Open Mike Night - Alters #1

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Alters #1

Written by: Paul Jenkins
Art by: Leila Leiz
Colored by: Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by: Ryane Hill

Published by: Aftershock
Cover Price:  $3.99

Mike Maillaro: Alters is a new superhero comic from Aftershock.  In the world of Alters, a small group of people have been manifesting superpowers; these powered humans are called Alters.  They are basically divided into two camps.  One led by a mass-murdering psycho named Matter Man who says Alters must join him or die, and the other side being gathered by a supergenius named Octavian.  A new Alter has appeared on the scene, a woman with “quantum” powers named Chalice.  But over the course of the issue, we find out that Chalice is actually a teenage boy named Charlie who is working on transitioning into a woman.

One thing that jumped out at me immediately when reading this comic is that I was reminded of a modernized version of real early Spider-Man.  We have a character with a difficult home life (brother with cerebral palsy) and a social awkwardness (being transgendered), dealing with those issues as well as being a superhero.  It’s kind of funny to me because you always hear about how Marvel is pandering to Social Justice Warriors, but this is the closest I’ve seen a book come to really doing social issues in a traditional superhero story.

Mike Weaver: There’s a lot of early Spider-Man style to this, including the working class upbringing...in this case Cleveland instead of Queens.  I was getting the same kind of early Spider-Man vibe from Charlie’s unspecified office job and the people within it, it felt very much like the Daily Bugle kind of office.  There wasn’t so much that it felt that it was copying Spider-Man exactly, but enough that you got that same feel.

This is kind of sad, but the one thing I don’t like in the entire comic is the Chalice persona.  She seems a little too flighty, and I just couldn’t reconcile why she would do half the things she did.  I did like Charlie, and obviously they’re the same person so eventually we’ll get more of an understanding of how the gender dysphoria works, but for now, it’s difficult to follow.

What I liked a lot here was the very low key world building.  They gave you enough about Matter Man, Octavian, and so forth that you understood their basic roles, but not so much that you didn’t have some burning questions still hanging around.

Maillaro: In Chalice, I saw another parallel to really early Spider-Man (I am talking Amazing Fantasy #15).  Early Spider-Man was very different from Peter Parker.  A bit arrogant, a bit showy, a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  “Hey, pal, I’m not stopping that criminal.”   Charlie has to be so subdued to the point of dullness in his everyday life to hide his secret double life, even before he became an Alter.  I didn’t like Chalice as much as I liked Charlie, but I also kind of thought that may have been a little intentional.

Yeah, I loved the little world building elements too.  Matter Man constantly having blood on his mouth really grabbed my attention.  I also loved that the first time Chalice flew, she crashed into a wall and split her lip. It was a real subtle thing, but tied nicely into the idea that “not all Alters come into their powers naturally.”  Granted, this is just a gussied up version of mutants or metahumans, but I think it opens the doors for some potentially cool storylines.

I would have liked to get to know more of Octavian and Matter Man’s “teams,” but I guess that would have spread the focus of this comic too thin.  I complained that Animosity’s first issue felt like it ended just as it was getting good, but Alters seemed to give the reader plenty to think about and enjoy in the first issue.

Weaver: I think we got to know who we needed to know, but yeah, I would have liked even a little name checking to some of the teammates.  Right now, they’re just faces.  I imagine that will change soon enough.

I honestly felt like this comic gave us enough to ground us in Charlie/Chalice’s life, and enough to at least sort of understand the world, but one wonders how the loss of Chicago impacts the American League Central...uh, I mean, it was cool to see baseball still going on despite the world kind of falling apart.  Another subtle thing that I liked was how Chalice goes to New York immediately when getting her powers, it felt like the old “Every hero must be in New York” idea kind of flipped on its side.

As far as scores, I’m going to give the writing a 5 for doing a great job of giving us enough to go on while not going into information overload, and also giving us enough questions to ask that we want to stay around for the answers.  The art was above average, not amazing, but I did like how the members of the two teams seemed different even if we don’t have names yet.  I’ll give it a 4.

Maillaro: Yeah, the art actually reminded me of early Invincible.  The characters in Invincible all had distinctive look, but something about the art always felt a little off.  Very little, but enough to bother me some.  I thought it worked better here, especially the little details between Charlie and Chalice and the other Alters.  I think your 4 is the perfect score.

Writing was solid, and I could probably go a 5 if pressed...but I think I am going to go 4.5.  Nothing here bothered me, but I still would have liked a little more depth to some of the side characters.  It’s probably a petty complaint, but it stuck with me.


Maillaro: Quite a few options for next time...last week, DC launched it’s new “Vertigo” line with a new Doom Patrol series.  Valiant has a quirky little detective story set in 65 AD in Britannia.  And DC is finally giving Raven her own mini-series (I love Raven).  Or Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in Trinity #1.  

Weaver: Of those, I think I would pick Raven, because I’m curious.

Maillaro: Works for me.  See you then!


Summary: Another strong new title from Aftershock.  Takes a very classic Marvel superhero style story and brings it into the modern world.  Making the main characters transgendered worked very well, and the story never feels heavy handed.  

Final Scores

 

Maillaro – Story (out of 5)

Weaver – Story (out of 5)

Maillaro – Art (out of 5)

Weaver – Art (out of 5)

Alters #1

4.5

5

4

4

 

 

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0