Feathers #1

Bristling with ideas and bustling with energy, Jorge Corona and Jen Hickman's "Feathers" #1 will entertain readers of (almost) all ages. The Dickensian dystopia of its setting is smart enough for adult readers, touching on issues of class and inequality, while the exuberance and kindness of its protagonists will appeal to younger readers. If the script sometimes stumbles or stalls, the energy of the art more than compensates for it. "Feathers" #1 is another fine addition to BOOM! Studio's robust young reader catalog.

"Feathers" #1 follows Poe, a boy born with hollow bones and covered in feathers, and Bianca, a wealthy girl who escapes to Poe's hometown slum, the Maze, in search of adventure. Though the story is cute enough, Corona and Hickman's kinetic, quirky artwork is the bedrock of the issue. The purple-blue colors and square-edged lines give the Maze a look of dinginess and off-kilter decay, with even the buildings crunched in on themselves. Corona packs the backgrounds with steeples, arches and apartments, so that the panels seem to press the characters in. Yet, it doesn't feel particularly creepy or scary. Corona's stuffed setting looks full, rather than cramped and claustrophobic.

In part, this is because the characters are so active and energetic. Corona's squared, angular figure work is a perfect mix of heft and lightness, and everyone from the sprinting street urchins to Bianca's very proper mother has real momentum. The faces are also constantly moving, expressive and open, and it energizes the whole issue.

The colors also do some heavy lifting, establishing the setting without much need for exposition. Bianca's world behind the wall is bright, with lots of creams and tans, while the Maze is mostly indigos and blacks. This makes it clear that the disconnect between those two worlds is sharper and more all-encompassing than fancy clothes or nice food.

As far as the script, however, the setup is somewhat strange. At the beginning of the issue, Corona includes commentary from two off-panel speakers who seem to be watching the action. At once prophetic and confused, these voices are hard to place and they don't add a whole lot to the proceedings. They also drop off suddenly, adding to my sense that Corona doesn't quite know what he's doing with them. I'm sure the purpose of these voices will become clear, but their introduction was a touch clumsy.

That said, the main characters are clearly sketched and fun to read about. Poe is a likeable would-be hero, affectionate to his adoptive father and empathetic with others. Bianca is obviously sheltered, a tourist in other people's poverty, but she's spirited and generous enough to remain interesting. Most importantly, they seem like they'll be a fine pair of friends. I'm excited to see them adventure together.

Still, I suspect "Feathers" will read best as a full story, when all six issues are collected together. Though I quite enjoyed issue #1, it didn't leave me particularly eager for the next, so the structure doesn't seem well-serialized. However, Corona has clearly thought about this world, the colors are lovely and the writing is clever and kind enough for both adults and younger readers. "Feathers" is certainly worth your time.

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