Told in summary, Power Lunch: First Course, the first volume of an original graphic novel series by J. Torres and Dean Trippe, sounds like one of those classic "wish I'd thought of it" concepts. It's the clever and creative tale of a boy named Joey whose unique reaction to what he eats temporarily grants him super powers — a different one for each color of food. See what I mean? I'm betting you didn't read that last sentence without cracking at least half a smile and suppressing a tinge of jealousy. Like a youth-friendly version of Chew (or perhaps a more sophisticated take on Popeye), Power Lunch is about as instantly marketable as they come.
The product between the covers, for the most part, lives up to the amusing expectations its synopsis sets. Despite his unique physiological situation, Joey's day-to-day life brings him up against trials that are universal to any kid his age. He struggles with feelings of loneliness at a new school, frets over the decision of whether he should try out for sports and has his loyalty tested as his best friend comes under threat from a bully. That last relationship forms the emotional core of the story, and while it's kept fairly simple, it's certainly a genuine source of sentiment.
Torres uses his words here sparingly, so a lot of that affective character interaction comes from the gazes and faces that Trippe draws. The opening page, in which Joey turns his back on us to stare upward at a poster advertising soccer tryouts speaks volumes about the interplay between the character's desires and trepidations about his social standing. Backgrounds are kept minimal to keep the characters prominent, mostly consisting of geometric patches of color that lack the starkness of black border lines. Children flipping through these pages will be met with the assurance that this book is safe for them, and parents will take solace in the fact that it looks less overtly violent than it does cute.
Cuteness, though, is the barrier that Power Lunch never manages to cross, and its total package ends up disappointingly slight. This is a graphic "novel" in name only, with its hardback cover and double-digit price tag the only factors bumping it up in stature beyond that of a single-issue floppy. Translated for the screen, it's hard to imagine that the story here would extend beyond the length of a pre-movie animated short. Obviously, as the book is geared toward all-ages suitability, a massive and complex volume wouldn't fit the bill, but given that nothing in Power Lunch manages to hit a second level of sophistication, it's hard to imagine that older readers won't feel somewhat shorted on the content.
Of course, maybe Torres and Trippe are simply waiting for Volume 2 to break out all their twists and turns. If so, Power Lunch could turn out to be a true cross-generational smash when all is said and done. As it stands currently, though, both parent and child will be left wanting more at the end of Volume 1, and only the latter of that group will mean it in an entirely positive way.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!