Mo-Bot High – your school days were never this bizarre, nor this much fun.
by Neill Cameron
When new girl Asha walks through the gates of her new school, she’s expecting all of the normal problems; fitting in, getting to grips with the cliques, working out who she should be hanging out with and who to avoid, finding out where to go, who the teachers are. Just the sort of thing everyone going to a new school has to put up with. What she didn’t expect was that everyone would have giant robots that launch out of their mobile phones.
(First day at school for Asha. Not your normal first day stuff. From Mo-Bot High Book 1 by Neill Cameron, published by the DFC Library.)
Barely through the gates and she’s being challenged by the school bully to a fight and finds herself in control of her very own giant robot Mo-Bot. School days have never been so bizarre. Nor so much fun.
We quickly get up to speed with the story – finding out with Asha, the new girl, that Midford High School is quite unlike any school she’s been to before. The kids are the same, the problems are the same, but at Midford everyone has giant robots that launch out of their mobile phones. Strangely enough, the kids here just see it as the norm. Surely something is behind all this?
The answers to why the Mo-Bots exist will (hopefully) be covered in subsequent volumes, but here in Book One it’s all about finding out how much fun we can have.
Asha quickly learns the ropes, mastering her Mo-Bot and it’s seemingly endless modes of Mo-Bot battles; strength battles, speed battles, coding battles (but that’s only for the nerds), dance battles. There’s even a great sequence when Asha’s taken through all the fashion mods that the girls are insistent she should apply to her Mo-Bot. Along the way Asha falls foul of the school bully and gets challenged to the biggest, boldest after school fight you’ll ever see – completely levelling the science block in the process:
(Midford High has bullies, just like any normal school. But at Midford everyone gets their own Transformers style Manga Mo-Bot as well. From Mo-Bot High Book 1 by Neill Cameron, published by the DFC Library.)
She gets to grips with her Mo-Bot remarkably quickly and soon comes to the attention of the mysterious dinner ladies, who have access to an ultra hi-tech secret bit of the school where they oversee everything that goes on in the school. It’s obvious that the Mo-Bots and all the weird goings on at Midford are all part of some malevalent plan, controlled from far, far away by someone only known as “The Primary“. And everyone’s very interested in Asha’s impossibly quick learning curve – why exactly are the dinner ladies already calling her “The Harbinger“?
(Midford’s sinister dinner ladies – doing far more than serving up bland slop in the canteen. From Mo-Bot High Book 1 by Neill Cameron, published by the DFC Library.)
Mo-Bot High is the third in this autumn’s release of collections from the DFC Library, following Monkey Nuts and the wonderful Vern And Lettuce. And to be honest it was the one out of the set that I didn’t really warm to in the DFC comic; it was just too bitty, too episodic when serialised week by week. But here in one lovely hardback collection, it’s so much better, with time and space to find it’s own rhythm. And what a rhythm it is; from that very first page it’s just a fantastic, uncontrollable riot of a story, absolutely brilliant fun.
Cameron spends equal amounts of time in Mo-Bot High between the ridiculously fun spectacle of giant robots beating the crap out of each other and the far more real experiences of the new girl doing her best to fit into a new school; all the mistakes, the new friends, the conflicts and the difficulties.
The contrast between the two extremes is what gives the book a freshness and sense of underplayed cool. Little touches like the explanation of why the boys don’t seem to be involved in all these Mo-Bot battles (they’re too busy playing Mecha-Football all day long. “It’s totally boring”) just seem to nail the whole school experience – there may be giant robots everywhere but mostly these kids are just kids, and just like all kids do, they take weird shit like this in their stride:
(Asha gets brought up to speed on Midford’s rather unique playground activities. From Mo-Bot High Book 1 by Neill Cameron, published by the DFC Library.)
The artwork is every bit as action packed and kinetic as the story, with Cameron’s manga influenced, eye popping colour pages absolutely racing by. The kids are all nicely observed cartoon archetypes, and the Mo-Bot pages are just great, all manic action, manga speed lines and bright mecha style art.
My only problem with Mo-Bot High, just like an earlier DFC Library title; The Spider-Moon, is the ending. Or more specifically, the lack thereof. Because on the final page all we get is a cliff-hanger and an “End Of Book One” caption. It’s just not right.
Especially since I’m really rather keen to find out exactly where Cameron’s going to take this one; what the dastardly dinner-ladies have in store and who exactly they’re reporting to, why the Science Block manages to be rebuilt overnight, why the students just aren’t questioning all of the strange goings-on at Midford High School, and why Asha igets to be some kind of Mo-Bot master just so quickly are just a few of the plotlines left hanging.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with cliffhangers in multi volume graphic novel series. My big problem with the DFC Library doing it is that we still have no firm committment that we’ll see more of these books. I have no idea whether Neill Cameron is busy beavering away on Book Two right now, although I have all my fingers crossed that he is.
But even with that major moan, I’d still rather have Book One of Mo-Bot High there on the shelf. It’s merely a reflection of my enjoyment of this brilliantly fast paced meeting of Grange Hill with Giant Manga style robots that makes me so damned impatient for a second book.
And in case you’re wondering where Molly’s review of it is, she wanted you know she’s read it and really enjoyed it, thought it was a great comic, full of fun and action, even though she wasn’t that much of a fan when it was in the DFC. But frankly she’s
“fed up with too much writing for my homework“
“can’t be bothered re-writing the quick review I did on the whiteboard the other night“
“if Dad wants the review he’ll have to take a photo of my whiteboard“.
So I did. Stroppy, lovely, wonderful Molly. She’s going to kill me for this.