The premise of Power Up #1 is simple: anyone can be a magical girl. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, or not even human. Magical girls can come from all ethnicities, classes, shapes, and sizes. In Power Up #1, writer Kate Leth (Bravest Warriors, Fraggle Rock) and artist Matt Cummings (also Bravest Warriors) embark on their first creator owned venture for BOOM! and tell the story of Amie, a pet shop worker, who finds herself possessing magical powers and chased by a creepy black and white suit wearing opponent.
On the surface, Power Up #1 seems a rehash of Chosen One story formula as seen in The Matrix, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon (which has a heavy influence on the comic), and more recently, Jupiter Ascending. But Leth and Cumming throw in some new wrinkles, like giving Amie authentic and occasionally humorous dialogue and starting to build a diverse cast that includes a very lumbersexual construction worker named Kevin, a mom, and a random goldfish from Amie’s pet store. Leth shows that she understands the life of working a dead end job with Amie putting on a hilarious, if mocking imitation of her uptight manager Karen, who can’t cut Amie a break.
Instead of immediately plunging into a magical girl team-up, Leth and Cummings flesh out the characters through dialogue and facial expressions. Cummings shows that Kevin is a decent guy by having him give Amie a thumbs up for reading on the bus instead of cat-calling or doing something disgusting. Leth gives Amie a fully fledged personality that is relatable to all retail workers: the work self and the regular self. Amie’s regular self is easy-going, witty, and she has a great bond with the guys who work at the coffee shop by her apartment while her work self is a little more guarded while boasting a sarcastic bite. (Cummings is the master of the sassy eye twitch.)
In Power Up #1, Matt Cummings performs the incredible feat of making characters cartoon adorable while giving them actual human proportions. He does this while keeping things surreal and magical, mostly with his color palette. The first page of the comic is a riff on the old Ancient Prophecy trope, and Cummings plays along by giving the page deep, rich colors to go with a cryptic close-up of an eye that will remind readers of the opening shot of Blade Runner. Leth even plays up the melodrama in her narration before ending with a joke and cutting to Amie’s apartment and its soft blue and pink palette. Amie’s work is a sickly green color, but her (and the goldfish’s) transformation sequence is back to the vibrant colors of the first page. And these colors pay off when black and white evil guy comes to town, and the battle between light and darkness really begins.
The characters look natural, the colors pop, and a few panels of the big climactic scene are hard to follow, but Cummings easily rights the ship with a big magical payoff for Amie and Silas the goldfish. He also draws some hilarious, confused brows and eyes for Amie showing Power Up‘s nice balance between being a straight-up magical girl story and a gentle parody of the genre. Kate Leth and Matt Cummings showcase their love for this genre while also crafting a relatable cast of characters and not getting bogged down in exposition or world-building, but introducing just enough conflict and mystery to leave you begging for issue two.
Power Up #1
Written by Kate Leth
Art by Matt Cummings
Published by BOOM! Studios
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Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.