Marv And The Mega Robot by Alex Falase-Koya and Paula Bowles

The Blurb On The Back:

”The super-suit is powered by two things: kindness and imagination.  Luckily you, Marvin, have tons of both!”

Marvin loves reading about superheroes and now he’s about to become one for real.

Grandad is passing his superhero suit and robot sidekick, Pixel, on to Marvin.  It’s been a long time since the world needed a superhero but now, with a mega robot and a supervillain on the loose, that time has come.

To defeat his enemies and protect his friends, Marvin must learn to trust the superhero within.  Only then will Marvin become MARV – unstoppable, invincible and totally marvellous!

MARV AND THE MEGA ROBOT was released in the United Kingdom on 3rd February 2022.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order MARV AND THE MEGA ROBOT by Alex Falase-Koya and Paula Bowles 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):

Marvin is an ordinary boy who lives with his grandfather (also called Marvin) and father.  Marvin’s dad works very hard as a nurse and his shifts mean that Marvin sometimes doesn’t see him for a couple of days but Marvin still has his grandad to take care of him when his dad is at the hospital and he also has his best friend Joe.  Together they love reading comic books about superheroes (one of whom, Marv, looks kinda familiar) and they’re also into science and technology.  The school Science Fair is coming up and they’re planning to enter a robot they built together, which can read text out loud.  The pair have worked really hard on it but it keeps getting short circuits and they’re worried they won’t be able to fix it in time.

When Marvin confides in his grandfather his fears about the Science Fair and how one of his classmates has scoffed that their project is a load of junk and he had to stop Joe from fighting him, his grandfather shares a secret with him: he used to be the superhero Marv!  He shows Marvin the suit he still has in the loft, which – incredibly – fits Marvin, and which comes with its own robot sidekick called Pixel.  Marvin’s grandfather explains that maybe it’s time for a new superhero to emerge and Marvin has the kindness and the imagination needed to use the suit’s incredible abilities.

Marvin’s not sure that he has what it takes to become a superhero, even though Pixel is excited to offer any help she can.  But when an evil supervillain called Mastermind bursts into the Science Fair with a giant robot and demands to be made the winner, Marvin’s gonna have to learn how to become the superhero Marv quickly, before Mastermind destroys all the other entries!

Alex Falase-Koya’s first book in a new superhero series for readers aged 5+ is a charming affair about the power of kindness and imagination with great black representation that’s well supported by Paula Bowles’s excellent illustrations.  There’s a lot of set up here (which is understandable), I’m not sure how kindness powers the suit and the villain is underwhelming but there’s a lot of scope for future books and I look forward to reading on.

In the foreword, Alex Falase-Koya says that he wrote this book because when he was small, the only black superhero he could find comics about was Static Shock so he wanted to write a book where young black readers could see themselves represented.  It’s a great (albeit terribly sad) point – superheroes are incredibly popular with children and you can barely move for superhero merchandise and media out there – but the number of superheroes who are also POC can be counted on one hand.  So I’m going to start the review by giving kudos to Falase-Koya for writing this and I also want to praise Paula Bowles’s illustrations which do a great job of celebrating black hair (Marvin’s Afro is front and centre and entirely fabulous and I love how the illustrations show characters from a variety of heritages).  

I like the fact that Marvin is into technology and superheroes and is confident without being aggressive.  I also think it’s interesting to see a character in a multi-generational household (although I would like to know what happened to Marvin’s mother and hope that his dad will make an appearance in later books).  His friendship with Joe comes across well and I enjoyed the hint at the end of the book that Joe may have guessed who Marv really is and look forward to seeing that explored further.  Pixel is a little too cute for me but young readers will enjoy her enthusiasm and habit of beeping loudly when she’s excited.

There is a lot of set up in this book, which is not unreasonable given that it’s the start of a series and I had some questions, which I hope will be answered in later books (e.g. how the suit reacts to kindness and how Pixel feels about having been stuck in the loft for years).  However, where I was a bit disappointed was in the supervillain, Mastermind.  I like the idea of a female supervillain, but she doesn’t really do anything here other than shout and demand and then run away when her robot breaks down and I just found that a bit underwhelming and think that younger readers may feel the same.  In addition, there’s a cool idea of having trading cards (like Top Trumps) at the end of the book giving scores for various characters and their abilities/qualities and it’s quite telling that Mastermind’s scores are so low compared to Pixel and Marvin’s.  It sounds like a small thing but given how obsessive I have seen kids be about cards like that, I think it’s a mistake not to give the supervillains advantages in some areas so that even if the outcome is not going to be in doubt, there is at least a sense that it could go a different way.

My gripes aside, I think that this is a solid start to what looks to be a promising series and I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens to Marvin next.  

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