In Review: Alters #7

It's the calm before the storm that literally breaks out on the last two pages.

The cover: The falling snow makes it difficult for Sharise to drive her car. Her boys Latavius and Martin are in the back seat asleep. They’d probably be excited to see Chalice flying toward their car, whose image is reflected in the windshield. She looks good, but I would have liked to have seen more of her on this frontpiece. Sharise is startled by the hero’s appearance. Whether she’s happy or angry is something that can only be discovered by reading this issue. This sets up the relationship of all the main players of this book without any text. Nice job by artist Leila Liez and colorist Leonardo Paciarotti. Overall grade: B+

The story: Chalice is sitting in Charlie’s bedroom, looking in a mirror. In a diary entry, used as narration, she says, “I am so over my love affair with mirrors. I used to think the mirror was where I could see myself as I truly am. But it’s not that. Not really. It’s where I always say goodbye to my real face.” Looking sad momentarily, Chalice uses her abilities to enter a quantum tunnel. She sees different versions of herself in other realities. In every one of these alternate universes she is female. “In every version, I was born that way. Expect for the universe I inhabit. Because, of course.” She sees a flash within the tunnel and a pair of legs in sweat pants and slippers pass through. She starts after the figure, but doesn’t catch Sharise, who emerges from her bathroom window in her apartment. Paul Jenkins doesn’t reveal what she was doing because someone bearing bad news comes to the mother’s door. This conversation was expected, given what was shown of this family in the previous issue, but it’s a good way to nudge Sharise out of her comfort zone. Where Chalice goes on 7 was unexpected and welcome. It was painful to read, but needed. I want this character to be well, but it’s never going to happen. The words this individual gives to Chalice were needed and her reaction to them makes her incredibly relatable. The reaction of the character to the day’s events on Page 13 is completely believable and provides the motivation for what’s done next. The conversation that occurs on 16 – 18 is great and I love where it’s taking place. The book ends on a great cliffhanger with Sharise going to make some quick decisions. There’s no life or death action in this issue, no heroics, just characters trying to make their way through their lives which are complicated by their abilities. This was enjoyable, but not earth-shattering. Overall grade: B+

The art: Leila Leiz is the artist for this issue. She begins the book with four horizontal panels that show Chalice’s life as Charlie before entering a quantum tunnel. Notice how in the first panel she’s surrounded by mirrors, which is narration’s focus, but the first face encountered is a wig head stand, which is expressionless, without any identity. This is a great visual lead-in for how Chalice feels. Her frown in the third panel gives a insight into her character, with the next showing her abilities in use. The quantum tunnel would be a budget issue in a film or television program. Under Leiz’s direction this location is easy for the reader to comprehend and continues the theme of mirrors from the story. I also like how the panels in this location are not composed of right angles; these are parallelograms of different angles, reinforcing the chaotic nature of the space. The close-ups of Chalice’s eyes on Page 3 are nice, with just enough of a differentiation in them to make the reaction real. Sharise’s entrance on 4 is really good, with the point of view making it very dramatic. The character that speaks with Chalice on Pages 8 and 9 is somewhat problematic, given how far one can move, but Leiz shifts the reader around like a skillful director, making these pages visually interesting. The conversation on 16 – 18 is also really well done, again, considering the characters are standing still, just talking. It’s the final two pages that have the most dramatic actions, and they, too, look good. The rain falling makes the situation particularly anxiety producing. I’m hoping that next issue allows Leiz to have some action scenes, allowing her to show more of her abilities. Overall grade: B+ 

The colors: The opening of this book has Chalice unhappy in Charlie’s room. It’s a space with filled with dark violets and dull yellows. Outside his room, the colors are like an aged yellow, a tint that signifies the past. Once she uses her powers and leaves this space, colorist Leonardo Paciarotti uses brighter colors to show that Chalice’s world has expanded. There are some really neat lighting effects done in the tunnel, with reflections in white on the heroine outstanding. Pink and violet are the most memorable colors of the issue, due to the dynamic scenes in the tunnels and in-between them. I do think attention should be given to the exterior scene son 10 – 14, with the night setting being created with dark colors, but they are not so dark so as to overwhelm the art. This is the sign of a colorist who knows what he is doing. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Ryane Hill creates diary entries, dialogue, sounds, and the three word tease for next issue. Everything Hill does is great, but the story doesn’t have any heroics to allow for opportunities for more varied text. The diary entries are the most differentiated of the fonts, and it looks great, but it’s just not dramatic. The tease for next issue is the most visually exciting of the issue. This has me hoping that she’ll get to do more next issue. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Everything about this issue is well done, but it’s the calm before the storm that literally breaks out on the last two pages. Some good character moments that are leading up to the confrontation that closes this issue out. Overall grade: B+

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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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