Comic Quests: The Graphic Novels You Can Play
Quirk Books is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers. They published the amazing Pop Classics series – including the picture book adaptations of Back to the Future, Home Alone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and many more – and they also published the recent beautiful collection of songs from Mister Rogers – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
And, most recently, my son and I have been working through their new series of interactive graphic novels: Comic Quests. And we are completely enthralled. I have to admit, Quirk Books is building an incredible track record of putting out books that I get very excited about sharing with our kids.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. Quirk Books provided us with copies of the Comic Quests books to allow for us to write this article. We only choose things that we love to write about, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.
It seems like we’ve had something of a Choose Your Own Adventure renaissance in our house lately. Last year we pulled out a few of my old Goosebumps spin-offs: Give Yourself Goosebumps. That was my son’s first experience with having choice in a story, and it was a nice trip down nostalgia lane for me.
Even TV has climbed aboard the Choose Your Own Adventure train – with Minecraft and Puss In Boots both letting you choose your own path on Netflix. Whatever the medium is – adding choice leads to more fun and engagement.
And then recently, Z-Man Games released the amazing Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger board game. And they followed the success of that one with a sequel - War with the Evil Power Master. We loved House of Danger so much we played for 4 straight hours one day when my son was 5. What we really love about those games is that they combine two of our favorite things – books and games. They are basically board games that you can read.
And these fantastic Comic Quests books from Quirk Books are the exact opposite recipe – these are books that you can play. It’s so much more than the original Choose Your Own Adventure formula. You aren’t just making choices about the path of the story, you are actually role-playing a character. You even need a character sheet to keep track of your adventures like it’s Dungeons & Dragons. You need to write down the items you find along the way, keep track of your stats, and, in some cases, you even battle with dice and keep track of your life points.
There’s no denying that the Comic Quests series is engaging for my son - and for me too. They quickly hooked us both in much the same way the Choose Your Own Adventure board games did. We played through the first 4 books much quicker than I was expecting – and that’s because there was always a good amount of “just a little bit longer” and “just a few more pages” taking place.
If you value opportunities for your kids to use their imagination and their creativity, these books will provide that spark. We love sharing books and board games with our kids, because they both have the wonderful ability to bring a little magic and fun into the world. And it’s not too often that we get the chance to combine our two favorite things into the same activity.
What is the Right Age for Comic Quests?
Right now there are three separate series under the Comic Quests umbrella: Hocus & Pocus, Knights Club, and Iron Magicians. All three series come with a recommended age of 8-12 years old. And based on the reading required, the math included in some of the puzzles, and the challenge of some of the riddles, I think that’s a well-chosen age range for solo adventurers.
But, that being said, my 6-year-old son and I absolutely love doing them together as a team, so don’t think these books are inaccessible to younger crowds. In fact, I personally think that playing through these books together with your little one might actually be the best way to play. The entire concept of these books really excited our son – so sharing them with him right now is perfect for us. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How to Read and Play Comic Quests
Each series includes a character sheet for you to keep track of your adventure in the front of the book, and our son is a big fan of running to the printer to make a copy of it before we start a new game. When we play, he’s completely in charge of writing everything down. I read the story out loud, he makes all of the decisions about which paths to take, and we work on any puzzles or riddles together. It’s a very good setup for us.
Each book is roughly structured the same way. Once the adventure starts, you bounce around to different numbered panels in the book based on your choices. Sometimes you are told exactly where to go next, sometimes there are choices to be made in the story, and sometimes you can even find your next panel number hidden in the illustrations.
But there are also many differences among the books to consider as well. My son and I personally love all of them for different reasons, and I will spell out some of those differences below. Hopefully you’ll end up having a better idea about why we love each of these books.
What Are the Different Comic Quests Series Available?
1. Hocus & Pocus
One defining characteristic of the Hocus & Pocus series is that you start the book by choosing an animal companion – just like choosing your own starter Pokémon. Talk about a good way to hook a young reader very quickly.
Throughout the book, there are occasions where particular companions can help you, as long as you’ve found enough food to keep them awake. It’s clear to me that this magical creature companion is exactly what makes Hocus & Pocus my son’s favorite series of the bunch.
The other defining characteristic of this series is that it takes place in a world of fairy tales – with allusions to famous stories and cameos from characters like Pinocchio and the Seven Dwarves. That familiar fairy tale universe definitely makes for the perfect setting for playing along with our little guy.
As you attempt to complete these books, one of your main tasks is to find as many magic stars as possible. Just like the food for your pet, the stars are hidden in the illustrations. And, once you reach the end of the story, it’s your number of stars that decides how well you did, and whether or not you get to be a Master of the Magical Creatures.
There are already two books in this series available: The Legend of Grimm’s Woods and The Search for the Missing Dwarves. We can only hope that Quirk Books announces more soon because my son is certainly in love.
2. Knights Club
Out of all of the Comic Quests books we’ve read, Knights Club: The Bands of Bravery has the particular distinction of being the quickest play-through of all.
Maybe we are just really bad knights, but we’ve never spent more than 30 minutes at a time playing this one - while some of the other books might take us several days. I actually enjoy the quick play-throughs, because it gives us a chance to start over quickly and try to improve our score.
The reason for the quick play-throughs is that Knights Club has a design that cuts your game short whether you like it or not. The game simply ends after 5 nights in the story. As you work through your adventure, you’ll occasionally bump into panels with a nighttime symbol, and you must mark one night on your character sheet. One time we were even thrown in prison and we lost 2 nights in there.
In the story, you are one of three brothers hoping to become a knight, and your main task is to find the hidden bracelets of power scattered throughout the kingdom. Just like the hidden magic stars in Hocus & Pocus, these bracelets are basically the currency that decide how well you did in the game once it’s all over – and they could be hidden anywhere. In the end, how many bracelets you find decides whether or not you get to become a knight.
So far there is only one Knights Club book available, but number two and three are both on their way soon. The Message of Destiny is scheduled for release on October 22, 2019 and The Buried City is scheduled for release on January 14, 2020.
3. Iron Magicians
Although all of the Comic Quests books carry roughly the same age recommendation, I think it’s fair to say that Iron Magicians fits most comfortably on the older end of that range. There is a significant increase in the complexity of the rules, and it takes my son and I several days to finish the story because of the length.
Even the story itself is a little more complex. In it, you are a student at the School of Technomagic - living in a steampunk version of Paris. You’re trying to find enough magic crystals to turn the Eiffel Tower into a giant shield against enemy magic. I can just see the wheels of imagination turning in my son’s head.
The added complexity is a real pleasure though. Iron Magicians introduces a lot of new features to the Comic Quests series. Chief among them is perhaps the dice-based battle system. There’s a lot more danger hiding around the corners in this book compared to the others.
You also have to keep track of the money you collect in this book. That’s because there are actually shops to purchase spells and weapons – and there are plenty of people to bribe around town as well.
There’s also a major difference in the structure of the book itself. There is a new map system which involves plenty of retracing your steps and revisiting locations freely. This structure truly gives the book a more open-world feel. All in all, I think all of these changes make Iron Magicians the most engaging role-playing experience yet from Comic Quests.
The first issue - Iron Magicians: The Search for the Magic Crystals - is actually set to release on August 6th, 2019. It’s definitely taking Comic Quests to an entirely new level, and it’s really stepping the immersion up a notch.
Do your kids enjoy having choice as much as ours do? Have you tried any of the Comic Quests books yet? Let us know in the comments!