I have wanted to read The Lost Carnival for a while now. It was not because it was about Dick Grayson or DC Comics or about a (future) superhero. It was not because Michael Moreci wrote it, or Sas Milledge and Phil Hester illustrated. No, it was because I wanted to know why the character was upside down and in a flower on the cover.
That was the draw. Okay, maybe superficial, but that crazy, busy, simple coloring of yellow, blue, and gray just called to me. Later I realized that there was another character on the bottom half of the page. I did not know that the story was about Dick Grayson before he was the superhero Robin, or Nightwing or any other form he took. This graphic novel is about the summer he finally said that he was tired of traveling in the carnival with his parents and found love.
He also found true magic, monsters (not all supernatural), loyalty, true family, betrayal, and acrobatics. He finds fire, mystery, and come odd uncles (I am always wondering why uncles are the odd ones in stories…. I mean, look at mine, but you should meet my aunts! After all, they married into the family. Oh, one was born into it, but that just proves my point!)
The story itself is simple, Dick meets a girl who performs at the rival carnival in town. They are set in mystery. And when the truth comes out it is about life and death. The artwork is a combination of busy to almost distraction and simplicity. The lack of coloring (except when and where needed) can be a little distracting and sometimes people blend into each other, but overall, it is a nice story. It did not need to be a Dick Grayson story, as the theme is universal, and sometimes having it in the back of your head, “This is Robin” can be a diversion to the story itself.
For at least 12 and up, though 13-14 might be better. Not so much due to content but context might be much for some.