Another lighthearted, if educational, look at animals and world conservation, told through the eyes of six children and their two adult mentors, the easily riled and super buff Dr Darwin and his long-suffering assistant Mr Smith. This volume opens with Taizen, the Sumatran kid who grew up in the wild, being dropped off to spend time with his family. Little do his teammates on the X-Venture Xplorers team realize that Taizen’s real family isn’t the humans from the nearby village they’re already familiar with, but is actually the orangutan couple who adopted him while he was lost in the jungle.
Taizen’s happiness at the prospect of spending quality time with his loved ones is quickly shattered by scenes of carnage, as he finds the orangutan tribe in disarray after a highly unusual attack by bears who seem to be in league with the mysterious hunters the Xplorers team encountered in the previous volume. With the help of the bears, the hunters kidnap Taizen and his dad, spiriting them away to parts unknown.
Several days later, with the rest of the team back at HQ, Sherry is worrying that Taizen hasn’t checked back in for a while. A message from the village headman asking after Taizen’s whereabouts confirms her worst fears, and she drags the team to Sumatra to investigate. Jake seems to take Taizen’s disappearance and the obvious signs of struggle surrounding it particularly hard. When Dr Darwin sends them a message demanding they head straight back to base to regroup before investigating weird goings-on with non-native animals suddenly appearing in the wilds of North America — an event the team is sure has something to do with Taizen’s disappearance — they go around him and take a private plane supplied by Louis’ dad instead, heading directly to Yellowstone National Park. There they encounter not only a superabundance of simians and ursines but also the mysterious figure behind it all…
As usual, this volume was jam-packed with zoological information (complete with quiz!) to help readers learn more about all the animals featured in the book. I enjoyed how the overarching plot continued to develop, even as I found Jake and Louis’ constant falling all over themselves to impress Sherry a wee bit tiresome. While I was definitely touched by Taizen’s reunion with his mom, I did not like what happened to his dad, and expect to see lots of repercussions in future.
The art was the usual intriguing blend of manga with hyper-realistic animal studies, making for some really wild action scenes. Overall, an engaging way to get kids to learn more about zoology, especially if they’re already interested in books along the lines of the Who Would Win series of animal battles that my 9 year-old loves.
X-Venture Xplorers #2: Clash of the Titans by Slaium, Meng & The Black Ink Team was published today February 16th by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including
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