Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review - Shonen Double Feature #1

The world needs heroes. Everyday people that have gifts and abilities that can be used for good and so much more. The world also needs recounting of the adventures and trials of those heroes, something that GI Comics is doing with Shonen Double Feature #1.

Shonen Double Feature #1 two stories in one. The first, "Lightning Rod: Defender of Crimson" is written by Jose Loeri, illustrated by Rob Richardson and lettered by Oval (art assists by Anthony Christou and alternate cover by Canaan White). The second, "Brooklyn Blur" is plotted by Loeri and written Timothy G. Reaper, with art by Jorge Correa Jr. and lettered by Oval (the alternate cover is also by white, with Sonny Leader doing cover colors).

"Lightning Rod: Defender of Crimson" is about a superhero named Lightning Rod and his defense of the city of Crimson. The entire first issue is focused on his fight with Babe Jr., the blue ox terrorizing the city and robbing a bank. The entire fight is narrated from the perspective of Patricia Lake (Patti for short), an honor roll student at John Quicny Adam's Elementary School.

Lightning Rod is a new breed of superhero, returning after a long hiatus where Crimson banned superheroes with the McLaughlin Act. Lightning Rod shouldn't be fighting Babe, Jr., but the Crimson police appreciate his help. The issue ends with Lightning Rod convincing Babe, Jr., that the fight is over, handing him over to the police before making his grand exit.

"Brooklyn Blur" is a slightly different story. Dani is an artist with the gift of speed; a gift that she hasn't quite found a use for. Her and her partner James are tapped to create a zombie album cover for a group called the Bling Boyz, a washed-up trio of rappers looking to make a comeback. She's given lots of money and choice Dodgers-Giants tickets to get the art thrown together within 24 hours.

At the concert, things get a little more raucous than expected. A large dome of ice envelops Rockefeller Plaza (where the Bling Boyz are performing) and a bevy of beasties are unleashed within by Madam Frost. The concertgoers are now prisoners, forced to cope with basically dying at the hands of the monsters until Dani arrives as the Brooklyn Blur, using her powers to save them.

Loeri's use of Patti in "Lightning Rod: Defender of Crimson" is quite interesting. She talks to the reader as if they're new in town and sort of gets them up to speed while Lightning Rod is fighting Babe, Jr., in the background. It's a really novel approach to filling the backstory without just giving all the details in the first few pages.

Lightning Rod himself is quite the confident (almost cocky) superhero, knowing full well he can handle his opponent. He also seems to be loved by the city, despite his appearance being a violation of the McLaughlin Act. It's really only the mayor that doesn't like supers, a plot point that will likely be expanded upon in future issues.

Loeri's influence can be seen in "Brooklyn Blur" as well. Even though Reaper wrote it, a good chunk of the story is told by Dani to a camera, talking to another character. It's presumed this character has some meaning in Dani's life and it's on camera that she recounts her story as to how she became the Brooklyn Blur. Reaper's story seemed to be very character focused as well, although it's feels as if the reader learned more about Lightning Rod than Dani at the end of it.

The two stories don't intermingle at all really, which was likely intentional. You get the sense that the world these two inhabit is just beginning to get fleshed out and that eventually they'll run into each other, in addition to other supers. The world of Shonen Double Feature is one where supervillains are commonplace and the authorities have their hands full. It's just as likely that superheroes are out there, despite the law saying the contrary.

Richardson's art in "Lightning Rod: Defender of Crimson" is phenomenal. He does some great shading and some pretty solid facial detail. There are a few panels where Patti is recounting the past when the superheroes were banned and it's drawn in a rudimentary fashion, which really works for that bit of the story. The panels with the mayor are almost caricatures of the power that people in power tend to rely on more than they should, essentially setting up the superheroes as the good guys.

The art in "Brooklyn Blur" by Correa, Jr., isn't quite as complicated as Richardson's. It's not bad, but there's not nearly the same level of shading and facial emphasis. His art is defined by bold lines and characters standing out from the background. It's not entirely his fault, but there are a lot of dialogue bubbles in some of the panels, which take away a lot of attention from the art at times. Some of the panels feel very crowded.

The art as a whole probably would work better if it was colored as opposed to black and white. Black and white does work for many comics, but for something like Shonen Double Feature #1 it would probably work better colored. The work is an homage to mangas which are traditionally black and white, but you get the sense in reading that the book would go to another level if it was colored.

The two stories included in Shonen Double Feature #1 are interesting in that they do a great job of introducing two new characters and a whole new world. They're likely just the first of many inhabiting this world and there's a curiosity to see what the grand plan for it all is. Right now, the two heroes are just showing up at an opportune time, but there's really nothing explaining why Babe, Jr. and Madam Frost are attacking. Hopefully there's a grander plan at play here.

Shonen Double Feature #1 is available now from GI Comics.

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