The Secret Science Alliance and The Copycat Crook
“Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.”
By Eleanor Davis
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Reviewed by Jason Azzopardi
Try telling someone the best thing you read all year was a children’s comic book called The Secret Science Alliance and The Copycat Crook and watch how quickly you become telepathic. In the twenty or so times I’ve mentioned this to people since 2009, I swear, I can actually hear, “who’s this ding-a-ling” pulsating out of their brain. Four years later, I’m still that same dame-a-ling, but I’m also still that impressed with Eleanor Davis’ astonishing kid’s adventure comic that, apparently, everyone except the good people of the Illinois State Media Library (who gave it their Bluestem Award) dismissed simply because it was a kid’s comic.
Doesn’t matter. I still maintain that it was not only the best comic of 2009, it was one of the best of the entire decade. A small but dense story involving three middle-school braniacs, Julian, Greta and Ben, who form a club dedicated to using science to better the world (combating evil turns out to be a by-product of their genius), Secret Science Alliance falls more into the lower-key type of adventure stories that I remember so fondly from when I was a middle-schooler. This is, pure and simple, a neighbourhood mystery that takes place in a world that you pretty much recognize as your own, populated by people that you, for sure, have met before. Nobody is just good or bad, they’re both, and even the vilest of them is just a little sad, a little envious and a lot lonely. More Encyclopedia Brown or This Can’t Be Happening At Macdonald Hall! than Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, more Degrassi Junior High than Degrassi: The Next Generation. Admittedly, Secret Science Alliance skews slightly younger, but in terms of tone, it doesn’t really have a mean bone in its body precisely because Eleanor Davis knows that not everything has to be “edgy” or “high-concept”, and that sometimes it’s okay to tell a gentle story for kids.