In Review: Alters #6

An accessible new story that has the hero growing and a possible new ally introduced.

The cover: Standing among humanity that tries to make its way through the rain, Chalice stands proudly with energy emanating from her. Interior artist Leia Leiz communicates several ideas with this cover: 1, the heroine is easily seen by the reader for identification purposes; 2, Chalice shows just a taste of her abilities with the energy coming from her; 3, the hero is shown apart from the rest of society, showing how she doesn’t fit in, given her powers and during her transition; and 4, there’s a solid tease of recurring characters that begin with this issue’s story arc, but won’t be recognized by the reader until done reading. Good illustration and good coloring for this new beginning. Overall grade: A-

The story: “No Act of Kindness” by Paul Jenkins opens with a mother of two folding laundry in their cramped apartment. Older son Latavius asks if his mother could turn the heat up, as the blanket he’s wearing isn’t keeping him warm. Stating that they have to “pay as they go,” she asks the child to get to his homework, and that’s when the power goes out. The mother calls her children to her in the dark, “Mama’ll warm you up.” They huddle together on the sofa under a blanket. For a moment, they sit in silence, until Latavius asks, “Mama, do th’ flashlight got any batteries? I gotta do my test for tomorrow.” The mother rises, unable to keep a tear from escaping. “We’ gonna eat out tonight. Somewhere it’s light.” It’s obvious they don’t have enough money for the power, let alone to have a large meal. Elsewhere, Charlie is sitting in a diner with her brother. A diary entry shows how Charlie is feeling. It’s been two weeks since the Matter Man was taken into custody. Things are changing, but “We’re all just waiting for the next crazy thing.” He gives a brief summary of what he’s been up to in that time, and not all of it has been positive. Looking out the window, he spies the mother and her children and something happens. After the mistakes Charlie made in the previous are, it’s understandable that she is going to consider the consequences before running into a situation. It was neat for Jenkins to explore a hero that’s actually learned something and is trying to better herself, especially with some new allies. Pages 10 and 11 have a good surprise happen to a character and the reaction that’s given is as solid as the action itself. The final three pages have a meeting occur that does not go satisfactorily for anyone involved. Kudos to Jenkins for the title of this story. I’m interested to see where this is headed. A two-page editorial closes out the issue, with Jenkins broaching a topic often ignored, which provides some understanding for this issue’s events.  Overall grade: A-

The art: The first two panels for this book explicitly set the tone for the family of new characters: a lower end city street (with telling graffiti on a car) and a camp of homeless people. The lack of any decorations on the walls of their room solidify for the reader that this trio is just barely surviving. Leia Leiz does an excellent job showing the characters’ emotions, with the love from the mother and sibling anger familiar to anyone. The transition between the fifth and sixth panel on Page 2 is well done, with no dialogue in the final panel increasing the drama of what’s occurred. The blanket that covers the three in the dark isn’t subtle, but a good choice for some visual commentary. Page 5 nicely sums up the time between this issue and the last, with Charlie’s posture and visage telling much. Page 11 is my favorite of the book for the extreme power it holds and the look on the character’s face that adds some unexpected humor. Seeing the Gateway Army’s headquarters was quick, though it gave me a nostalgic feel for classic Danger Room sequences or just walking through the halls of Xavier’s academy. 15 and 17 have Chalice striking some classic heroic stances and this was a nice change to see in this title, showing she’s a little more confident with her abilities than previous displayed. This book looks good. Overall grade: A

The colors: The coloring on this book adds a tremendous amount of emotion and tone to the artwork. The book opens with some graffiti a color that’s similar to that of Chalice’s costume. This was a good threat towards her, though I admit I’ve never seen this color used in graffiti. Leonardo Pacciarotti really shows how well he can use lighting on this introductory page. Look at how the trashcan fire stands out in the second panel, lighting those around it. The glare from the television really illuminates the room in the final panel. The transition between the fifth and sixth panels really comes to life with the coloring, with the highlights on the characters in the darkness very strong. There are several panels that feature reflections of characters, and they are well done with a lightening of the normal colors. It’s Page 11, I know – again, that is beautiful. The colors make this powerful and I’m happy to see that the colors used are similar to Chalice’s color scheme. The colors could be implying a link. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ryan Hill is responsible for scene settings, dialogue, yells, Charlie’s diary, whispers, sounds, and transmissions. The scene settings are vivid, slickly transporting the reader to each location. I wish other book’s scene settings were as snappy. It’s good to see Charlie’s diary pages printed out. Cursive isn’t employed often in schools, so it makes sense that her writing would be in print. I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t sounds for Pages 10 and 11, because I really wanted to know what “that” would sound like, though there were sounds for this action in the end of the book. Overall grade: A

The final line: An accessible new story that has the hero growing and a possible new ally introduced. The visuals are beautiful and deserve attention, while the story looks to be addressing something avoided in American society. Overall grade: A

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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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