In Review: Plus Ultra #1

A solid debut that has me intrigued enough to see what happens in the next issue.

The cover: Superhero Plus Ultra makes her debut by bursting through a concrete wall in this opening issue of her title from Overground Comics. Drawn (and I’m assuming also colored) by Matthew Weldon, this is the quintessential superhero cover and it works well. I like the pose and the coloring, and it was because of this cover that I picked the book up and ultimately purchased it. Overall grade: A 

The story: There’s a lengthy backstory on the inside front cover that I didn’t read until after I read the issue. It’s not really necessary to understand the story, though it does explain why the title character is sensitive about certain things that pop up in the issue. An omniscient narrator tells this tale, written by Jon Hughes. I would have preferred that this narrator not pop up so frequently, as this voice isn’t needed so often. The book opens with Plus Ultra doing a photo shoot to earn some money. The narration says she’s not thrilled with doing so, but she needs to make a living. After the job is done, she and her photographer review the pictures; she’s fine with any of them that don’t make her “look like an idiot.” She’s obviously suffering from low self-esteem, and the photog tries to buck up her spirits, telling her “maybe some people say mean stuff on the Internet, but the people of this city love you.” Just as she’s starting to feel better about herself, someone runs into the room saying that “some crazy hot chick is having it out with the cops” online. The photographer wants to see what’s going on, but Plus Ultra doesn’t. However, they all end up around the computer to view the spectacle. Someone’s comment causes a change in her attitude and she goes out to confront the villain. This was an okay story, but there were a few rough patches, such as who the other individuals are, why she’s not as well-known as she seems to think she is, and what her regular costume looks like. I enjoyed the banter between the villain and the hero, with the conclusion of the battle being fairly funny, and the character’s final thoughts a good way to close things out. The story was strong enough for me to want to read more. Overall grade: B

The art: The visuals on the book are by Matthew Weldon and they’re pretty good. His character work is solid. He’s able to comfortably go from the serious to the humorous. His work reminds me of Ben Dunn’s work from the series Ninja High School. Naturally Weldon has got a strong grasp on the title character, with her giving off just the right amount of emotion to make the omniscient narrator unnecessary. She’s particularly emotive on Pages 5 – 11 when she’s driven into action. When she’s resting her head on her hands she’s got a really good thoughtful expression, allowing the reader to wonder what she’s pondering. It’s also good to see that she lives up to her hero name, and she’s a normal sized woman. As one reads the book, her size wasn’t really part of the battle, it’s just one of her characteristics. Moxie is a much more typical looking character in a superhero book, though she comes off as much younger than Plus Ultra. Weldon really shines when this villain is sparking, sending electricity and lightning flying at those she considers foes. The comedic stylings of Weldon comes to light when Moxie is defeated; she’s drawn a little cartoonishly, and it works well for the scene. The extra characters, and I’m including the photographer from the opening, are also cartoonish, but as background characters that’s sufficient enough for them. There is not much background work in Weldon’s illustrations. They occur sporatically; when they appear they’re fine, but I began to notice their absence as the book progressed. What Weldon does with this book is good and, like the story, has me interested enough to return to see what else he can do. Overall grade: B-

The colors: There’s no credited colorist, so I’m assuming this element is also done by Matthew Weldon. This is a strong component of the book, as the colors are really bright. The opening panel uses a stylized selection of oranges and yellows to show Houston, Texas, and they carry over into the introduction of Plus Ultra in the following panel. Oranges and reds dominate the backgrounds for the next few pages, allowing the characters to pop off the page. The purple used for the narrator’s text is a little too dark to read, and the dark blue used for the dialogue on Page 6 should have been a much lighter. The lighting effects used on the characters when they’re looking at a computer screen are really well done, and the shading effects done on Plus Ultra when she reveals herself on 11 are strong. Moxie’s colors are good in every panel, as the white energy she projects are outlined in a pale blue. The coloring is well done on this book. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Again, no one is credited, so I’m going with Matthew Weldon. Scene settings, narration, and dialogue (the same font), sounds, yells, and text on a key item make up the contributions to this book. All look fine, though I wish the coloring had been lighter in some dialogue balloons to allow some of the text to be read more easily. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A solid debut that has me intrigued enough to see what happens in the next issue. A toning down of the narrator and some tightening of the visuals will raise this book’s grade. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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