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  • Softies: Stuff that Happens After the World Blows Up by Kyle Smeallie
  • Kiri Palm

Smeallie, Kyle Softies: Stuff that Happens After the World Blows Up; written and illus. by Kyle Smeallie. Iron Circus Comics, 2020 [200p] (Softies) Paper ed. ISBN 9781945820489 $15.00 Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 8-12

When the Earth explodes, thirteen-year-old Kay manages to survive in space until space garbage collector/anthropomorphized lizard Arizona and his vulpine cyborg pet, Euclid, pick her up in the debris. This episodic compilation follows the trio on a variety of adventures, from visiting the galaxy's library for an explanation of Earth's destruction to battling mutant bird monsters in a distant diner. Smeallie's characters are cartoonish, cute, and vibrantly colorful, and his humor is exceptionally dry: characters are prone to sly background commentary; misunderstandings are met with an eyeroll and a return to business; and wordplay makes for a great deal of blink-and-you'll-miss-it comedy. Arizona and Kay play their cards close to the vest, with Kay insisting the loss of her home and loved ones isn't a big deal and Arizona acting as though he doesn't care for his new charge. Where this graphic novel truly shines is in a sudden emotional twist in the last quarter of the book, when Kay at last looks inward and realizes just how much she has lost and Arizona finally allows himself to feel and understand that he truly loves this ornery teen. Young readers are sure to gravitate to the promise of extraterrestrial adventure, but don't be surprised if grownups latch on to this gentle lesson on surviving trauma and finding one's chosen family.