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DustyDusty Knight is a clean-cut little kid. And that’s his problem. The 10-year-old pipsqueak is too darn clean. Before he can thwart schoolyard bullies, excel at intramural hoops, figure out complicated mathematical problems in Russian, and dispatch megalomaniacal supervillains, he has to get dirty first.

After a bath, Dusty is just a regular ol’ fourth grader. But make him sweat, or dump a box of dirt on him, and he quickly becomes an Alpha-One superhero. In a world full of Beta-One punks, Gamma-Two outlaws, and unpredictable social chameleons, Dusty stands apart as something very, very special.

It takes a while before Dusty figures out that his science teacher is A) totally obsessed with his mom, B) hell bent on stealing his dad’s SuperSoap formula, and C) single-mindedly determined to rule the world. But when he finally puts the pieces together, he’s not afraid to dish the dirt.

Dusty is a bit of a blank page, but the author has surrounded him with a riot of zany characters with complicated backstories. His father, an expert in predictive analytics, can see nine seconds into the future. His mother is a Beta-One super strategist and a Grandmaster in chess. And together, they are key members of a mysterious organization called the League of Justice (not to be confused with the Justice League).

Also in Dusty’s orbit were Mr. Harrison, a man with no first name, his chameleon-like son, a former pro-basketball player named Christopher “King of the Court” Jackson, a vainglorious news anchor named Jerry Waters, Mick and Nifty Albright, and the ever-elusive Agent M.

The craziest character of the bunch, however, is Dr. Nero Nilworth (great name, btw). As a child he was abandoned by his mother and raised by a sociopath in an abandoned lighthouse. By the time he was hired as the science teacher at Dusty’s school, Nilworth had become a mirror image of Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the archenemy of Phineas and Ferb.

Throughout the book, the author tells his story in a rigid and declarative manner, and we confess that his writing style took a while to get used to. Every novel is a collaborative experience between author and reader. But in this case, the author has over-reached and done all the (dirty) work himself. Every little thing is explained, and every detail is accounted for. There was nothing for us to do except turn each page until the final chapter ended. Despite being funny and clever in spots, we’re sorry to say there was very little joy in reading this dusty tome.

[The Adventures of Dusty: The World’s Dirtiest Superhero / By Dan Mehlman / First Printing: February 2013 / ISBN: 9781482399691]

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