James Patterson's Max Ride: First Flight #1

Writer Marguerite Bennett opens her adaptation of James Patterson's "Max Ride: First Flight" #1 from Max's point of view; readers meet her in a hurried fright and learn quite a bit about the character, like how she processes emotions and how she views her life to this point. From there, Bennett keeps the captioning driven by Max and invests in Max and Angel's sibling rapport while rounding out the cast with Iggy, Gazzy, Fang and Nudge. The latter two have more playful dialogue bits that hint of intriguing personalities but, truly, Bennett serves the story on Max's shoulders.

Like his work on "Katana," Alex Sanchez's drawings in this issue look photo-based but become more than that through gritty overlays that describe the wear and tear this world has endured. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes not-so-beautiful, there are moments where Sanchez's lines -- which were placed for definition or shading -- become significant distractions. One such instance is on the second-to-last page when Max tells Ella to run; the image loses some lines around Max's nose, taking what could have been a beautiful portrait and transforming it into a study of art and color cooperation.

Esther Sanz's colors hover between watercolors and pastels, sometimes providing distinct edges to enhance the drawings but otherwise blending everything together or washing over the visuals. The style works great in Max's dream sequence but not so well on bridge scene that ends the issue. The more fantastical the image, the more spot-on the colors function.

Niggling little details like Sanchez's underappreciated lines, soft colors and the setting make flashback panels look like they fall into real-time; nothing quite differentiates the past from the flow of the present story, which keeps this comic from soaring on wings like the cast does. Those wings are mechanical/dragonfly hybrid ones as opposed to resplendent angelic wings, but there are areas that simply need a little boost to go from being "neat" to "impressive."

As an introduction to a new collection of characters in a universe that is familiar yet different, "Max Ride: First Flight" #1 does a nice job of hitting all the highlights without lingering on the minutiae of ages, direct lineage or exact power levels. You meet the cast, you meet their foes, the plot is assembled over the course of twenty pages and the reader is left to wait for the next issue. Mission accomplished, and with the added bonus of delivering human characters that entice the reader to return for more.

Collected, "Max Ride: First Flight" is guaranteed to be a charmer, but this first installment is over just a bit too quickly. There's plenty of substance, mind you, but Bennett and crew leave this issue with not only a cliffhanger but an invitation for the reader to go back and re-read the story. After all, twenty pages can't possibly move along that quickly, right?

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