What’s behind the rocket clock?


100PG Full color
Story: Mike Barry
Artist: Mike Barry


There is a specific part of my brain that stopped growing when I was about 7 years old.

I continue to enjoy things like dinosaurs, cartoons, and fairy bread. So when I was asked to review Action Tank, I jumped straight in. This is my territory. My full-time job requires me to have my finger on the pulse of all things kids enjoy, so I was able to slip into reading Action Tank with no worries at all.

Although this book is absolutely made for kids, there is something special here. When I was reading it, my internal voice was different from the usual. I was reading, and hearing, the narration in the tone of an elderly woman. It took me a while to figure it out, but the voice I was hearing recite the story was none other than that of Benita from Play School.

I hope you have fond memories of Play School and other children’s programming, because the is the platform that I believe would make Action Tank take off. It is absolutely perfect to read to children, with easy, bite sized descriptions of scenes. The dialogue is similarly easily digestible, never heady or hard to comprehend. It would be easy for a child to follow and read along.

Action Tank tells the story of a nameless young boy, who wakes up on Pluto decked out in armour, with a shield reminiscent of Captain America. All he wants to do is make it home in time for dinner, regardless of the fact that he is on the other side of the galaxy. Along the way he faces many challenges, makes a friend, and learns a whole lot about himself. The absurdity of the situation is never discussed, only the fact that there are challenges he needs to overcome. The fact that the boy is suddenly a superhero space cadet, being guided by a Quadricorn named Rex (like a unicorn but with 4 horns) is simply a given, a narrative beat that is dismissed. The how and why are not important, only the journey ahead.

Art by Mike Barry

As I said earlier, the writing is pitch perfect for a childrens graphic novel, and so is the art. Mike Barry has captured the kinetic speed of children, and really conveys the indestructability of youth. Kids believe themselves to be invincible, and coupled with upgradable space armour, this illusion is cemented in full. Scenes of the young boy running from danger, swimming through lava or sliding down a hill on his shield are all presented in a somewhat realistic way. The manner in which the main character moves truly looks like the way a child aged 7 – 10 would. The colouring is bright and flat, and easy on the eyeballs. Strong lines, nice base colours, strong paneling and awesome movement – I want to see more of Mike Barry’s work.

This was the comic book equivalent of a Lego Video Game: created for children, easily enjoyed by adults, but best art by Mike Barry, and my favourite page from the book.experienced together. There is something here for everyone. To continue the video game comparisons, they are rife throughout. At one point, they boy must solve a puzzle through trial and error, very reminiscent of Zelda games and all told through simply amazing paneling. He has a mentor that sends him on quests, there is some combat, and most importantly, the upgrading of gear. This puts us straight into familiar story-telling territory, one that most kids and adults alike will slip right into. The child protagonist is nameless, only ever being referred to as ‘the boy.’ This is a great device for allowing us to slip into the main characters head and put ourselves in their place,  another classic video game trope. I’m curious to know if creator Mike Barry is a gamer. Finally, we have some pages that are a clear instruction manual for the story and the suit, laying out exactly what an Action Tank is and how it works. Hint – It’s awesome.  

Action Tank is absolutely charming, and I look forward to reading it to my young nephew.

It may sound facetious but believe me when I say I was honoured to review this book. I honestly would not be surprised to see an Action Tank TV show (on ABC, of course) in the near future. If nothing else, Mike Barry has offered something that I have never seen before. Show me originality, and you have my attention. The story, art, pacing, and the overall vibe of the book all come together to present a strong, unique, and fun experience.

This is a story that, even after just one reading, I strongly believe in. I cannot wait for the next one.

About James Cassingham Randall

James Cassingham Randall
James Cassingham Randall lives in Brisbane with his wife and cats. He collaborates with artist Dan Watts, and is currently working on a few short stories for Bipp and Trax: Intergalactic Real Estate. James enjoys whiskey, ice hockey, a good narrative, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

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