Opie and Ned are adrift in the Old West, searching for the man who shot their Ma. These two youngsters only have each other, but with all their squabbling it's a miracle they still have that.
When they get wind of the mysterious Pa ("crime kingpin of the West!"), Opie and Ned suddenly have something new: a mission. But tracking down the elusive (and deadly) Pa is going to take all the wiles these two kids have, and some new friends to boot.
Clever, explosive, and deeply moving by turns, Varmints is a perfect middle-grade comedy graphic novel. Hirsch brings an old-school Western style to bear on a story full of nuance, humor, and surprises.
Hirsch's (The Royal Historian of Oz) Western comic offers wall-to-wall mayhem, from saloon brawls and train wrecks to a massive road race whose winner will get to meet the West's most dangerous criminal. Gruff, coonskin-cap-wearing Opie and her younger brother, Ned, fend for themselves amid the chaos (some of which, admittedly, they cause). Opie's chip-on-the-shoulder attitude hides shame: she feels responsible for their mother's death, and she knows who their real father is, a secret she's keeping from Ned. Sunny Ned, by contrast, trusts everyone. This would seem unwise in a Wild West full of ruffians, but it works. When faced with a mute giant of a man clad in bearskin, he asks, "How'd you get so big? Is that a real bear yer wearin'?" winning him a powerful friend. The allies Ned charms help the pair along the way until the final, mighty showdown. Hirsch's art is a tornado of energy, the pace approaches mania (there's even a Broadway-style musical number), yet Ned and Opie survive and grow in the midst of it. Give this to action-hungry readers and stand back. Ages 8 12.