My Video Game Ate My Homework – Dustin Hansen, Writer/Artist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: DC continues to expand their line of original graphic novels with My Video Game Ate My Homework, a creative outing from cartoonist Dustin Hansen, who fuses a wacky and kinetic video game adventure with a deeply personal story of finding your own strengths and using them to overcome challenges.
My Video Game Ate My Homework also stands out for being the first DC OGN not to take place in the DC universe – unlike Anti/Hero and The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, which placed original kid heroes in the DCU, the only connections to the famous superheroes here are Wonder Woman T-shirts and occasional references to Teen Titans Go.
Instead, My Video Game Ate My Homework starts as a slice-of-life comedy about four ordinary middle-schoolers – twins Dewey and Beatrice Jenkins, boisterous troublemaker Ronald Ferguson, and tomboyish Katherine Ortiz. While Dewey is focused on passing science class and avoiding summer school – and struggling with his ongoing issues in school – Ferguson is more concerned with the grand prize for the science fair, an advanced look at a new high-tech video game system. But his curiosity gets the best of him, he steals the machine, breaks it – and an attempt to put it back together leads to a glitch that sucks Dewey’s model volcano into another dimension, endangering his passing grade.
So the kids do what any sensible group of kids would do – follow that volcano into a bizarre video game world, setting up the main plot of the graphic novel. Dustin Hansen’s cartoony art is perfect for this new world, as the characters gain bizarre new costumes and powers along the way – especially Ferguson, who keeps transforming different parts of himself into a bear form. They also encounter a group of increasingly challenging monsters, some of whom take on the form of classic video game bosses. But as fun as it is for these video game-loving tweens, danger awaits, and they soon find out that their lives in this new world are ticking down.
It’s impossible to keep from making comparisons to Jumanji here, as the basic plot of kids finding themselves in a video game come to life is near-identical, as is the tension of getting lives knocked out. The stakes are lower here, with the game having a more gentle difficulty curve and those who fall in battle being teleported to a strange realm for a second chance rather than facing actual death. But it more than makes up for it with inventive monsters, including a final boss that provides the book’s best visuals and some mooks that add some genuine creepy horror into one segment.
All four characters get their chance to shine, especially the offbeat Ferguson, but it’s really Dewey’s story and a very personal one for creator Dustin Hansen. Dewey’s academic struggles aren’t for a lack of work or trying, but due to learning challenges that Hansen himself shares, so the parts of the story where we see how Dewey’s dyslexia affects him and how he figures out “hacks” that let him sidestep those limitations are among the book’s best. The plot is more basic than some of the other DC OGNs, with a fast pace and lower stakes, but it’s a great book for kids that is also an ideal opportunity to introduce them to the idea of learning differences.
One of the biggest projects ever put together at DC by a writer/artist solo, My Video Game Ate My Homework is definitely geared towards younger readers, but its energetic style and positive messages make it another big win for the company’s big push into the bookstore market.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.