Story by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox
Art and Cover by Emi Lenox
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Published by Image Comics
I was a big fan of Plutona #1. It was an intriguing angle on a popular trope: the death of a superhero. But rather than build the narrative up to that climactic death scene, Plutona inverts the narrative, starts with the abandoned body, and tells the story through five kids who find the body and an ancillary comic book depicting the superhero’s last adventure.
Issue #2 sped along with character development, more world-building, and backstory on Plutona, the dead superhero. Issue #3 is the half-way point in the mini-series of five total issues, and it ends up feeling more like filler than advancement. Little rising action or background on the kids or Plutona is given, and the relationship developments don’t feel true to established character.
The previous installment left off with Teddy standing over the body with a knife. The question of what he’s doing, back in the woods on his own, is left hanging over the entire third issue. Is he attempting to figure out who she really is by cutting off her mask? Does he want a souvenir, since he’s a capespotter? Lemire and Lenox don’t give the answer for another 18 or so pages, and most of what happens in the meantime is thin.
What Lemire and Lenox are attempting to do is develop the characters, show what happens when they’re confronted by a heavy, complicated situation. They introduce this via the physics lesson Diane endures as she nervously waits for the end of the day when the four have agreed to meet back up to bury the body. “…It allows us to calculate how velocities change when force is applied,” her teacher explains. How will the teens change when the force of this secret, this gigantic, earth-shattering secret, continues to weigh on them. Diane bites her nails. She wants to tell an adult, not suddenly be one. Her inclinations in the situation have been squashed in favor of following Teddy and the others in the plan to keep the death secret and bury the body. Lenox colors the scene with green, orange, and gray, the colors associated with Teddy, Mie, and Ray respectively, but no purple, Diane’s color. This illustrates her personality is being overtaken by the others of the group.
The relationships are shifting in this issue. Mie fails to meet Diane after school, and Diane finally finds her smoking with Ray. Mie, not wanting to admit that she’s screwed up, attempts to minimize the betrayal. The strain comes to a head when Ray once again calls Diane “Chubs” and Mie doesn’t defend her, as she did with her fists the day before. Now Mie and Ray are chums, and later they’ll flirt via text messages. This particular relationship development didn’t feel true to the established characters. Mie is clear in the earlier issues that she thinks Ray is a prime-cut A-hole, but there’s no indication of what has changed things. No bonding moment. No inciting event. Is the audience just meant to assume that Mie, under the weight of this situation, would naturally abandon Diane for the class-skipping, cigarette-smoking behavior of Ray?
The three head into the woods, their background becoming black to indicate the ethical morass they’re in and the heavy presence of death they confront. The body is gone. The begin to panic. Then Teddy sneaks up on them, playing it cool. He plays it off like he’s known for an hour and gotten over the shock, though to the reader, who knows he probably moved her, he comes off as sociopathically cold. They check the internet for news of Plutona’s body being found and then split up to go to their separate homes.
Then they text each other. Diane continues to be nervous. Mie continues to be a crappy friend. Ray flirts with Mie. And to be honest, it’s really boring.
Finally, we get the answer to what Teddy was doing with that knife and it’s simply not intriguing. The fact that he invites Mie’s little brother, Mike, to take part makes Teddy seem further sociopathic. Even the few pages of the Plutona comic that cap the issue give only one little bit of information about her.
In short, this issue was a disappointment after the first two. While there are a couple brilliant moments of storytelling, the bulk feels like filler material bridging between the set-up and the climax.