Emi Lenox & Jeff Lemire: story; Jeff Lemire: script; Emi Lenox: art; Jordie Bellaire: colors
"Plutona's Last Adventure" by Jeff Lemire
Image Comics, 2016
It's easy to describe this as "Astro City meets Stand By Me" or something like that. The main story driver is the discovery of the body of superhero Plutona in the woods by five suburban kids (Jeff Lemire's story "Plutona's Last Adventure" runs through the collection, telling how she got there). The group decides that it would be best not to report it to authorities (including their parents) right away, because of the chaos it would create as the city came under attack by super-villains in the absence of its strongest protector. The everyday presence of super-humans is established early: one of the kids is even a spotter who monitors their activities, Trainspotter-style.
But the heart of the story is the relationships among the kids. Their response to the situation tends to mirror their normal behavior. Teddy is the fan who keeps a log of super-activity; Diana is overweight and insecure; Mie is Diana's friend, and is cool in the way Diana wants to be; Mike is her younger brother, who usually tags along; and Ray is the bully who is both longtime friend and tormentor. Given that Teddy is a superfan, it probably shouldn't be surprising that he becomes obsessed with the body. Mie starts to take a romantic interest in Ray, driving a wedge between her and Diana.
Ray and Mie follow Teddy into the woods a couple of nights later, and find him cutting Plutona's fingers and his in an effort to get super powers through her blood. He becomes almost completely unhinged, threatening them with his knife. In the ensuing fight he accidentally gets stabbed in the chest--then hit over the head with a log when Diana arrives and sees the struggle. Plutona comes to, groggy and confused (I know that's a spoiler, but it is called Plutona, after all--doesn't seem likely she'd be dead at the end). She takes off, warning them not to tell anyone how they found her. And the group goes home, leaving Teddy in the woods, possibly dead.
Which looks like a setup for more story, but that's the end. I went into this thinking that it was an ongoing rather than a miniseries, and it is paced like an ongoing most of the way. There's a rushed feeling at the end to wrap things up in five issues. Still a rich little story, with mystery, superheroics and coming-of-age intertwined. A good read, but it felt a little cramped. Emi Lenox's art has a real Young Adult indie vibe to it, like she's drawing character types she knew in school, just a few years ago. It's readily distinguished from Jeff Lemire's "backup story" (for lack of a better description), but the two styles are quite compatible.
I started picking this up but dropped it, mostly because of money but a lot because the story was so slow and each issue was very sparse. I kept waiting for something to really happen and nothing did.
That goes to the pacing, I think. In collected form I wasn't as aware of the sparseness, but I was still surprised when it ended rather abruptly. Too bad you gave up before the end, though, because things really did happen!
I had a feeling it would, but by then money was getting too tight to hang onto the little things.
I also felt that this one moved a little slow. I love Jeff Lemire's writing, but the "slow, quiet burn" is kind of a thing that runs through some of his work (not all, but some), especially when he's writing something of his own. Plutona did pick up, though.
That said, I was saying elsewhere not long ago that his self-owned stuff tends to be "depressed people in the snow", which is fine, and clearly something I like reading. I do find the need to read something more uplifting after finishing a Lemire book!
He fooled you this time: no snow! He did manage to work in woods in what looks like Autumn.