This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on November 9, 2016.
A few months ago we praised the creation of DC Comics’ new “pop up” imprint Young Animal as the most important launch of 2016. It presented an alternative to the publisher’s very successful Rebirth relaunch. While mainstream series like Batman and Green Arrow emphasized what DC Comics and the superhero genre does best, Young Animal proposed an alternative. The imprint is a home to some of the most bizarre and innovative ideas at DC Comics in decades, and they feature lots of exciting talent, both new and old. Under the leadership of Gerard Way, all four of the initially announced series have come out without a hitch.
Now that the first round of Young Animal publications are upon us with the debut of Mother Panic this week, it’s time to take another look at our initial optimism and assess these series. How do these four series stack up? Take a look at these bite-sized reviews to find out!
Shade, The Changing Girl
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Marley Zarcone
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Issues To Date: 2
Shade, The Changing Man may be the strangest creation ever devised by Steve Ditko (and he created Doctor Strange!), which makes it just odd enough to encompass the adolescent experience. The debut of this series has managed to fuse both the most visually engaging components of the existing concept with some unexpected twists and turns for something altogether unique.
Seeing the world through Loma’s eyes is a consistent pleasure in these pages. Both the oddities that follow her on Earth and the surreal surroundings of her homeworld Meta are a delight. Zarcone’s fluid lines both gracefully form the confluence of unexpected ideas and guide readers through it all with ease. Even when you’re unsure as to why there’s an elephant hopping through the background, you don’t mind its presence. That is accented by the soft, welcoming color work of Fitzpatrick who reserves a dark, cold palette for very specific pages.
Those pages come from the past of the young girl whose body Loma now inhabits. It’s a twisted teenage mystery much darker than the covers of this series may indicate. As Castellucci explores the depths of this group of teens the series hits troubled waters. Sometimes it appears unsure of itself or exactly how dark it wants these children to appear. That may be part of the mystery as Loma comes to understand Earth, but it leaves a big question mark hanging over the series for now.
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Todd Klein
Issues To Date: 3
We reviewed the first issue of Doom Patrol when it arrived in September. At the time our verdict was that the craft and ideas on display were great, but we weren’t certain exactly how great they were. That hasn’t changed much with subsequent issues. Way continues to provide quirky personalities and plenty of amusing oddities in his scripts. Derington and Bonvillain are offering a story deserving of the title “pop art”, but are not limiting themselves either. Alterations to style enhance the storytelling and keep the eye engaged. There’s no doubt about the excellence of this team of creators.
What has become clear is that Doom Patrol is a slow burn. There’s a lot happening in these pages. The series is providing plenty of attention both to classic characters like Robotman and new ones like Casey and Samson. They have moments in each issue, some of which feel like tangents, but all of which build a better portrait of who they are. When you combine that with a conspiracy-ridden plot stuffed with aliens, fast food, and Danny the Street… Well, things aren’t going to move quickly.
That isn’t to say that pacing is a problem. Each issue of Doom Patrol is entertaining. In addition to excellent comedic moments and consistently gorgeous art, it really does feel like the series is building to something greater. But just like the Morrison run that this pulls so much from, it may take a while to see what that promise is. In the meanwhile, there is a lot to like about Doom Patrol while it weaves its many elements together.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye
Writer: Gerard Way and Jon Rivera
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Clem Robins
Issues To Date: 1
When this series begins it’s long past Cave Caron’s prime. He’s no longer an explorer or adventurer, and only references past events with Superman over coffee with his pal Dr. Magnus. Now he’s a widower wondering what to do with his life now that his daughter is out of the house. That may not sound like a thrilling recipe for a comic book, but the first issue of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is bound to change your mind.
The problems of middle age and constant changes in life form the thematic core of this series. Way and Rivera are plumbing the depths of later adulthood through the metaphor of superheroics. Swap out youthful misadventures with drilling to the center of the Earth and you’ll start to see what they’re going for. It’s a fascinating subject matter that lends itself to Way’s characteristically dark sense of humor well.
In addition to the fertile possibilities found in this DC C- or D-lister, it’s also one of the best looking comics drawn by Oeming in the past decade. Carson’s eponymous eye creates layers in the most mundane of scenes. Memories and holograms fill panels and alter Filardi’s colors in fascinating ways. They light up the dark spaces of his life and will pull you into each page. Oeming hasn’t lost a beat when it comes to action either. While most of the story emphasizes Carson’s suburban life, there’s still adventures to be found and the ending of the first issue is a sprint. If there is just one to watch from Young Animal, this is it.
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Letterer: John Workman
Issues To Date: 1
Mother Panic has been touted for its ties to Gotham City and it’s something the first issue doesn’t shy away from. There are multiple references to types of heroes and “the bat”. Those connections to the DC Universe ultimately hinder the story and leave it feeling like the most derivative of the Young Animal launches.
There’s little that differentiates Violet Paige and her alter-ego from the many, many other superhero books on the stands today. She is meaner than most superheroes, but it’s nothing unique in a world with The Punisher and The Comedian. Instead, her cruelty feels needless and cold, providing little to hold onto with the story. Houser does infuse the issue with some potentially interesting themes. She addresses both the nature of art and wealth in a succinct fashion. Cruelty and vanity are key concepts and tied to a dissociation from humanity. The success of Mother Panic is likely to be found in exploring these ideas, more than its actual characters.
The violence of Mother Panic is well crafted with the sharp linework and cold colors of Edwards. Jawlines cut like knives and sturdily gloved fists hammer down in both fanciful dinner scenes and back alley brawls. No matter where Violet goes in her life, Edwards line work connects it all as a jungle-like place where only the fittest survive. This style also emphasizes the connections being made between society, art, and wealth. The potential is there, but there’s nothing in Mother Panic #1 to suggest great confidence in it being achieved.