BOOK REVIEW: Sci-Fu by Yehudi Mercado

BOOK REVIEW: Sci-Fu by Yehudi Mercado

What makes a Superstar DJ? Whatever you think makes a Superstar DJ, the star of Sci-Fu, DJ Wax definitely sets the standard to new high. When your hometown of Brooklyn is at stake if you can’t scratch and spin the tracks; the best within you somehow seems to rise to the surface. Set in 1980’s Brooklyn and a planet called Discopia, XS Noize, courtesy of Oni Press will guide you through the journey and characters thirteen-year-old Wax meets which include (but definitely not limited to) a robotic snowman, a robotic crow and a teddy bear.

Sci-Fu, set in 1980’s Brooklyn introduces the world of Wax and the main characters in his world: his mate Cookie, D, Pirate Polly (and her cat Finster) and Uncle Rashaad. The speech bubbles instantly grab your attention, written in a prose designed to be rapped out aloud. Things begin to get interesting when Uncle Rashaad criticises Wax’s rapping and scratching abilities. D then suggests Wax finds “the beat first” before adding lyrics. Pirate Polly also gives Wax courage telling him: “you’re the best DJ in New York”. Wax then makes a sound that is “dope”. What isn’t “dope” for these Brooklyn residents is that they find that they are no longer in Brooklyn; but are now greeted with a hostile and frosty reception from a giant robot/transformer type of being going by the name of King Chug Chug, adorned mostly in red with a Yin and yang like symbol.

Wax is forced to engage in hand to hand combat with King Chug Chug. Using his newly formed metal hand, Wax chops Chug Chug’s sword into half which then cuts the King in half vertically which destroys him. Then a voice calls out to Wax saying: “you popped him”. A small snowman called Kubuki Snowman appears, introduces himself to Wax,  explains to Wax that his adventures are far from over. Wax must now face King Chug Chug’s son, Choo Choo (that’s right) and the five deadly dangers. If Wax fails to face his trials, Choo Choo gets to take over Brooklyn.  But it’s not all bad as Kubuki Snowman agrees to be Wax’s Sci-Fu teacher. Nonetheless, in the short term, the new arrivals are still in shock because their home has been transported with them to Discopia. It’s no surprise Uncle Rashaad shouts out: “Oh Lord, what now?”

We are now introduced to Choo Choo, who looks a bit like Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles along with his crew, “the five deadly members”. They are a motley crew indeed, including the teddy bear which has an uncanny resemblance to Mr Bean’s teddy and the robotic crow, which will remind you of the original Disney Dumbo movie. Poor Wax wanted none of this, he just wanted “to be a DJ, not a Sci-Fu master of a robot planet”.  The only thing in Wax’s favour is “the art of Sci-Fu is (about) the manipulation of sound waves”. If Wax can do this, he will “be the greatest DJ in the universe”. Wax then beats the first of the five dangers. He continues to excel at his training which “feels kind of like when I’m beat matching, then switching records and dropping the needle perfectly”.

Instead of more fighting, Choo Choo makes a proposal to Wax so he can fulfil his dream “to be the best DJ in history” and “playing a robot planet would seal the deal”. Unfortunately for Wax, he does not realise that this is a trick by Choo Choo to drain Wax of his power. Meanwhile, Pirate Polly and Kabuki Snowman go to the Time Shrine, the Ancient Temple for the Time Champions and meet a tiger that looks like Tony from the Kellogg’s Frosties adverts. This tiger has a Pink Panther tone of pink and a clock stuck to his chest. He turns out to be Polly’s “Intergalactic Time Keeper and (her) my pet cat” called none other than Finster (who thankfully is devoid of any catchphrases). Polly is revealed to be “a Time Champion… raised on earth until the time when the galaxy needed you (her) most.”  It is her job to protect the Sci-Fu warriors from threats beyond time. Polly’s help is needed quickly: Wax begins to play the Terrorzone (the best club in Discopia) and the Boom Box of Doom begins to open.

To drop more significant plot spoilers at this point would ruin the beat and sounds of Sci-Fu. However, we can say that Spandau Ballet get referenced and Wax ends up with two metallic hands. What readers will find impressive is the way author Yehudi Mercado consistently synchronises aspects of science with hip-hop, dropping and mixing beats and rapping. Whilst Sci-Fu is a young adult graphic novel, the most adroit and experienced musicians and mixologists will be impressed with Mercado’s knowledge of music and music production and how well it forms part of the storyline.

Sci-Fu also has its own mixtape (tracklist) on Spotify which features classic tunes from the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, De La Soul, Run D.M.C. and Salt-N-Pepa.  Check it out HERE.

To own your own copy of Sci-Fu and see for yourself how the tracks get dropped please visit

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