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5 Worlds: The Red Maze Hardcover Graphic Novel Review

5 min read
The Mimic taps into the greatest temptations and worst desires of the people to stop Oona and her friends from lighting the red beacon.
5 Worlds: The Red Maze

The Mimic taps into the greatest temptations and worst desires of the people to stop Oona and her friends from lighting the red beacon.

Creative Staff
Story: Mark Siegel, Alexis Sigel 
Art: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun

What They Say
In book 3, Oona Lee is determined to light Moon Yatta’s beacon and continue her quest to save the galaxy. But reaching the red beacon means navigating an impossible maze of pipes and facing devious enemies at every turn. Luckily, her friend Jax Amboy has returned from his adventures transformed! Now he must confront the owner of his former starball team, a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get his best player back on the field . . . and who can grant them access to the beacon. Meanwhile, Oona and An Tzu find a mysterious rebel leader and release a surprising power within Oona’s magic. Will they make it in time to stop the evil force seeking to rule the 5 Worlds?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It’s been a year but one of my favorite tween graphic novels returns with a new installment. 5 Worlds: The Red Maze picks up right away with the answer to what happened to Jax at the end of the previous volume. His miraculous recovery and newfound humanity are explained briefly to catch the others up to speed, but his development doesn’t stop there. Much of this volume is very Jax focused, exploring his new emotions and putting himself in harm’s way to carry out an important mission. He has become what his creator wanted him to be and has grown into a great character because of it.

Oona too continues to grow as a person. She gains another mentor on this world who teaches her a new way to use her powers. She’s slowly growing used to the idea that she’s actually Toki, and doesn’t flinch while confronting the adults ruling the world, even if her mission is overwhelming at times. An Tzu slowly starts to exhibit something more than his plant heritage, and the next volume will certainly be his time to shine.

The plot and imagery of this volume hit home, hard. The world of Yatta is one of democracy which has devolved to representing the highest bidder. Natural resources have been plundered. Corporations and their money wield the most power and the politicians only care about the next election. The populace doesn’t care, for the most part, content with pursuing their own luxuries and content because at least they aren’t as poor as other moons. When things go wrong the shapeshifting race native to the planet is blamed, becoming a scapegoat and a boogieman for societies ills. 

It’s obviously a cautionary tale about the direction our own country is going in, or has already gone in. My only complaint is that at least some of the damage done here is the fault of magical evil whereas in the real world that selfish ‘I got mine’ attitude is all that is required to see justice and the well being of the world fall apart. Either way, the frustration of the authors is clear and they deliver the dire message in a way that doesn’t feel like a lecture. (Although more than a few lines felt unnervingly drawn from our reality in a way that, as an adult, are obvious in their origins and chilling.)

The artist team continues to be absolutely fantastic. The rich variety of alien species and varied body types for the cast go a long way to representing everyone. I still appreciate the fact that Oona isn’t a toothpick and that An Tzu is on the short and hefty side. The use of color is still top-notch as well. It’s just a beautiful looking series overall with a good deal of Doctor Suess world-building. 

My only disappointment is that the conclusion to this volume feels a bit rushed. Time was of the essence for the group but it feels that the change of heart for one of the antagonists wasn’t really explored. The last minute change of plans and Oona’s realization of what needed to be done to succeed brings the conflict to a swift conclusion with minimal casualties, not that every battle has to be won in blood. The lingering issue of the Toki beacon is resolved by Vector who is able to achieve his goal as well. It signals that Oona and friends are now finally on the right track.

Even though Oona and her friends accomplish their goal on Yatta, it doesn’t mean that their problems are over. It doesn’t even mean that the majority of the citizens of that moon know or support the decision. “Most won’t believe it. Some won’t even care.” Opinions and brainwashing don’t magically go away, and the enemy remains in charge on the surface. The quest continues, but there are only two remaining beacons to light.

The epilog points the group to their next destination, Salasandra, which seems to have a deeper connection with whatever change is taking place in An Tzu. This volume has a few extras including a fan art gallery and another fanciful map of the planet.

In Summary
Oona, Jax, and An Tzu continue to challenge the status quo in their race to light the beacons to save the 5 worlds. 5 Worlds continues to be a strong contender for my favorite young adult fantasy graphic novel. The otherworldly conflict manages to combine cautionary tales with myth and legend without feeling preachy. The protagonists suffer, grow, and challenge the systems while trying to battle an ancient evil that literally mimics the worst of our world. The art is vibrant, colorful, and unique and the characters are realistically flawed and fun in equal measure. The wait for volume 4 is going to be agonizing.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A

Age Rating: All Ages
Released By: Random House
Release Date: May 7, 2019
MSRP: Hardcover $20.99 US / $27.99 CN