If you’ve read many superhero comics or watched many superhero films or cartoons, then you know they are mainly set in cities. Gotham, Metropolis, and occasionally real life ones, like New York, L.A., occasionally Chicago, or big international metropolises like Tokyo or London. But who protects the suburbs? And what do people, particularly kids, think of superheroes in the suburbs? Writer Jeff Lemire, who has done big superhero comics like Green Arrow and All-New Hawkeye as well as more intimate stories like Essex County about life in rural Canada, and artist Emi Lenox of adorable, yet vulnerable diary comic Emitown fame kind of answer these questions while framing them in a coming of age story from four distinct perspectives. In Plutona #1, they manage to integrate normal teenage struggles, like bullying, body image, sibling drama, and loneliness into a kind of superhero mystery with the help of colorist Jordie Bellaire, who brings a simple, but poignant color palette to the book.
Characters come first in Plutona #1, and by the time readers reach the final page, they will have a good idea of who Diana, Teddy, Ray, and Mie are in both their family, school, and personal lives. Lemire gives each character a unique personality and set of interests from punk fashion for both Mie and Diana to a kind of hybrid Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe meets bird watching hobby for Teddy to chain smoking and being a wannabe bad boy for Ray. On a superficial level, these might seem like stereotypes, but Lemire and Lenox create subtle contrasts between their behavior around their parents, their friends, and finally at the end of the comic. The best example of this contrast is Ray, who seems like the most unlikable member of the main ensemble, but Lenox gives readers a heart-wrenching look at his eyes as he tries to wake up his alcoholic dad for a work shift. (Of course, he’s trying to bum a smoke at the same time.)
Through their artwork, Emi Lenox and colorist Jordie Bellaire establish both characters’ personalities and give Plutona a strong sense of setting. The comic is set somewhere in between the skyscrapers of Metro City and some idyllic woods and fields. After opening Plutona #1 with a silent and grotesque, yet human image of the dead superhero Plutona with a single fly on her, Lenox contrasts these panels’ sickly mortality with a wide open panorama of trees and mountains. Bellaire gives this double splash page a forest green sheen. Like a strong establishing shot in a film, Lenox grounds the story in a beautiful limbo between nature and civilization. This is almost like the teen years and its transition from childhood to young adulthood.
And throughout the book, Lenox draws the characters like actual kids with a wide range of body types and intense emotions that she conveys through different eyes, each with a different shade from Bellaire. From Mie’s dark brown eyes that are enraged she has to watch her little brother instead of going to a friend’s house to Teddy’s soft, peaceful blues as he scans the sky for superheroes, a close-up of the main cast’s eyes is our first impression of them. And this impression starts to change as her and Lemire’s plot starts to build up towards the end of the issue.
Through vivid, approachable art from Emi Lenox, naturalistic and cutting dialogue from Jeff Lemire, idyllic colors from Jordie Bellaire, and letters from Steve Wands, whose level of boldness matches the characters’ volume level, Plutona #1 welcomes readers into its suburbia with a pinch of superheroics world. And they’ll want to stay because there is probably a little bit of Diana, Teddy, Ray, and/or Mie in each of them.