAMES OF AMAZONIA by Jeremy Brown, Katy Jakeway, Eleanor Mererid, Libby Reed and David Selby from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s shortly after THE RENEGADES DEFENDERS OF THE PLANET VOLUME 1 – DEFENDERS OF THE PLANET.

Professor Katelyn (who has the ability to see the future), Leon (who can turn invisible and walk through solid matter) and Mo (who can emit solar energy blasts) are hiding out at a ranch in Texas with Leon’s cousin Flo while she works on a book about what happened to the trio in London.  As the trio train and learn more about their new abilities, they get to know Flo’s neighbours – Teresa and Jack who work as cattle ranchers (something which vegetarian Leon strongly disagrees with) – but Katelyn’s plagued by horrifying visions that something is going terribly wrong in the Amazon.  

Determined to investigate, they head off in Katelyn’s solar jet and discover that weird and dangerous creatures nicknamed Flamjente are burning down acres of rainforest.  The only people battling them are a trio of local teens called Alma, Cause and Yvoty who suspect that someone they call The Poacher is behind them.  The Renegades agree to help them work out who The Poacher is and what they’re trying to do …

Jeremy Brown, Katy Jakeway, Eleanor Mererid, Libby Reed and David Shelby’s environmentally themed superhero graphic novel for children aged 9+ (the second in a series) is a worthy but dull read.  The characters are under-developed, the themes treated like anvils and the storyline too predictable.  Also the artwork is blocky and I confused Alma and Katelyn at times while the action was difficult to follow such that I won’t be reading on.

I hadn’t read Volume 1 in this series and that did put me at a disadvantage because clearly a lot happened in the origin story for the three main characters and while there are allusions to it throughout the book, there wasn’t enough for me to really get a complete handle on what had happened.  In particular, I wasn’t really sure what the trio were running from or why they were running – there’s a suggestion of governments thinking that they’re some kind of terrorists but that doesn’t really come up in the story.  I also wasn’t clear on the relationship between themas a trio and between them and the main antagonist.  As a result, it probably seemed more underdeveloped to me than it perhaps would to someone who has read Volume 1.

That said and taking into account the fact that characterisation can be quite bald in graphic novels generally, I never really connected with any of the three heroes here and didn’t get much sense of what made them tick.  Mo in particular just didn’t come across on the page for me and had little to do.  Leon seems there to get into arguments with Jack about farming meat (and he came across as incredibly sanctimonious about it) and Katelyn’s mainly defined by her backstory, which gets more development in the last quarter of the book (but didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever read a superhero book).  Jack tags along partly as comic relief but also so he learns that he needs to stop cattle farming and grow jackfruit instead (and I have to say that it made me grind my teeth a bit because it makes children believe it’s an easy solution when it just isn’t that simple).  Of the Amazon activists, Alma is the only one who gets any significant action and the artwork of her was very similar to that of Katelyn so there were times when I was confused as to who was who.  The other problem with the characters is that there are a lot of them in what’s only a short graphic novel (about 90 pages) so it feels very crowded as a read with dialogue and plot split very thinly.

The plot is quite simple and draws on what happened in Volume 1.  I found it all a bit predictable, including the twist at the end but children are more likely to find it a shock.  However the themes are hammered home like anvils, which grated with me and I suspect children will also find it overdone.  That’s not to say at all that either we shouldn’t be educating children about climate change and what’s causing it at all and nor do I think children are ambivalent about it either – you only have to look at the school strikes to see that – but books with worthy topics don’t make exciting reads and here I think the authors are so keen to get their message across that the overall book simply isn’t exciting enough.

Finally, in addition to finding Alma and Katelyn difficult to distinguish, I also found the artwork generally just quite blocky and uninspired and the way the panelling was organised left me confused as to what was happening at points.

All in all, I didn’t hate this book but there just wasn’t enough here to grab me and I found it just too heavy handed and not well-enough executed for me to be interested in reading the rest of the series.  

THE RENEGADES DEFENDERS OF THE PLANET VOLUME 2 – FLAMES OF AMAZONIA was released in the United Kingdom on 6th May 2021.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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