Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice
Author: Derek Fridolfs
Illustrator: Dustin Nguyen
Publication Date: January 2016
Lexile Level: 560
Study Hall of Justice is a juvenile graphic novel produced by DC. It features their main heroes—Bruce, Clark, and Diana—as students, along with many of the villains from the DC universe. Bruce finds the new school suspicious, and recruits Diana and Clark to help him investigate. The book is a mixture of traditional comic format, diary entries, and other sorts of posters, notes, and memos. It all works together to form an interesting story.
There are a lot of references in this comic, and many I doubt younger readers will catch. Even I’m not familiar with many of them, as I’m mostly familiar with the Batman mythos, and not so much Superman or Wonder Woman. I’m not sure how younger readers will be expected to make the connections between a lot of these characters and their mainstream counterparts.
The other issue is the pictures. While I don’t mind the penciled style, the lack of detail makes it hard to tell from the pictures who various characters are. I think the book would be better served with either color illustrations, or more detailed black and white drawings. For example, if it wasn’t for a color picture on the back of the book, I’d have no clue that one of the students is meant to be a young Joker.
That said, this book is hilarious. Bruce is serious and paranoid, much like his comic book counterpart. He is obsessed with getting information on everyone and leaving no stone unturned. Clark is super nice and friendly, to the point of being a little naive. Diana has a bit of a temper, but is hard core. She serves as a perfect balance between Bruce and Clark. Even Alfred gets a bit of snark in, mostly in his little notes to Bruce. The portrayal of these three is generally a lot of fun.
While I really like the story, and there’s a lot of humor to be found here, I feel like younger readers simply won’t get it. The reader needs an existing knowledge of the DC universe, and many of the jokes are easily missed. The lack of definition and clear identification of side characters often leads to confusion as to who these villains are supposed to be. It’s a great book—but not a great introduction to the DC universe.
Final Verdict: Better suited for older readers or those really familiar with the DC universe. For younger readers, DC Super Hero Girls may be a better choice.