Ollie Lief is the new kid in town and the new kid at school too. That’s tough enough. but when you add unstable powers into the mix, things just got tougher. ‘E-Rati’c #2 follows our young hero through an average day at school, with all the social challenges that come with this. A character driven, humorous story that will soon have you rooting for Ollie by the end of this sophomore issue.
Ollie Lief, the new kid in town, is still finding his way around. A tough enough prospect when you’re a teenager starting at a new school, but made so much worse by having superpowers. Superpowers that he doesn’t seem to be as much in control as he thinks if the opening page is anything to go by. A scene filled with energy and a glaring red colour scheme that screams at the reader before we instantly cut to a far more mellow and gentler colour palette on the very new page. What a way to start the day!
And its is a day-in-the-life that we witness in this second issue of the AWA Upshot series set in the shared universe established by J Michael Straczynski and Mike Deodato Jr. in their prescient series from last year, The Resistance. Although, as pointed out in my review of the debut issue, this is a far lighter and brighter character and story unfolding. A Peter Parker for a new generation of readers. And, judging by the presentation of the failing Mr Marquez – a teacher who also finds he is gifted – Ollie’s well on his way to getting his very first bonafide arch-nemesis.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Ollie has to get through the trials and tribulations of a day at school in E-Ratic #2, with the first of many challenges he encounters being Kristen. The girl he saved in at the end of the last issue and one who had him on tape doing what super folk to best. But, her approach to trying to unmask Ollie is a far, far cry from anything Lois Lane ever did. I think it’s safe to say that Ollie could do a lot better than her for his first crush. And, one suspect he will before the end of this entertaining 5 issue series.
Kaare Andrews proves he is as good at writing as he is at artwork and one of the few books set in this new universe that is pure unadulterated fun to read. Forget taking over the world, Mr Marquez is happy enough with taking over the school, like some kind of tin-pot Doctor Doom. Andrews’ plays up Marquez’s evil streak wonderfully, giving us the kind of ugly, creepy authority figure Spidey would often come up against. With a moustache to match! A glorious over-the-top vaudeville villain. Andrews’ style has always treaded a fine line between comic book and comical, and for a story like this one, it’s the perfect match. Indeed – and full disclosure here – when I accidentally received an unlettered copy to review, the art was so bombastic, so hyperbolically expressive that I honestly thought this was an all-silent issue. I may not have picked up on then nuances and laughs to be had from the dialogue, but I was certainly able to follow the story.
But, yeah, a lettered issue really did help this book land even more with this jaded comic book fan I may not be the wide-eyed teenager any longer, but I can still get excited when lightning strikes, as it does with this deeply enjoyable funny book.
And, whether you’re young or old everyone will be able to relate to such scenes as the one in which a uniform is introduced to the school. A temporary measure until “the characterless coveralls” get there. As a teacher, I can feel their pain on that score. It’s observational humour at play in this book, but with each set-up, the reader is invited in on the punchline.
A very honourable mention must go to colour artist Brian Reber, who helps set the appropriate tone page after page. Having already pointed to the greatly effective use of contacting colour ways at the start of the issue, I couldn’t have been the only one to notice the same energetic, red palette also creeping back in books ending this issue. It would seem that mr Marquez won’t be the only challenge this untried young hero will face shortly.
E-Ratic is a superhero comic that keeps the super heroics to a minimum in this second issue. But, in its place is some very snappy dialogue, some very relatable scenes of school life as a teen on the periphery of the cool kids, and some great character development. All set against a backdrop of economic decline brought about by this imagined pandemic and the problems that can have on an individual. Especially one as vulnerable and fragile as Ollie’s mother. But, these are all themes that adds a further layer of relatability.
E-Ratic #2 combines all the best soap operatics from your favourite teen TV drama of your youth mixed up with with a good helping of Spider-Man level action, colourful characters and wisecracks too. It’s also the best book to pick up and access this newest comic book universe. You really should be reading this one, if you’re not already. And available now from AWA Upshot digitally or in print.