Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox’s “Plutona” #1 introduces readers to a new world where superheroes exist, but they are beginning to permeate daily existence, creeping into news reports on television and inspiring websites and chat groups. In this debut issue, there’s a mystery around super-powered beings that is prevalent from its early pages.
The issue opens with close ups of a battered, bruised and broken body prone on the ground. A fly buzzes around, a leaf blows past. No words are needed to augment the somberness of the scene, as Lenox fills the four panels with just enough imagery to convey tragedy, through nothing over-the-top or hideously grotesque. From there, Lemire and crew introduce readers to five kids with disparate interests and personalities as they all set out on their way to school. Lemire uses their trip to school and the progression of the school day to define Mie, her brother Mike, Mie’s friend Diane, Teddy and his sometimes-tormentor Ray, a resident hoodlum-wannabe.
Despite featuring a cast of kids, this is in no way an all-ages read.
Lemire doesn’t provide complete personal histories or full backgrounds for any of the kids, giving readers just enough to join the story already in progress but pulling no punches along the way. The writer works closely enough with Lenox to describe the households and attitudes of the kids without overtly labeling them, which saves letterer Steve Wands plenty of work. The balloons and effects he provides hit home and nicely accentuate the imagery from Lenox and colorist Jordie Bellaire, who gives the book a natural but cheerful color palette.
Lenox’s art is full of fun and lively figures. Animated but descriptive backgrounds provide plenty of depth and season the tale with hope. Reminiscent of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art, Lenox’s drawings eagerly welcome the readers in and present the story in a buoyant manner. Bellaire’s bright, organic colors work well to enhance Lenox’s drawings and bring along emotional resonance.
A four-page bonus tale, “Plutona’s Last Adventure,” rounds out the first issue, with additional exploration of the titular character promised in the next issue. Lemire handles the art in this story, and his style is similar enough to Lenox’s to fit under the same cover without jolting readers, but different enough to provide a quick visual indicator that the two tales are distinct, although connected.
I was ready to dismiss “Plutona” #1 as “Stand By Me” meets super heroes, but Lemire, Lenox, Bellaire and Wands bring along a balanced cast and fun, lively art. These five kids are on five separate journeys that have led to an intersection. Unfortunately, that intersection crosses the corpse of one of the heroines of their world. Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but I have no doubt Lemire and company are going to make the readers’ journey just as adventurous as the one in front of Mei, Mike, Ray, Teddy and Diane, who are discovering their identities and realizing their connections to one another and the world around them.