There’s no universally correct equation for a great first issue of a new comic book series. Anything that has worked well in the past becomes infinitely duplicated until it loses its charm. And after thousands of years of narrative, it’s always challenging to begin a story in a fresh and innovative way.
Even though “Casey Blue: Beyond Tomorrow” #1 doesn’t break any new stylistic ground, it uses the traditional Act I structure wisely, establishing the characters and setting before throwing in the shocking twist at the end.
Here’s the set-up (which begins after a brief framing sequence in which we see the burial of Casey Blue, even as she watches her own funeral from the distance — a faked death, perhaps? Or time travel?): Casey Blue, our soon-to-be-maybe-dead protagonist is your typical super-leggy teenage girl who goes to some vague sports practice and has a generic friend and a dad who says “hunky-dory.” B. Clay Moore quickly uses the magic of exposition (via Dad) to let us know that Dad’s a consultant of some sort and Mom’s a realtor. Casey’s older brother, Craig, is an artist who is “taking a semester off” from school. The dialogue is perfectly serviceable as exposition, and it shows the Blue family to be completely average — or at least average for a family straight out of a CW show (beautiful and all that).
Carlo Barberi’s art throughout this set-up phase is also serviceable. It’s a little Humberto Ramos mixed with Freddie Williams II, more the latter than the former. Barberi doesn’t get to show off much in the first half of issue #1. It’s a lot of standing around, talking. Although there is a strange page of some high-tech, shadowy, futuristic stuff that looks like it came out of Duncan Rouleau’s “Metal Men.” But that page is foreshadowing, and we don’t know exactly what’s going on there yet. (But since Casey Blue’s red costume from her funeral-watching scene matches the costume of the shadowy guy standing in front of the future-tech, we know there’s a meaningful connection somewhere.)
There’s one completely ridiculous scene in the issue, at least visually. It’s so ridiculous that it’s either a clue that Blue’s family isn’t what it seems, or Barberi is mocking the pretensions of the average American artist/college-drop-out. Casey’s brother’s apartment — and keep in mind, her brother is supposed to be an artist — has walls filled with photographs of the Blue family and a single canvas on an easel. The canvas shows an insipid fruit bowl still life. Is that what an artist’s room would look like? A college-age artist? Some family photos and a single dull still life? I hope her brother has a back up plan if his “art” career doesn’t work out. But everything in Casey’s life seems a bit too normal. Too nice and sweet.
So that’s when we get to the twist. All of a sudden “Le Femme Nikita”-style, Casey turns into a lethal killing machine. She marches over to apartment 3D and unleashes some hitherto unrevealed kung-fu skills, apparently killing the stranger she finds there (well, he’s a stranger to us, and the in-the-killing-zone-Casey doesn’t tell us anything about him). This is when Barberi unleashes his own skills as well, showing the dynamic compositions he’s capable of.
A typical, innocent teenage girl who has the power to kill with her bare hands and doesn’t seem to know it. Matching red uniforms. Strange futuristic technology. It’s a decent start for a new series, although it’s still just the promise of pending quality at this point. But the first issue makes me want to read more, just like it’s supposed to.