Book Review: The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel by Michael Moreci, Sas Milledge & Phil Hester (2020)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

The Night Circus meets Romeo and Juliet, in the YA DC ‘verse.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

DC’s new line of YA and middle-grade graphic novels provide an excellent entry point into the publisher’s extensive catalog, and The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel is no exception. I love comic books, but mostly stick to newer series/those based on other media I already love (think: Pretty Deadly / Firefly), since DC and Marvel’s decades-long history can be intimidating. (Where to start!?) Luckily, these are standalone stories that don’t require a whole lot of knowledge about the characters going in.

Here, Dick Grayson – the Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Batman – is a teenager living in modern day America. In keeping with the character’s original backstory, Dick comes from a family of acrobats; along with his parents, the Flying Graysons spend their summers traveling and performing with Haly’s Circus. Unlike the original incarnation, his parents are not mowed down by the mafia.

Rather, Dick is feeling somewhat alienated: bored by days that seem to blend into one another; unchallenged by the Flying Graysons’ predictable routine; and longing for a “normal” childhood. As if that’s not enough, the very fate of the circus rests on the Graysons’ (admittedly well-toned) shoulders: the circus is hemorrhaging customers, most notably to The Lost Carnival, a decadent affair that somewhat mysteriously threw down its stakes right across the way from Haly’s, seemingly overnight.

As tensions rise between the competing groups of carnies, Dick finds himself caught in the middle, torn between his family and the enthralling Luciana. Unlike his BFF Willow’s magic, Luciana’s powers seem to be the real (read: supernatural) deal: when her uncle calls forth menacing, Swamp Thing-like creatures, it’s up to Luciana to prevent them from escaping. The deeper Dick and Willow dive into the world of The Lost Carnival, the more bizarre things get. Can teenage love really conquer all? (Spoiler alert: No. No, it can’t.)

This is a really fun and surprisingly sweet story that’s an intoxicating blend of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Romeo and Juliet, and the DC ‘verse, with a YA spin. Even though the plot proved somewhat predictable, it’s still a fun ride. Dick is interesting enough, but it’s the supporting characters that really captured my imagination: Luciana, Willow, Quinn, and the employees at The Lost Carnival. And the carnival itself, naturally, which is all kind of magical and mystifying.

I devoured an ARC, so I’m not entirely sure what the finished art will look like – but what I saw was lovely indeed. The colors mostly alternate between a moody blue and glitzy gold-ish, occasionally coming together for that extra pop. Dick is a cutie, and the rep here is great. (You’ve got to love that there are not one, but two families of POC magicians.)

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)