There's something magical about a comic book that makes you feel like a kid again.
Maybe it's because a lifetime of loving comics can invite cynicism. "Surprises" are no longer surprises when you've groaned through the Xorn-Magneto retcon, or slogged through all the different Earths of DC's multiverse. The loss of life and/or love doesn't seem like that big a deal when you've seen people resurrected from the dead, return after being trapped in a metal bullet whizzing through space, or dimension hop back to your home. Comics fans have learned to never feel comfortable, especially when things are going well for a favorite character. It's hard to love something without a voice in the back of your mind telling you this story is just like "that one time…"
Plutona, by Emi Lenox and Jeff Lemire, breaks out of that rut, convincingly asserting that comic books can still tell stories that make readers let their guard down and earnestly appreciate the adventure on each page.
Lenox and Lemire drop readers into a familiar, Amblin-esque suburb, but one that's hard to place. Kids listen to the radio (the kind with antennas) but use Twitter. Superheroes soar in the sky and have tongue-in-cheek names like C.O.M.bat, but they're barely seen. Plutona, the series' namesake, is one of these superhumans, but she's not the focus of the book.
Lenox and Lemire want to show what life is like for regular kids in a world that's filled with wonder. Most of them do what any tween would: take it all for granted. Being the runt at school, surviving run-ins with bullies, having a deadbeat father — it's all more important, and ostensibly more fascinating, than someone else trying to save the day.
Lenox's art is dreamy. The kids have big, anime-like eyes, bringing believable youth and spryness to the characters. But Lenox also sharpens these features into semi-pouts that bring all the hurt to the surface. Being a kid isn't easy, nor is it always happy.
Even though the children in Plutona don't really care about superheroes, it's a superhero who brings them together. Like the 80s modules of detention, a treasure hunt, a summer vacation — adventure becomes the thing that now links these kids.
The challenge in creating a book like Plutona is making the dialogue sound simple, like something kids would say, but also instilling those voices with depth and purpose. Lemire, who has written coming-of-age comics like Descender and Sweet Tooth, has a gift for this. The conversations are unforced, even when introducing a concept like cape-spotting or conveying the prick of bullying in a handful of words.
Comic books have the potential to make us curious about the world and about each other. The very best ones figure out a way to get through our cynical, comics-hardened skin and grab our hearts. Plutona is one of these rare gems.
Plutona No. 1
Story: Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox
Art: Emi Lenox
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image comics