- Posted by Johanna on February 26, 2009 at 7:38 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: by Aaron Williams
- PUBLISHER: Do Gooder Press; $15.99 US
Whenever I think the superhero genre is played out, that the “big boys” have done everything and then some, I get a new chapter of Aaron Williams’ PS238, and it restores the sense of childlike wonder and excitement necessary to enjoy these kinds of stories. That’s because this series is about superpowered kids learning the big lessons as well as the day-to-day stuff. Not only are teachers (and circumstances) guiding them in the use of their powers, but along the way, they learn how to do what’s right and fight for justice. It sounds simple (and simplistic), but part of this series’ appeal is how refreshing the basics can be in a world full of caveat and excuse and prevarication.
PS238: Senseless Acts of Tourism!, the latest installment, takes its characters to Las Vegas. (It reprints #28-33 of the series.) Miss Kyle, the pint-sized teacher of these heroes-to-be, just wants a little time off, but her charges misunderstand and follow her to prevent her making what they think is a bad choice. The makeshift team includes Poly, a Plastic Man-like stretcher; Julie, who’s a bit discouraged she has the same standard set of flying/strength/speed powers it seems many other heroes have; and by mistake, the always-amusing Zodon, a super-smart kid in a floating chair who aims to rule the world and has a bizarre verbal tic. Due to a previous bout of misbehavior, whenever he wants to curse, he comes out with some random noun instead. Really bad cussing leads to show tunes.
That kind of imaginative take on things keeps the basic premise fresh, while the rubbery Poly is an excellent choice to show off Williams’ cartooning chops as she shapes and reflows her fluid form. She’s also got an innocence that makes her quite funny. There’s a cuteness to these little people that keeps things light, yet there’s also subtle depth between the lines.
For instance, Poly makes off-handed remarks about what her parents say that indicate how much of a challenge they’ve had with such an unusual daughter: “My mom always says there has to be a bright side. She says that a lot, really.” Children are little sponges, and Poly’s soaking up her environment without realizing it. Her attempt to pass along her mother’s wisdom (which works as a remark on its own) also sketches a whole background of hinted-at concern and uncertainty. I see a woman sometimes near the end of her rope trying to remind herself of better moments ahead. These kinds of lines indicate how much more of this world there is than just the pieces we see.
The story is layered as well. Zodon is being trailed by a suspicious group of super-soldiers for some unknown purpose, and they’re in turn being tracked by the Flea, a boy who talks to insects who’s being guided by another mysterious adult (this one a hero). Las Vegas in this world has a strict “no fighting” rule imposed on the many powered beings visiting it, which complicates everyone’s plans. It all happens at the Masquerade Casino, where the head wants some help figuring out a card-counting scam as well.
All that’s only half the book. There’s also movement on ongoing storylines about a non-powered child infected with a deadly space virus, a competing school for super-kids with less altruistic motives than PS238, and a court outside time and space to determine the fate of humanity. See, it’s not just the everyday moments with Williams, but philosophical big picture as well. This is what a superhero comic should be.