Dodge City #1
Writer: Josh Trujillo
Artist: Cara McGee
Colors: Brittany Peer & Cara McGee
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: McGee (regular)/Natacha Bustos and McGee (variants)
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US
Boom! Studios has become home to a number of licensed properties, albeit perhaps quirkier ones with greater nostalgia appeal. Nevertheless, the publisher also has a solid reputation for indy-type comics, especially those appealing to all ages. Dodge City is one such comic book. Populated by diverse cast of well-realized characters and brought to life by stylized artwork that conveys a lot of action and personality, Dodge City strikes me as the sort of thing we might have gotten if movie director John Hughes was still alive and looking to craft a teen sports comedy. Twenty years ago, this comic book likely would have been printed at a Kinkos on photocopier paper, still finding a fan base but on a smaller scale as a mini-comic. I hope the publishing under the Boom! banner will expand its reach, because it deserves it.
Tomas is new to Dodge City, and he’s looking to make some friends, so he decides to join the local teen dodgeball League, which is all the rage. There’s just one problem: Tomas doesn’t have a clue how to play dodgeball, much to the chagrin of his new teammates, who take the game seriously, just as everyone in the league does. Something unexpected happens though, when Tomas takes part in the latest game. The Jazz Pandas, the losingest team in the league, have their best game ever. However, Tomas discovers there’s as much drama off the court among the players as when the dodgeballs are flying through the air.
The influence of manga and anime on the art style of Cara McGee is undeniable, but she’s not just working in a standard Japanese style. Honestly, I find her work reminds me of a cross between the styles of Chynna (Blue Monday) Glugston Flores and Andi (Skeleton Key) Watson, and I see some Brandon (King City) Graham influence in her work as well. I like that the teen characters look as young as they are despite the varied designs at play. I was also taken with the approach colorist Brittany Peer uses. Occasionally, she isolates certain characters or moments of action with a single tone, and it really grabs the reader’s eye. The colors are appropriately light throughout the book.
Josh Trujillo throws the main character — Tomas — and the reader right into the story. There’s no buildup or exposition; we jump in right in the middle of a game of dodgeball. The script is nevertheless accessible, providing the audience with all the information it needs by the end of the issue to get a sense of not only Tomas’s situation, but some key elements about each of his teammates. The writer also provides a little information on the rules of dodgeball, which isn’t a bad idea, because some of his readers (such as old farts like myself) are decades removed from their last game.
I think what I enjoyed most about this book is the diversity in the cast of characters. Different personalities, different ethnicities all come into play, but it doesn’t feel forced. I was especially taken with the inclusion of Huck, a deaf teen on the team who seems most open to befriending Tomas. Tomas’s quick acceptance of situation makes for a believable connection, and I love how Huck uses his phone to communicate. I found the connections and conflicts among the members of the Jazz Pandas to be convincing, And their mutual dedication to the team enables them to get past any differences. As I read the book, I was reminded of the dynamics from the classic film The Breakfast Club. Fortunately, here we get more than a handful of white kids, but how much more diverse and representative group. What connects them, as opposed to detention, is dodgeball, but the potential for exploration of character is just as real. 7/10