Advance Review: Rocket Robinson And The Secret Of The Saint, Or The Search For The Missing Painting

by Rachel Bellwoar

From writer-illustrator, Sean O’NeillRocket Robinson and the Secret of the Saint is one of those all-ages books where you have to separate your adult brain from your kid brain. That’s not a tall order, and for a series that continues to be this enjoyable, it’s a chance to chase adventures again.

Since the events of Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune, Nuri now lives with Rocket and his pet monkey, Screech. They’ve left Egypt to visit Paris, and Turk, Nuri’s uncle/cousin (she’s not sure which), is in a band with real-life jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt.

Again, Rocket’s father gets called away on business so, after attending one of Turk’s gigs, he leaves Mrs. Mahfouz in charge (though she has an even smaller presence in this book than the first one). The next morning a story hits the papers about a painting that’s been stolen from the Louvre. Sure enough, there’s a phone call from the police. Nuri is Turk’s one phone call.

This is where my adult brain balks a bit because, unlike in the first book, where Rocket and Nuri inadvertently land on a treasure hunt, Turk puts it on them to get him out of prison. To do that they need to find the painting and prove his innocence, and Rocket and Nuri have shown themselves to be capable in the past, but they’re also twelve years old and this is irresponsible. Maybe Turk didn’t have anyone else to call (though I question that as well) but that doesn’t mean you lay your problems on your preteen niece/cousin. If recommending they speak to his old crime boss sounds dangerous, that’s because it is, and it’s incredible that Turk puts them in that position, where he’s telling them to save his skin, instead of letting it be their decision to make.

Even the adults who should know better haven’t learned their lesson, about trusting Nuri and Rocket to tell the truth this time around, but Nuri and Rocket seem less phased by this than I am and, because they aren’t treated their age, or given any breaks, their adventures grow as big as if adults were in the roles.

History continues to be a huge component of the series. The Knights Templar are always good for shady conspiracies, but Rocket Robinson takes the time to explain how that secret society came to be and the flashback in the prologue of a young man answering the call to action has some great changes in expression. The way the paintings are colored in the Louvre makes them stand out from the way the rest of the book is colored, and while I don’t know that the missing painting offers the same thrills as Rocket’s code-breaking lessons in Pharaoh’s Fortune (in my review of Beyonders #1 I mentioned having a theory for how to decode the message and that was all from having finished Pharaoh’s Fortune around the same time), it suffices.

There’s definitely a difference in motivations for solving this mystery between Nuri and Rocket. Where Nuri is focused on freeing her uncle/cousin, Rocket’s interests perk up when he learns there might be treasure involved. With all these history lessons going on, it’s easy to forget this book is set in the past, too. It’s certainly pertinent — 1933 is before cell phones, so some of my adult supervision concerns are a condition of the times, but that’s true of the past in general. O’Neill makes sure you know it’s 1933, and because it’s not the first thing that pops into your head with this story, that context is shattering and important to get across.

The adults might have no shame in this story, but Rocket and Nuri are the history detectives you need. For fans of shows like Liberty Kids and comics like AfterShock’s BeyondersRocket Robinson and the Secret of the Saint goes on sale September 26th from Dark Horse Comics.

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