‘Heroes Beginnings’ by Brenton E McKenna, a Broome-based author and illustrator, continues the graphic novel trilogy that begins with ‘The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon’. (A brief recap headed ‘The story so far’ precedes this volume. The cast of more than 30 characters is portrayed at the beginning of the book.)
After a snakebite, the irrepressible Ubby has gained exceptional powers, all of which she will need in the search for the missing friend and Underdog gang member Sai Fong. We learn that Sai Fong has the unique powers of a dragon summoner – some of these powers including fire-casting and visualising have passed to the street kid Ubby. With forces against Ubby spanning angry guard dogs, the power-hungry businessman Paul Donappleton, and the Black Guard who specialise in dark magic, she will need all her strengths. Events lead Ubby and the gang to a place called Hollow Graves.
Post-World War 2 Broome of ‘Ubby’s Underdogs’ seems frozen in time: pre-modern and open to the forces of magic and myth, evidenced by the arrival of dragon summoner Sai Fong. The town and its surrounds are affectionately rendered in McKenna’s artwork, making a backdrop to the action that is driven by Ubby’s unwavering sense of moral justice, bravery and loyalty. Humour is also essential to the tone of the story, with clever banter and outrageous physical escapades spliced among the escalating drama.
The Indigenous writer/illustrator Brenton E McKenna draws upon family stories, Broome’s history, and the town’s rich mix of Indigenous, Malay, Chinese and settler people experiences. McKenna exploits a superhero narrative, led by Ubby – an Indigenous girl from Broome – and a richly multicultural cast. The books seamlessly weave hyper-local and international traditions and techniques into an exciting and enjoyable reading experience.
Brenton E McKenna is descended from the Yaruwu people of the Broome region of Western Australia.
Series: Ubby’s Underdogs - Book 2