For as long as Eric and his gang of Squeezers can remember, their hometown of Weeville has suffered from a rather unusual infestation of giant insects. With exemplary world building, David Lapham provides both the story and art on his debut issue of “Juice Squeezers,” following the adventures of these preteens as they battle the bugs in secret to protect their friends and family. Lapham lays down a fantastic new story that brings comics back to a younger audience with just the right balance between exposition, character and fun.
The most entertaining — and perhaps the most important — aspect of the issue is the great diversity of personalities Lapham works in throughout this issue. From Billy’s smarts to Eric’s leadership to even Morko’s fright, Lapham outlines a lot of distinct character traits that up the team’s chemistry and the reader’s ability to relate. By emphasizing each character’s individualism, he empowers each of the children in his or her own way, showing the different means by which someone can truly be good at something. What’s more, the kids all interact in a natural, true-to-life fashion, between Charlie’s video game references, Morko’s hyperactive level of exhaustion, and Lizzy’s focus on the job that reflects a stubborn refusal to be reduced to a love plot only. All of this comes together in a way that sets a great precedence, in that it exemplifies the different ways a person can be strong.
From a story standpoint, Lapham does a great job crafting a plot that utilizes the kids in a way that makes them essential to the story. The kids are important to the community in that they are Squeezers, but more importantly they are Squeezers because they are kids; no one else could do their job, even if they wanted to, simply because they could not fit into the tunnels the way the kids can. Again, Lapham reinforces the idea that they are important, even though they are just children; they have an important role in this world and in their society. Although other factors in his world building don’t quite live up as much — like the idea that the bugs’ existence is somehow secret — this validation that centralizes the importance of kids in society is both essential and excellently thought out.
Likewise, Lapham includes some great character design and setting through his artwork. Each character’s figure work is as distinct and careful as their personality, from height to skin tone to facial feature, again reinforcing the idea of diversity and its importance. Lapham created quite the task for himself when he decided to include an army of huge insects, but he impressively pulls off multitudes of bugs without issue. He cleverly includes smaller bugs in the backgrounds of other scenes, nicely introducing an atmosphere that suggests the bugs’ presence is ubiquitous in every form. Lee Loughridge’s colors brighten Lapham’s work, transforming the issue overall into a bombastic, lively world that easily catches the eye.
Lapham lovingly crafts a fantastic new children’s series that will resonate with its intended audience through its secret societies and relatable characters. With fun and guts galore, “Juice Squeezers” #1 is a comic I would have loved to read when I was a kid.