Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Good Golly, Miss Molly

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 8th, 2013

Molly Danger Book One hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Jamal Igle
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Frank Cvetkovic
Editor: Adam P. Knave
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $19.99 US

Of all the comic-related Kickstarter projects I’ve seen promoted, none has had as high a profile in my corner of the Internet than Molly Danger. Writer/artist/creator Jamal Igle has been aggressive in his promotion of the graphic novel, but in a positive, non-obnoxious manner. I’m pleased he was successful in getting his property off the ground, and in finding a publishing partner in the form of Action Lab Entertainment. Igle’s ambition to publish this creator-owned vision is matched by the scope of his story. There’s a mystery or two hiding behind what at first seems like a conventional super-hero story, but the hinted-at history of the title character and emotional beats in the subplots are impressive in the apparent care Igle took in crafting them. While I found it to be solidly entertaining and charming, Molly Danger should prove to be particularly resonant with younger readers experiencing some sort of alienation, or isolation or major familial adjustment.

A couple of decades ago, an alien spacecraft came crashing to Earth, and the lone survivor turned out to possess incredible powers. With the backup and administration of the Danger Action Response Team, Molly Danger responds to superhuman threats — known as “supermechs” — that traditional authorities can’t handle. Beloved the world over, Molly’s life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. D.A.R.T. management enforces a strict rule limiting her contact with other people. She’s confined to quarters when not in the field and isn’t permitted to even greet fans after a heroic rescue. Her new pilot, Briggs, sees not only a chance to do good at her side, but to connect with his stepson. In the process, he appears to be doing Molly a world of good in the process as well.

Igle clearly derives a great deal of inspiration of influence from the work of George (JLA/Avengers, The New Teen Titans) Perez. Igle doesn’t ape his style, but I was struck by a similar level of detail and expressiveness in the characters. Many panels also put me in mind of the art of similarly meticulous comics professionals such as Steve (Preacher) Dillon, Kevin (Worlds’ Finest) Maguire and Jamie (Young Avengers) McKelvie. Igle’s ability to depict Molly as a young girl at all times is vital to the success of the storytelling here; the only misstep in the title character’s depiction is how she sometimes looks a little taller than she should (she seems rather statuesque when she jumps on the helicopter early in the book, for example). Molly’s look is noteworthy in that what she wears actually looks like clothing, rather than an implausible, spandex-like costume that would never exist in the real world. The designs for the various villains are definitely the most fun aspect of the visuals here, and the action is choreographed incredibly well throughout the book. At times, the art seems a bit looser and sketchier in tone, especially when Igle turns our attention to lesser members of the supporting cast, but overall, the linework is crisp and convincing.

Despite her reported age of being in her 30s, the decision to maintain an eternal youth as part of her character serves the wholesome tone of the book well. While we see Molly’s handlers shielding or keeping her from contact from the rest of the world, the notion that she doesn’t age further isolates her further. Also, the fact that we’re told she’s an adult in a kid’s body makes the developing dynamic between her and her pilot’s stepson more interesting and harder to define. The emphasis is definitely on friendship, and given the overall tone of the book, it makes the notion of some deeper connection incredibly unlikely. There’s an interesting dichotomy between the joie-de-vivre the character exhibits when she’s fighting evil and the loneliness that seems to define her when she’s not on the job.

I’ll be honest — I was expecting something a little heftier than this 48-page story. You hear the terms “book” and “graphic novel,” you picture something a bit thicker. Though it’s a Kickstarter project and has secured quite a bit in sales in advance of release already, at 20 bucks, this book is competing with a lot of other products out there, some that might seem like a better value. The page count here is just a little more than what one would get in two $3 comics from Marvel or DC, so $20 might seem a bit steep to some. Fortunately, the earnest tone of Igle’s storytelling prompts the reader to dwell on each page, to consider the unique quality of this super-hero property. Molly Danger is the sort of comic book or graphic novel everyone’s been saying the industry needs — something appropriate for all ages while not being dumbed down, silly or childish.

Igle has clearly put a lot of thought into this book. There’s a certain sophistication to Molly Danger’s world, but it’s also wholly accessible. There’s clearly a well-plotted out history that spans a couple of decades, but the writer/artist has brought a Silver Age campiness to the project in the form of the title character’s rogues gallery. There’s definitely a layered approach here that suits readers of a variety of ages and interests. The mystery of Molly’s handlers’ overprotective and secretive policies really had me wanting to know more of what’s going on, while the heroic action of battles with weird and colorful villains pleased my inner child to no end. But what provides the book’s real strength is Igle’s focus on ordinary conflicts: Molly’s fervent desire for normalcy and friendship, Briggs’ struggle to connect with his stepson and the child’s inability to accept a new direction in his life. These are all relatable, grounded ideas, and they make one care about the characters, not just curious what’s going to happen to them next. 7/10

Molly Danger Book One is slated for release in stores Oct. 15.

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