Pullbox Reviews: Flying Sparks volume 1 – Superheroes & “Slice of Life” stories brought to high flying life…

When one thinks about “superheroes”, physics students don’t usually come to mind. Chloe would be the exception, having the benefit of an abnormally strong moral compass and the tutelage of her Physics Instructor, Professor Fitch. A genius inventor, the Professor has come up with some fantastic gadgets & doodads, all with groundbreaking possibilities in their application. Like, say for instance, turning an average physics student into a high flying superhero.

As far as origin stories go, Flying Sparks actually has a pretty good one. No mutant genes, no cosmic mishaps, no irradiated mosquitos… just a young woman with the means and the drive to take to the skies, trying to make her city a little bit safer. I bumped into this book by accident, poking around online for another series I’ve grown attached to, Punchline (not the DC supervillain, but a very cool indie comic- reviewed here). That search led me to a crossover one-shot, which in turn led me to Flying Sparks. Having read the first volume, I think I’m gonna have to do another dive to see what else is out there.

Jon Del Arroz (follow him on Twitter) has taken a pretty simple concept- bright young student helps mentor test technological marvels- and turned out a really good story. In raw power, Chloe isn’t in the league of Meta-Man (pretty much Superman minus the copyright infringement), but she’s got courage to spare as she steps into the fight against a steady barrage of super powered badguys. Through all of the challenges she’s faced so far, her biggest has been the dilemma of keeping her alter ego secret from her boyfriend, Johnny Benvinuiti. In this, Arroz has taken a bit of a risk as he splits the story’s narrative POV between Chloe & Johnny, and before too long readers discover that Johnny has a few secrets of his own. Arroz works a pretty fine balancing act in developing the relationship between his two main characters, but where I really got into the story was in his handling of the “villains”. For the most part, these super-crooks aren’t just out to demolish city blocks for the sake of doing it, and their motivations reveal the existence of shadowy conspiracies and human experimentation. That’s a much more interesting plot hook than a guy dressed as a green goblin knocking over jewelry stores (no offense, Spidey).

Just as Del Arroz’s skillset is well suited to his chosen storyline, artist Jethro Morales (Twitter here) has a style that works very well in the superhero comic genre. More classical in his simple lines, Morales makes great use of perspective, panel layouts, & camera angles to show his part of the story. Also, for all that this is set in a world of super-powered people, the focus is still on the interpersonal relationships going on more than the beatdowns. With that, Morales uses close ups and facial expressions to hint at what’s going on behind the word balloons. Coupled with Shannon Ho’s mostly primary color set, perfect for what I thought was a throwback theme in the book, the visuals in Flying Sparks give readers plenty to chew on without going overboard in depth or detail to distract from the characters. Oh, and when the beatdowns do happen, they’re pretty spectacular!

On the lettering, Jaymes Reed does a good job of differentiating between the multiple POV characters and their thoughts. As Del Arroz shifts back and forth between Chloe & Johnny, I appreciated Reed’s work in separating the voiceovers of the two. In many cases, the change was a simple matter of switching the color of the text boxes, but in others there was a sudden jump with no visible clues on the page. Reed made it work, and I only had one break in the narrative until I figured out we were following two main characters instead of just one.

If you like your high flying adventure to have a little more grounding in character development, give this one a look. Since writing up the bulk of this review, I’ve tracked down, read, & enjoyed the hell out of issue #0 & the Punchline crossover. Everything that I’ve seen so far is a take on superheroes that’s just original enough to stand out. In the world of independent press comic books, that one step is all-important.

Final Score: 9/13

From the #0 issue
Supe… I mean, Meta-Man (see, he’s totally different)
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