Kate Leth/ Matt Cummings; BOOM! Studios
If the recent Sailor Moon Crystal series or the renewed interest in Power Rangers via comics proves anything it’s that there are no tropes, series or sub-genres too old or too obscure that don’t deserve another go around with a fresh set of eyes or a talented creative team. Adding to their already diverse lineup, BOOM! studios have added “Power Up” from writer Kate Leth and artist Matt Cummings. Already, issue one feels stylistically like the opening episode of your new favorite cartoon or anime series and has a lot in common with the likes of “Adventure Time”, “Steven Universe” and “Bee and Puppycat”. It’s the reinvention of the magical girl genre for the hip Cartoon Network crowd.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the duo’s previous connections to these series, with both having written and drawn for a number of shows’ comic book counterparts. This however, is the first creator owned book for both of them and it’s feels so well realized and fully formed from the first page as if it’s come from it’s own Cartoon Network show. On the surface the premise for “Power Up” is simple, the usual mystic prophecy that foretells of our chosen warriors that will battle cosmic forces of evil. The twist and hook of the book is the choice of characters the powers to be have decided shall become their greatest warriors, the hedgehog owning work shirking Aime, Sandy an overworked mother of two and Kevin, washed up athlete turned construction worker. Already we are shown the characters getting through the hurdles in their everyday lives such as being late for work, juggling work and kids and the indignities of being stuffed into a cup. Oh yeah, one of the team, Silas, is a goldfish. An undeniably cute goldfish, but a goldfish none-the-less. Already I love the sorely needed, non-conventional leads. It’s as if Kate Leth has seen the outpouring and demand for this and simply ran with it. Flawed, realistic and relatable, they’re as far from conventional superheroes as possible.
All are presented with relatable problems, and as person who has also never, ever wanted to be forty five minutes early for work I could instantly identify with Aime’s less than commendable work ethic. The characters aren’t seen in costume in this issue, only with Kevin furtively hiding what looks to be the costume he is proudly sporting on the cover, a traditional magical girl outfit complete with pink skirt and matching high heel boots. It makes me hopeful for at least part of the story exploring a character, who at least outwardly is presented as very typically masculine, being empowered by aspects of femininity. Although not explicitly stated in any way, there is a sense in the costumes not quite matching the characters that they may not be the first team to use these powers, or perhaps not the intended recipients.
Cummings’ artwork is both quirky and adorable with an animated style that again makes it feel like an adaptation of a cartoon. The character designs are great and feel genuinely natural yet stylized, his simplistic faces with their over exaggerated anime expressions again calls back to the comics roots in animes like “Sailor Moon” and “Cardcaptor Sakura”. His grasp of movement gives the issue some stunning action scenes as Aime and Silas grapple with their first supernatural foe in the middle of the pet shop. The softer lines used in the setting and backgrounds draw attention to the characters and the use of a limited color palette throughout is also excellent and gives the settings a soft, dreamy feel. As a relative newcomer this is his first longer comic project, with hopefully many more to follow.
Though the first issue feels a little slight, and is slow to establish anything but a few aspects of it’s story, it’s enough to make you stick with it for the second issue. The draw being to see how these people from vastly different backgrounds and with little in common, eventually come together as a team. As with the aforementioned comparison to “Steven Universe”, one of the most important and inventive elements was the shows slow burn, as it took it’s time to world-build and establish its mythos. An approach that “Power Up” will hopefully employ in it’s issues to come.