(W) Paul Jenkins (A) Leïla Leïz (C) Tamra Bonvillain (L) Ryane Hill
Alters #3 is perfectly titled “Cause/Effect.” With the establishment of Ember and Octavian’s profound roles as supporting characters, Chalice’s introspection on her influence of others, and an unexpected reveal to spice up the story, this is the young series’ defining issue. This precept is obviously used throughout the comic, but done in a way that is not overbearing. A domino effect of good and bad decisions follows a rather painful ending of issue #2, and Chalice must live with the fact that her cocky actions played a major part in the enfeeblement of one of Octavian’s teammates.
Whether it is trying to get used to her powers as an Alter, or trying to lead a “normal” life around loved ones, Chalice always has an inner struggle. The last time she went out on the limb and tried something new, it backfired on her, changing Morph’s life for the worst. This definitely impacted her decision on coming out to someone. The diversity of reactions of Chalice’s behavior from the characters of this issue is generally realistic and refreshing. There’s anger, undeniable support, confusion, and necessary amnesty. The array of reactions felt necessary so there’s no catering to the idea that her coming out story – concerning both her powers and sexuality – has to be black or white. Every time a secondary character was put in the forefront and given ample time to speak, it was always for the benefit of Chalice’s character progression. Not every character fully supported her actions, but they did represent a different perspective for her to consider. This comic is not full of Yes-Men coddlers, or haters that condemn her of her lifestyles. The complexity of the feedback from the characters to Chalice’s secrets helps the story sound authentic.
At the very end, Chalice has a critical, yet somber thought: “Sometimes you’re the cause of someone’s pain. Everything you do has an effect.” I enjoyed her sarcastic, Devil-may-care attitude of the first 2 issues, but her realization that she has to make her Alter decisions responsibly is a pivotal moment. Who her family and friends think she is – or even who they want her to be – as opposed to the real Chalice is a terrifying expectation.
One way Paul Jenkins manifests the principle of causation is the fluidity of one effect to another. Even with a couple of awkwardly placed quotes, flow of the story didn’t feel stagnant or forced. There were multiple cause-and-effect dilemmas, and one would end while simultaneously influencing another.
As always, Leïla Leïz and Tamra Bonvillain’s art collab is stimulating to the eye. Leïz alternates with the amount of detail depending on the character’s positioning in the panel. Faces are up close and detailed when they need to be, and the expressions are well thought out and attentively drawn. Bonvillain’s use of vivid hues and pastels pairs well with Leïz’s expressive inking. The bright colors are a emphasized with the hard, black shadows during the panels of Chalice’s confession to remind the readers of the heavy subject.
This issue is essential to the series, and the quality of storytelling is definitely commendable. Knowledge of the previous issues is absolutely recommended. Luckily there are only 2 to catch up on. Where the story goes from here is a mystery, but this issue provided a good amount of unresolved plights for issue #4 to pick up on.