Amazing Age #5
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Writer: Matthew David Smith
Artist: Jeremy Massie
Cover: Jeremy Massie
Colors: Christine Brunson
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Alterna Comics is a publisher that I’ve gained some respect for since I’ve first encountered them. This is a company that shows enthusiasm about comics and getting people to read their comics, which is always welcome. It’d be easy to say that part of their success is also because they’ve done well at keeping their comics affordable, which is appreciated in a hobby that gets steadily more expensive. However, much of it is also their willingness to dip their toes into different genres and projects.
This issue marks the final issue of the first Amazing Age miniseries, which has been a five-issue introduction into an entire setting. Although outwardly a kid-friendly superhero comic, this series is more a statement about the magic of creativity and the importance of sharing it with others. In the end, this is a story centered around a kid who grew up with comics, and who used them to get through painful life experiences. When this title remembers this core idea, there’s something promising there.
All in all, Amazing Age is a flawed but valiant attempt at capturing the magic of a child’s imagination.
The cover to this issue is striking in the way that good superhero covers should be. This one is very much a throwback to old-school superhero comic covers that were common during Silver Age and Bronze Age Marvel, and it succeeds as an homage to that period. The dramatic pose of the master villain as he stands over the bodies of his defeated enemies is relatively commonplace in superhero comics. However, it works here because this series is meant to evoke childhood nostalgia for the comics of the past, and it’s an approach that isn’t used as often nowadays. I also can appreciate the use of dramatic text at the bottom of the cover, which is likewise loving and referential to the older style of superhero covers. This cover sets up a dramatic situation, it’s visually interesting, and it works as an attention-grabber.
Jeremy Massie brings a nice blend of cartoonish style and classic superheroes through the visuals here. The layouts do a nice, solid job of presenting the story and the world that these heroes inhabit. One of the challenging aspects to a story like that is presenting a cast of thousands while making them all visually memorable, and it succeeds nicely in that regard. There is also the stylized element of classic superhero comics, but with just enough hint of a child’s whimsy. At the same time, the flashbacks to the mundane world look distinct as well, grounding the setting with a firm reality. The slice of life moments never look out of place, but they’re also recognizable from the action set-pieces. Much of this issue is centered on the epic superhero battle with the arch-villain of the piece, and that comes across convincingly. While there are artistic elements that could use some refinement, particularly some of the sparse background in certain panels, the important pieces are effective here.
The coloring is provided by Christine Brunson, who does some solid work in the interiors. One of the reasons why the two worlds feel so distinct in these pages comes down to her coloring decisions. Everything in the world of Sam’s imagination is vivid, colorful, and larger-than-life, including Sam and his friends. In the flashbacks to the real world, the coloring is more subdued, using shades of gray to illustrate memory. This gives the sense of memory, but it also feels more mundane, offering contrast to the brightly colored world of Sam’s imagination. In many ways, it’s the coloring that gives this book its strongest sense of being a superhero comic, embracing the brightness of the genre.
Unfortunately, it isn’t clear who is providing the lettering for this issue, at least not in the main credits. Generally, though, whoever worked on this is producing some solid results. While there’s a scratchy look to the font and the balloons that isn’t to my taste, they are technically effective and properly presented as they should be. Most of the sound effects are carried off well through the visuals, adding impact during the dramatic moments. I do question the decision to use sound effects during the scenes in space, but it’s nothing that many superhero comics haven’t done, and it might be explainable through the worldbuilding. This is the world of a child’s imagination, and Sam might not necessarily have considered those things. Aside from small nitpicks like this, the lettering holds up reasonably well.
Although the storytelling is extremely earnest and heartfelt, there are moments where the story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. There are functionally two main aspects of this series: the fantastic world of superheroes, and the mundane world that Sam and his two friends come from. However, the story occasionally acts as though the superhero fantasy is more interesting, when in fact it’s the least interesting part of this series.
The heart of the story is not Sam’s struggle to master his powers, but his coming to terms with his father’s death. Reading this series, I was most compelled by Sam’s personal story in the real world, because it’s extremely relatable. This is a young boy who struggles with his friendships and his personal relationships, investing himself in his art. His relationship with art mirrors his relationship with his father, and when Sam’s father dies, so does his creativity. Sam’s journey is about using the superhero world to reconnect with his father by connecting directly with the art he’d thought he’d abandoned. That’s an interesting human story, and where the script focuses on that aspect and uses Sam’s power as a metaphor for his creativity, it works quite well.
Unfortunately, there are times that the story seems to forget this, focusing more on the worldbuilding and the details of this setting. To be fair, this does come across as the world a child Sam’s age would have created. It gets across the unpolished enthusiasm of youth, using names and designs that would likely appeal to a young boy. On the other hand, there are too many moments where the focus is on explaining the setting or establishing its immense cast of characters. In that respect, it feels like there are too many things going on, and there’s so many characters that it’s hard to truly connect with most of them.
Another major problem is that these worldbuilding elements aren’t established at the right time. The writing doesn’t have a good sense of timing, and part of the problem is that there are moments in dire need of foreshadowing. Although moments like Sam’s discovery of his power are satisfying, other details of the setting are established so late that they feel too convenient when we finally learn about them. If, for instance, the special properties of Kroge’s sword had been set up a few issues earlier, the reveal wouldn’t seem like it came out of nowhere in this issue. While it’s a standard storytelling device, there’s a reason why the “Chekhov’s Gun” principle works, and it was sorely needed in this series. Although it isn’t such a serious flaw that it undermines the series, it is one that I hope to see addressed as the series evolves.
To its credit, Amazing Age is a title that reflects Alterna’s passion for sequential storytelling, and it tries hard to deliver a fun experience. There is room for improvement, but overall this is a comic that I was able to connect to at the right moments. At ninety-nine cents an issue, I’d say it’s worth a look if you’re interested in this kind of content. The flaws of this title are forgivable, and the sheer sincerity behind this comic overcomes its weaknesses. I’d be interested in seeing more from this creative team, though hopefully they’ll apply the lessons of this mini as they move forward.
Written by Steve Sellers
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