Graphic Novel Review: “EndGames” (“Newsprints” #2) by Ru Xu

In this sequel to 2017’s NewsPrints, Blue and Hector are on their way to Altalus in pursuit of Crow – the boy designed to be a weapon but who doesn’t want to fight. Once in the capital, Blue and Hector quickly find themselves caught up in the turmoil of a decade-long war. After seeing Crow only briefly, Blue is kidnapped by a Grimmaean spy stealing weapons blueprints, and Hector ends up accompanying a diplomatic envoy set on either brokering peace with Grimmaea… or crushing their enemy once and for all. Blue is hoping she can turn her kidnapper into an ally, and Hector wants to ensure citizens of both Goswing and Grimmaea are aware of what their leaders are really up to. Together, they hope they can find a way to stop the bloody war that has claimed so many lives.

I really enjoyed NewsPrints and have been looking forward to reading the sequel for a while. So I was pleased to find that, as in NewsPrints, author Ru Xu creates lively characters and masterfully incorporates thoughtful commentary on such issues as gender, identity, and empire into a middle-grade novel – not an easy thing to do. But while Xu brings the same creative intensity to EndGames that she did to NewsPrints, I found the second installment of the series a little muddled and hard to follow.

I think the root of this problem is just the sheer amount of stuff that’s going on in EndGames. Crow, the impetus for Blue’s journey to Altalus, is quickly forgotten (or nearly so) as Xu launches into a complex plot weaving together narrative threads of several characters crossing back and forth between the borders of two warring countries, Goswing and Grimmaea. In addition to following the exploits of Blue and Hector, the narrative quickly introduces a number of new characters, including Goswing’s young misguided queen, Corazana Lina, and tries to provide multiple perspectives on what is (even in a simplified middle-grade version) a very complicated political situation. Honestly, it felt like this story maybe just needed to be told in two volumes rather than one.

Even so, I really admire the ambition of Xu’s vision, and if there are more NewsPrints stories to come, I’ll be giving them a chance.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Scholastic, for review.