Four Eyes

Four Eyes Vol. 1: Forged in FlamesFour Eyes: Volume One Forged in Flames
Written by:
Joe Kelly
Illustrated by:
Max Fiumara
Image Comics
Format: Softcover, 96 pages, Full Color, $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-63215-424-8

Some graphic novels are just plain good. Some are thought-provoking. Some can even convince me to watch NASCAR. And then there are some, like Four Eyes, that inspire my already-admittedly-passionate energy for talking to teachers and librarians about why I think graphic novels are the most brilliant literary format of our current time in history.

Set in a pseudo-reality of New York City in 1934, Four Eyes begins much like a Dickens novel might begin. A happy family. A loving mother, father, and son picnic and play on the beach. And then, suddenly, tragedy. The boy's father has wandered off. So, like any curious and adoring son, the boy sets out to find out just what his beloved father is up to. That's when the reader probably sees it coming. Something is going to happen, right at the beginning of the story! And that something does indeed happen. But I'll leave those details for the reader to find out on his or her own.

Now they are a family of two: a widow and an orphan. Again, very Dickens, if you ask me. Faced with poverty and misery in the absence of the husband and father, the widow and her son must learn how to protect themselves from the curious, mysterious, and lurking people who come into their world as a result of the father's death. Some offer hope. Some offer false hope. It's up to the young orphan, Enrico, to figure out who is who.

From beginning to end, this graphic novel is well written (with the comic writing genius of Joe Kelly clearly driving the storyline) and well illustrated (with artist Max Fiumara and colorist Nestor Pereyra smoothly leading the reader from panel-to-panel).

Before I end this review and of course write what at this point might sound cliché of me, "Yes, I do in fact recommend this graphic novel to middle school and high school teachers and librarians," I have one more thing to say: In the midst of both its brilliant pseudo-reality setting in 1934 New York City and its engaging writing and illustration, this graphic novel also deals with dragons. Yes, dragons.

In short, it's a must read graphic novel that just might show anyone who is unfamiliar with the graphic novel format just how literary and complex stories with images and words can be.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: the death of a husband and a father, whose job was mysterious to both his wife and his son, leave the family destitute and the boy more-than-ever curious about how his father made a living

Setting: a pseudo-reality of New York City in 1934

Major Characters: Enrico, Mama (Eva Savarese), Papa (Giacomo Savarese), Mr. Jorge, Mr. Boccioni, the boarder, the dragons, Fawkes, Heustas, Rurik, Foggherty, Mr. Guiseppe, Jeff, Peter

Themes: Family, Loyalty, Revenge, Action-Adventure, Creative Nonfiction, Tragedy

Literary Pairing Suggestions: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, The Chosen by Chaim Potok, The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Artemis Fowl: Book One by Eoin Colfer, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle and High School Teachers and Librarians

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Recommended Grade Levels: middle and high school

Suggested Guided Reading Lesson Plan:  


Guided Reading

(Fountas & Pinnell, 1996)

Lesson Plan for Middle & High School Readers








Before Reading




Prior to reading, and because Four Eyes is so rich and literarily complex, I strongly recommend that students read one of the thematic pairing suggestions listed above.


When they are finished with that text and are ready to move on to Four Eyes, ask them to identify the main themes from the first literary text.


Once those themes are identified and discussed, give students a copy of Four Eyes and ask them to briefly page through the text.  Ask them, “Do you have any thematic predictions about how this graphic novel might complement our reading of _________________?”


IRA/NCTE standard alignment: 1, 2.







To follow up on the students’ thematic predictions type up a handout that lists their ideas.  Leave room for students to keep notes on the handout.


While they read Four Eyes, ask students to keep notes about their various thematic predictions.  Page numbers, significant quotations, elements of story, and critical moments in the text should all be considered.


IRA/NCTE standard alignment: 1, 2.






When students are done reading, review their thematic prediction handouts.  As information is shared students should be encouraged to add any new information to their own handouts. 


To follow-up on this discussion and further connect the two reading selections, ask students to pick two themes and write two paragraphs.  Each paragraph should focus on one of the themes and how it is similarly or differently portrayed in the two texts.


IRA/NCTE standard alignment: 1, 2.



*NCTE/IRA. (1996). Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.