In mid-August, just in time for summer reading, comes Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge, a high-speed bicycle adventure featuring a thirteen-year-old Lois Lane with her cell phone in hand, building her social media brand.
Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge
Grace Ellis (Writer), Brittney Williams (artist)
August 11, 2020
This book did not deliver the Lois Lane I expected. Her best friend Kristen is nervous about going away to camp, and interested in investigating some local mysterious goings-on. Lois, however, is dismissive of investigating, focused on getting more views and likes for her online video channel, and not a particularly attentive friend. Kristen seems much more like the protagonist I’d expect in a middle-grade graphic novel, while Lois seems fitted for the role of wacky sidekick.
When Kristen texts Lois that the fireworks for a beloved town festival have gone missing, Lois springs into adorable action, putting her gigantic fluffball of a cat into the basket of her bicycle, and laboriously pedaling to help save the day. Unfortunately, her efforts to save the day include jumping to conclusions and announcing that her wild accusations of the new girl in town are “facts.” Both her friend Kristin and their older pal Henri, who is interning as a journalist, repeatedly try to get Lois to acknowledge that her theories are unfounded.
One can easily envision this young Lois pointing dramatically and shouting, “J’accuse!”
By the end of the book, we have followed Lois around as she leaps to conclusion after conclusion, and takes selfie video after selfie video, but (is this a spoiler?) Lois isn’t the one to solve the mystery, and frankly, takes a lot of convincing that her friendship could use some improvement.
The writer, Grace Ellis, is a co-creator of Lumberjanes, and I can certainly see how this book would appeal to Lumberjanes fans. As is true in many Lumberjanes stories, all the characters in Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge are girls and women. Lois as a character has a focused, loud energy, that she swoops onto those around her like highbeams, and it is as endearing here as it is with the Lumberjanes characters, and just as exhausting for the more thoughtful, measured and reasonably paced characters around her.
Brittney Williams’s art for the book is excellent. It is high-energy and stylized in a fun, age-appropriate cartoony way, and I think it hits just the right balance of feeling contemporary without the risk of becoming cringingly dated too soon. With a plot focused around Lois’s desire to create viral videos, and texting front and center, that balance is extra important.
Overall, I found this book fun, and could theoretically see how this Lois might grow up to be the savvy and competent journalist I think of when I hear the name “Lois Lane.” However, I think the book would work just as well if the character of Lois were given any other name, and the book might work better, in fact, for readers who don’t yet have a fixed idea of what the adult Lois will be.