About a year ago, the Marvel Comic Moon Girl got a lot of positive press because its heroine is a young girl of color and because it was revealed that Lunella Lafayette, aka Moon Girl, is perhaps the smartest character in the Marvel Universe, outshining intellects such as Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Lunella is a science/math/engineering wunderkind and a fourth grader. She is also bored at school, friendless, and, in her opinion, deeply misunderstood by most of the people in her life, including but not limited to parents and teachers. The cool thing about these Moon Girl books, and there are several of them, is that while they are packed with fun action and adventure, they also deal with important issues related to being a kid — dealing with social relationships, feeling weird and different, being an outsider, and learning to accept yourself and changes.
In Volume 1: BFF, Lunella is preoccupied with the fact that she possesses the “inhuman” gene which will become activated by the terrigen cloud that hovers around the city. She is afraid of what this will do to her and wants to stop it at all costs. While she goes through the motions of going to school every day, she lives for her own inventions, which she develops in the secret lab she has built under her school. Lunella is pretty stoked when she finds the “Omni Wave Projector” because she thinks it will help her reverse engineer her inhuman gene, but due to an unforeseen mishap, the object temporarily opens a portal from another world. A gang of “killer folk,” who look a bit Neanderthal, get through and they want that Omni Wave Projector, or “nightstone,” as they call it. They might have succeeded in getting it away from Lunella except Devil Dinosaur also jumps in through the portal. He is, as you might have guessed, a large T-Rex type creature, bright red with flaming eyes, and he is Lunella’s unwanted and unwelcome protector. For the rest of this volume, we see Lunella dealing, with no little exasperation, with her very protective parents, an equally protective (and destructive) dinosaur, annoying classmates and even Hulk. Hulk’s cameo in this volume is pretty funny. He is dismissive and condescending to Lunella, bragging about how smart he is, but Lunella cedes no ground to him. He does try to convince her that being inhuman is not as bad as she thinks, but Lunella is having none of that either. When Hulk captures and imprisons Devil Dino, Lunella — now in her Moon Girl costume and armed with all kinds of gadgets of her own invention — is off to the rescue. After a final showdown with the killer folk, Lunella faces her worst nightmare — the terrigen cloud! At the end of Volume 1, the cloud has enveloped her and formed a pod around her. The inhuman gene is about to be activated!
Volume 2: Cosmic Cooties opens with the cocooned Lunella being guarded by Devil Dinosaur. When she finally pops out, it is not immediately apparent what her power is. Lunella heads back home and to the drudgery of fourth grade. Meanwhile, on a planet in Kree Territory, a boy named Mel-Varr is dealing with some issues. The Kree are warlike conquerors who developed the inhuman gene and terrigenesis as a means to creating the ultimate army. Their goal is to round up inhuman “defectors” and bring them back to Kree to face justice. Mel-Varr is the son of one of Kree’s best warriors but Mel-Varr is no warrior. He’s a nerd and a geek who spends a lot of time on the computer. Dad makes is super clear how disappointed he is in Mel-Varr, so Mel-Varr decides to prove his worth by finding the weakest inhuman to capture and bring back to the Kree for justice and acclaim. Have you guessed who the weakest inhuman is? Lunella Lafayette! So Mel-Varr, now calling himself Marvin, runs away to earth and enrolls in Lunella’s school, finding himself in her fourth grade science class. Marvin is pretty sure he is smarter than Lunella, and Lunella is pretty sure Marvin’s a jerk. When the science teacher announces a special Lego League competition, Lunella sees her chance to show the world her amazing intellect and creativity, but she’s going to have to work with others, including Marvin, which might end up being the death of somebody! Coincidentally, it’s during science class that Lunella’s new superpower kicks in, and it’s hilarious! It’s a strange power, seemingly useless if not downright annoying to Lunella, but she looks at the world differently now, that’s for sure. As the action proceeds, Lunella as Moon Girl and Marvin as Kid Kree (his insistence on being called Captain Kree doesn’t catch on) butt heads. Kid Kree tells her outright that his plan is to bring her to justice, but Devil Dinosaur becomes a formidable obstacle to that end. And, in another fun cameo from a Marvel hero, Ms. Marvel shows up to give Lunella a hand. Lunella fan girls pretty hard on Ms. Marvel but has a hard time believing her message that being inhuman really isn’t bad at all. As Volume 2 moves to its close, Lunella and Marvin find a way to work together on the Lego League, Marvin/Kid Kree makes an astounding confession to Lunella, and Marvin’s dad shows up at an inopportune moment. The ending is pretty wild and funny, but we know that Lunella really is the smartest person in the world.
These books are great for kids. The art is very good. Each character has his/her own distinct look, and Devil Dino is cool. They’re full of humor and kid snark, and the action is wild and exciting. More importantly, though, Lunella seems like an authentic 9-year-old (except for the genius business). She’s enthusiastic about the things she loves (science, engineering) and super bored with the rest. She complains about being misunderstood but doesn’t always see how much like others she might be. She doesn’t like being dismissed or being condescended to, but sometimes treats others (like Devil Dino) the same way. Even though she adores Ms. Marvel, she has a hard time believing her message that change can be good and the thing that makes you different is what’s cool about you. Two thumbs up for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur; lots of positive messages in a fun package