Kara and I have been road-testing the pre-teen/early teen comic the Phoenix. Here’s what we think of it so far.
(I was gifted a subscription to the Phoenix in exchange for providing an honest review. All views are my own.)
Comics, magazines and reading in general have always been a big part of my life. I have happy childhood memories of reading the Beano, Dandy and 2000AD. In adulthood, I worked for the children’s magazines arm of the BBC on titles ranging from Teletubbies to Top of the Pops. As a child, I used to spend entire days during school holidays lost in the fantastical worlds created by C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Douglas Adams.
Despite the myriad other distractions and calls on their time, we’ve been lucky that all three of our children have inherited the reading gene. They’re the type of kids whose bedroom lights you have to switch off because they’re engrossed in a book. We even started holding family book club evenings earlier this year. (Although, to be fair, that was as much an excuse for the kids to drink mocktails as discuss books.)
So, anything that tempts our kids away from tablets and Xboxes for a while is always most welcome in our household.
And that’s where the Phoenix comic comes in.
Something for everyone
The Phoenix is a weekly 32-page comic. It’s aimed at children aged between seven and 14, with a mix of content that appeals to both boys and girls.
Story content ranges from simple two to four-panel strips to ongoing series covering up to seven pages per episode. The longer stories cover a diverse range of settings. The Boss is a crime-based story set in a school. Legacy is a heroic adventure story with a passing resemblance to Marvel’s Infinity saga. And Blood Pudding is a food-themed series with vampires. (Yes, really.)
There are also regular quizzes and weekly book reviews interspersed throughout. The Phoenix contains enough educational content to salve a parent’s conscience – but not so much that it feels excessively ‘worthy’. It’s a difficult balance to achieve but it does it well.
We were gifted a subscription to the Phoenix and I’ve been trying it out on Kara. At eight years old, she’s at the lower end of the target age range and has a broad range of interests.
Although she loves to read, she often struggles to do so for extended periods of time. But she joined me on the sofa one afternoon and we read together in companionable silence for a solid half-hour before she put her issue down and gave me a grin and a double thumbs-up.
I asked her which bits she liked. She replied, “All of it.”
I think that counts as a success.
Being able to read together and bond is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s a blessing particularly now, as we enter another coronavirus lockdown.
It’s the little things that count
Beautifully drawn stories aside, there are lots of little touches that set the Phoenix apart. It’s printed on high-quality paper, so you don’t have to worry about ink coming off on your fingers. There are no ads. And no cheap gift toy either, so you know that the cost of producing the comic has been fully invested in the actual content.
Best of all, though, is the way each issue comes through the post in an eye-catching colourful envelope, addressed to a title such as ‘The Awesome’ or ‘The Fantastic’, rather than a drab ‘Master’ or ‘Miss’. Kara loves it. She only ever really sees mail addressed to her on her birthday. So to receive something special like this every week makes it an event to look forward to.
The Phoenix is available in WH Smith, Waitrose and independent bookstores for £3.25 an issue. You can also take out six and twelve-month subscriptions for just £59.99 or £99.99 respectively. That’s a very reasonable £1.92 each for 52 issues.
So if you’re looking for an idea for a birthday present or a Christmas gift that will last more than just a few weeks, the Phoenix may be just the thing to delight and entertain your child. It gets a big thumbs-up from us.
The Phoenix is published by David Fickling Comics Ltd, an Oxford-based family-owned business. Find out more at https://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/ or check out subscription options – including an introductory offer of six issues for just £1 – via this link.