FOREWARD REVIEWS -- John Allison's acclaimed Bad Machinery series of graphic novels continues with The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor. The book follows Allison's six early-teen protagonists as they search for a new mystery to solve in their native town of Tackleford, England. The hoped-for mystery soon presents itself in the form of a "night creeper" who terrorizes Tackleford, leaving his victims with a strange, absent smile on their faces. With suspicions cast on the new boyfriends of one character's mother and sister, the kids team up with a local reporter to discover the truth. The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor offers a delicately balanced blend of the natural and supernatural, and Allison keeps a light, refreshing tone via humor, even as the mystery deepens; middle schoolers in particular will appreciate scenes like Charlotte convincing her mom she needs a girls' outing to go bra shopping, hiding Charlotte's true intention of meeting up with her fellow mystery solvers. The complex, intense emotions that accompany early adolescence are often handled playfully, but always sympathetically. There are no simple stereotypes, and Allison's writing and art benefit from a natural, easy flow, being the product of one mind that does both equally well. By spreading the focus across his large stable of characters, Allison has not only kept this sixth volume in the series from seizing up and stalling, he's got it running smoothly on all gears.
"In this third installment of the series, Allison brings the wit and charm of his British webcomics to fans in the U.S. Readers follow the group of young teens and their attempt to unravel mysteries in their town of Tackleford. Tire book trails various story lines, such as the boys trying to solve arson incidents and the girls endeavouring to "clean up" a troll they found under a bridge. Although the mysterysolving aspect isn't solid, what stands out in this work is the authentic dialogue, characters' constant questioning, and the protagonists' experiences as "new" teenagers. Allison addresses how they are coping with physical and emotional changes, balancing friendships, and romantic relationships in a humorous way. However, the relegation of conversations about love and romance conversations to the girls' narrative and the mystery-solving adventures to the boys' section makes this work in some instances feel too gendered. Tire comicstrip look and layout are solid and along with the vivid illustrations and bold colors enhance the appeal of the series. VERDICT A good, humorous addition to school and public libraries' graphic novel collections." - Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library, MA, School Library Journal
"Shauna finds herself at loose ends when her fellow crime-obsessed classmates-Lottie, Mildred, Jack, Linton, and Sonny-fall under the spell of mysterious Lem. With the help of Little Claire and a trio of D&D nerds, Shauna must find the out-of-this-world secret behind Lem's appeal. Allison's series, originally a webcomic, is a truly unique blend of fantastical occurrences, British small-town life, and middle-school troubles. Here he focuses on smart, sensitive Shauna, who muddles along despite knowing that the nerds helping her aren't a good substitute for the friends who have left her behind. The mystery is an amusing one and ends in a satisfying manner, though the puzzling final page is likely only to be explained in a later volume. New readers might be a bit at sea with the large cast of characters and the off-kilter storytelling, but the cheerful, silly art combined with the realistic frustrations of young adolescence, make this a wonderful addition to graphic-novel collections." - Booklist
"In the conversation about young superheroes, John Allison should be right up in there with the very best writers and artists that comics has to offer. I think I've recommended every volume of Bad Machinery as part of 'Best Comics Ever' thus far, but there's a dashed good reason - it's a blinding good comic. Six schoolchildren somehow fall into parts of a mystery in each volume, bickerin' and banterin' it fierce before eventually somehow winding things up together and solving the problem - which sometimes turns out to have been 'ghosts'. In volume 4, we get to see a new boy come to school, who seems a bit lonely, a bit weird, but who one day becomes everybody's best friend. Only one of Allison's hexad see through this veil: Shauna, the one with the most common-sense and conscience in her head. But really, the mysteries in Bad Machinery take a firm second place to the more interesting part of any Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew-style story: the characters. These are such fun, recognisable characters, who feel like kids, act like kids, make mistakes like kids and then solve supernatural mysteries. Er... like kids. Give his site a look, and see how quickly the whole thing wins you over." - Comics Alliance
Allison's comic shows contemporary British preteens and teens in school and at home, so American readers can see their everyday lives. Such things as monstrous creatures kidnapping toddlers and mysterious dogs that may not be dogs add fun to the story. This volume can stand alone--new readers get enough information about each of the six main characters as they read the story, and they will be able to pick up the British slang with no problem. The subplot involving a teacher investigating student smoking and the burning of the cricket pavilion makes the book more suitable for middle school age readers. There are also a few panels showing animals peeing, as well as some violence as Jack gets beaten by an older teen bully." - Voice of Youth Advocates
"British cartoonist John Allison has produced his webcomic Bad Machinery for years. Last year, Oni Press published a collection, Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Teem Spirit, that has been selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2013--Children's Fiction. The second book, The Case of the Good Boy, is scheduled for February 2014. Friends Jack, Linton, and Sonny deal with teen bullies while Mildred, Shauna, and Lottie deal with toddler baby brothers and Mildred's obsession with winning a magic pencil from the carnival and desire for a pet dog. Meanwhile, their town, Tackleford, is experiencing a rash of toddlers disappearing from the Little Tykes nursery. And when Mildred stays with her father, Neil, and his wife, Glenys, they find a stray ... dog. He doesn't look like any known breed, but he's a good boy and friendly; but Glenys gives him to Shauna's dad. Jack, Linton, and Sonny decide to investigate the disappearances and decide the culprit is a beast. And who should show up in town but international big game hunter Jesper Bloem, who says he's going to hunt for the beast; the kids decide there's something a bit fishy about Bloem and investigate.