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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Ant Sang and Michael Bennett - Helen and the Go-go Ninjas

Helen and the Go-go Ninjas is a speculative graphic novel by collaborative team Ant Sang and Michael Bennett. It’s an action-packed graphic novel, a speculative tale set three hundred years into New Zealand’s future with more than a nod to George Miller’s movie Mad Max: Fury Road as well as a hint of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

When Helen is kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas and finds herself in the year

2355. Humankind has been enslaved by giant ‘Peace Balls’– and Helen holds the

keys to their destruction. The Go-Go Ninjas have one goal – to destroy the Peace Balls. Can Helen use her

knowledge of the past to help them save the future?

Populated with kick-ass female characters, minimal dialogue, and blow-by-blow action, Helen and the Go-go Ninjas comes with an important message for society about the dangers of corporate-driven technologies to the health of our planet, and ultimately to the people who live on it.

It’s not their first time around the block, and comic artist Sang and screenwriter Bennett know a thing or two about dramatic flair. The images are stunning: the story told in pallets of muted grey green and striking reds. It’s a visual feast of quickfire narrative, including some visual jokes, like this one:

Things that appealed about Helen and the Go-go Ninjas were its New Zealand setting, its quasi-scientific premise, its quirky time travel portal, and the way it touched on the insidious nature emotional abuse when it is delivered by someone you love. It was especially encouraging to come across a very able disabled heroine portrayed in what seemed a deliberate intent by the writers to create a narrative that would appeal to girls, although this might been more successful if the female characters hadn’t referred to each other using derogatory terms like kitten, princess and bitch, and had found another way to resolve the problem other than through fighting. However, the story’s evil overlords were frightening in their possibility, even if their thee and thy language felt a little stilted.

Overall, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is a highly entertaining read, and a fast-paced fun way to spend an evening.

Ant Sang is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed cartoonists and graphic novelists. His

books have been published in NZ, North America, the UK and France. His bestselling

graphic novel Shaolin Burning won an Honour Award at the 2012 NZ Post Children’s Book

Awards and his cult series the Dharma Punks was published in graphic novel format in

2014. He is perhaps best known as one of the creators of the television series bro’Town,

which ran for five seasons. Ant lives in Auckland.

Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an author, screenwriter and film

director. His first book, In Dark Places, won Best Non-fiction Book at the 2017 Ngaio

Marsh Awards, and Best Biography/History at the Ngā Kupu Ora Awards. Michael’s films

have won international awards, and have screened at many festivals including Cannes,

Berlin, New York and Toronto. Michael lives in Auckland with his partner Jane and their

three children.

Published 2 July 2018 from Penguin.

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