Page 45 Review by Stephen
OK, I get the point. What does CHERUBS stand for anyway?
Good question. Our first chairman made up the initials and had a batch of stationary printed. Unfortunately he had a stormy relationship with his wife and she shot him before he told anyone what it meant. It was wartime and you couldnt waste six thousand sheets of headed notepaper, so CHERUB stuck. If you ever think of what it might stand for, let me know. It gets quite embarrassing sometimes.
Promise: this will exceed your expectations!
Published by Hodder Childrens Books, its back cover declares, NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER READS and it really isnt: it is shockingly and unflinchingly violent for the first dozen pages, young James Choke losing his temper with devastating results, then being bullied back in return. I love what Aggs has done with the black, white and blood-red splatters that expressionistically introduce or curtail some scenes depending on whats been depicted, and whats being depicted is devastating in places, like the death, early on, of James mother.
Bereft, distraught and taken in to care, James is more scared for his sister. Her Dad his step-father is a violent man who drinks and shed be better off joining James. Unfortunately theres nothing that can done. But although James is landed right in at the deep end with a new, potentially hostile environment and even worse company, he is nothing if not resilient and resourceful. Its not gone unnoticed. So imagine how startled he is to wake up one morning somewhere else entirely, naked, in bed, with a new set of threads. And the academy outside is palatial. Its a clandestine, military academy which trains promising recruits to infiltrate, investigate and if necessary close terrorist networks down: extreme force sanctioned. Welcome to CHERUB, James: hope you survive the experience. Youve already been drugged once.
Criminals use children all the time. For example, imagine a grown man knocking on an old ladys door in the middle of the night, saying hed been in an accident. Most people would be suspicious. Shed call an ambulance but still wouldnt let him in.
Now image the same lady comes to the door and finds a young boy crying on the doorstep. My daddys car crashed. Hes not moving. Please help me! The instant she opens the door, the boys dad jumps out of hiding, clobbers the old dear and legs it with her cash.
Criminals have used this for years. At CHERUB we turn the tables on them.
With smartly paced storytelling throughout and a real power in places from relative newcomer, John Aggs, this all far more complex and clever than youd imagine. The training is intense, relentless and gruelling, the initial aptitude tests and James performances far from predictable, never mind their final analyses. Thats when I really started to become impressed. Take this one, after James was given a pen and ordered to kill a chicken by severing the main artery and cutting through the windpipe with a pen. This is sick. Did he do it?
How do you think you did on the third test?
I killed the chicken
Does that mean you passed?
thought you wanted me to kill it.
The chicken was a test of your moral courage. You pass well if you kill it straight away or if you flatly refuse on moral grounds. I thought you performed poorly. You didnt want to kill the chicken but you let me bully you into it. You made a decision and saw it through, so get a low pass. If youd dithered or got upset, youd have failed.
All of which precedes James first mission with swimming trainer Amy pretending to be brother and sister. It doesnt go quite to plan.
Each of the friendship dynamics are different here and I relished every one. I dont know how much more strongly I can emphasise my admiration for the original script and adaptation, both Edgintons and Aggs except to say I cannot think of a better action graphic novel for early-to-mid-teen boys, and theres plenty for young ladies here too.
Hope you enjoyed the review. From tomorrow half of it will be translated into Russian, half into Japanese. Youll need to cooperate to decode it.