Steady Beat Volume 1
Steady Beat is a fascinating blend of a wide variety of elements and influences: teen romance, manga, and political drama. Sixteen-year-old Leah has grown up in the shadow of her big sister Sarai. Even when Leah scores an important goal during the school soccer championship, her glory is short-lived, as her varsity captain sister is coaching. To be fair, Sarai gives Leah a chance to demonstrate her skills and responsibility, but Leah gets distracted by a discovery that will change everyone’s lives.
From Sarai’s bag falls a passionate, devoted love letter signed “Jessica”. Leah’s never suspected that her perfect older sibling could be gay, and given that their mother is a Republican senator in Texas, the ramifications might be immense. It’s such a difficult subject for her that instead of asking her sister about it, Leah responds to an anonymous phone caller who claims to know about the letter. Her blackmail adventure winds up introducing her to Elijah, a boy her age who might become much more personally important to her. Not only are Leah and Elijah attracted to each other, but he lives with two dads.
This is a girly thing to say, but the way Rivkah handles her characters’ hair is to be commended. Too many comic artists don’t pay enough attention to styles and what they mean to girls, but it’s an important part of teen life that adds realism. Even if artists give their characters a well-chosen hairstyle, too often they don’t think about how the character might change it for different situations or moods. Rivkah, on the other hand, clearly knows the difference between long hair, really long hair, curly, and wavy. Readers may notice how Leah’s style stays the same but the details of her barrettes change. For instance, during one scene with her sister, they’re symbolic rows of hearts.
That’s only one element of character design, an area where Rivkah overall demonstrates a lot of skill. Her girls are attractive but not exaggeratedly so, and there’s a wide range of personality traits shown. Also fun is the elephant that shows up when characters are purposely not talking about significant revelations; he’s the “elephant in the room”, get it? He’s just one example of the way Rivkah uses visual vocabulary to keep the story moving. She’s also got a good handle on manga-styled exaggeration, using more cartoony versions of the characters to indicate strong emotion.
I did see a little room for improvement. The “waking up next to someone else with no memory” is a bit clichéd, and I didn’t find it at all believable that he carried her through the next eight pages because she’d twisted her ankle (paging Jane Austen). There’s a lot going on here, perhaps a little too much, but many teens will enjoy the feeling of the story going off in all directions with lots of potential for future volumes. Between family and friends, Leah’s got a lot to manage, and she’s so likable that the reader will want to see how she handles it all.
Also included in this volume are a sketchbook section with comments from the author and a lengthy preview of another Tokyopop title. Rivkah has a blog, plus her original webcomic version of Steady Beat can be read online.