Pullbox Reviews: a new Choose Your Own Adventure series from Oni Press!

Once upon a time, before computer games brought the concept of interactive entertainment to the world, there was a series of books that gave kids the chance to create their own story. Covering a range of genres including a series based on this new tabletop roleplaying game you might’ve heard of, Dungeons & Dragons, the books followed a young hero who was never named or shown on the page. As children read along, they’d come to points where a choice had to be made. Follow one path by turning to specified page, or choose a different path by turning to another.

The concept by Edward Packard was originally published by Vermont Crossroads Press, run by Constance Chappel & R. A. Montgomery, as “Adventures of You”. From there is grew into one of the best-selling book series for children, making its way to Bantam Books and selling over 250 copies between 1979 and 1998. Mainly written as prose, with sporadic illustrations to set the scene, the popularity of the books may have died off as technology brought new and arguably more engaging avenues to explore, but the concept is still pretty great.

Enter Oni Press.

Now in a fully illustrated comicbook, Choose Your Own Adventure returns with Eighth Grade Witch, written by Andrew Gaska & Eric Thomas. We’re introduced to “Rabbit”, the new kid in the neighborhood whose family has just bought the old house on Cherry Tree Lane. Before too long, Rabbit meets some local kids who drop the knowledge that the house is haunted, which of course it would be. Where else would an eighth-grade witch live? Gaska & Thomas honor the old ways by keeping the identity of the main character, “Rabbit”, obscured and giving young readers the chance to insert themselves into the story. The groundwork is laid out pretty quickly (move in, meet some people, see a creepy dude, discover a secret) and then Rabbit is thrown into the adventure.

Make your choice, turn the page.

The artwork is suited for both the genre and the targeted audience, being cartoony enough to soften the edges but still giving plenty of shadows for the creepy crawlies to lurk in. The artistic team of Valerio Chiola, Leandro Casca, & Thiago Ribeiro pulls the whole concept off, creating a first-person perspective from which Rabbit experiences the mystery as it unfolds. Readers are never shown Rabbit’s face, and it’s all handled in a way that lets anyone imagine themselves in the middle of the action. The illusion is enhanced by Joamette Gil’s lettering, with the descriptive text of an omniscient narrator directing the action and maintaining the distance needed to keep Rabbit’s identity vague.

Parents, if you remember these old books fondly, this is a great way to introduce those memories to your kids. Kids, if the idea of taking charge of a comicbook story, of being able to pick your own path to greatness (or potentially failure… which is fine because you just have to flip back a few pages to make a different choice), get on board. I loved these books and can’t see any reason that they shouldn’t find a home now.

Final Score: 12/13

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