Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A to Z: K is for Kinetic

Welcome to COMICFLIPPER! I'm Max Barnard, I write about comics (for the most part). If you're new or have just not checked out this site in a while (it's been a while longer than forever since I last updated), this is the 11th entry in my A to Z of Comics, wherein I highlight a comic from each letter of the alphabet in the hope of learning something, encouraging others to read the title, or as was the case last time, suffering horrendous pain from one of the worst comics of ALL TIME. Hopefully you'll stick around for the ride, or at least find something interesting about these articles. Okay, we good? Let's go.

I'm probably not the first person you'd think of when you're trying to name people who like realistic elements in comics. In fact I'm not even the FIFTIETH person you'd think of, but that's more because you barely know me rather than any lack of affinity for realism. Still, once in a while I'm struck by some sort of 'powers-that-be' and really just want something different, that feels like it could be rooted in OUR world, no matter the unusual aspects of the book.

I've turned to many books over time looking for this fix, and for the most part have been left cold. From Kickass (which I swear is the SECOND worst comic book I've ever read) and its unrealistic physics and hilariously pathetic pandering, to Scott Pilgrim, which whilst brilliant just feels too disconnected from reality and silly to sate my need for a realistic comic. There's the occasional gem like Phonogram that feels so realistic I might actually start believing in Phonomancy and the power of music, and indeed the book I'm about to go on about now.

That book is Kinetic and SOCKAMAGEE is this stuff brilliant.

Kinetic is an 8-issue limited series from DC's now entirely defunct DC Focus, a delightful little imprint that seemed to mostly be remembered for dealing with superpowers in a non-superhero related manner. To be honest though it's mostly not remembered at all, because no-one bought anything from it, hence it being defunct. The most memorable title from the line was probably Hard Time, a series about psionic powers and high school or something (I don't know, I've never heard of it before shut up), in that it escaped the Focus imprint and managed 7 issues as just a normal DC comic. But I digress, let's look at the plot, shall we?

Kinetic follows one Tom Morell, a high-school aged dude who suffers from no end of medical issues from Hemophilia, to Muscular Dystrophy, and even Diabetes. Basically the poor boy has a shitty quality of life because of this and he despises it. Everyone at school treats him like shit and his mother is far more over-bearing than anyone needs a mother to be at that age. Anyway it all gets too much for poor Mr. Morell and he decides the best solution is to step in front of a truck. Rather surprisingly he survives this without as much as a scratch (which is more than can be said for the truck driver, who rather spectacularly flies out of the truck's cabin). In fact let's break from this summary to show that:


*Ahem* Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, what follows being hit by the truck. Understandably in complete shock from these events, Morell goes home and sleeps. The next day he gets his usual life-saving injection and seizes from it, because as it turns out he doesn't need it anymore, for he's now super-powered and stuff. Later on his mother discovers his powers and after some initial shock completely breaks out of her restricted life, becoming disconnected from her son and finally exploring romance again after so long.

In the meantime Morell tries to enjoy his life now he's free from all his problems and is thoroughly disappointed, and in fact has several problems on the way, such as feeling guilty about peeping on the girl he likes and feeling so guilty he has to tell her. Not only that but in all his angsting he finally realises that the truck driver is probably dead now, which is not only incredibly sad but gives him even more reason to angst (there's a LOT of angst in this). All in all it comes to a head when he realises he used to be special, and has lost that now he can live life like a normal person and decides... to be... A SUPERHERO.... For all of a few pages. Ya know, because being a superhero would be stupid.
Clearly the best superhero mask anyone has ever worn in the history of comics!

Anyway long story short the girl he likes who he peeped on punches him in the face and he has a MASSIVE nose bleed, realises his powers are gone, falls down stairs, breaks his collarbone and his mother takes him to where he first got hit by the truck so he can be hurt by a truck again, in the hope it'll restore his powers. After an interesting conversation between the two he lets his hand be run over by a truck, which totally doesn't work. Finally he reconciles with the girl he likes and they eat school dinner together. The end.

Phew, I really shouldn't recap ENTIRE stories in this thing, but I felt like I really should in this case, simply because it helps to know what to expect. Telling you all about it doesn't spoil the series either, because I haven't explained the nuances in art, dialogue, structure and such. I've just told you the plot beats, and honestly they're the least important aspect of the story. So now you've survived the horrific parts of this article, I'll let you in on some of those more sophisticated elements.

The dialogue would be the best place to start, and will actually be the ONLY bit I'll highlight, if only because I wouldn't want to spoil the entire experience. Every bit of dialogue has the emotion and tone behind it that you'd expect from something with a, y'know, actual auditory aspect to it, which really speaks wonders about the comic in that it transcends the largest stumbling block of the format. Some particularly powerful moments that use this intense power are the flashbacks found in issue two that show the past of poor Tom Morell before that fateful truck hits him. They show strong moments in his past between him and his mother and you can HEAR the dialogue to the nth degree, with timing and tone all displayed magnificently through the layouts and more than anything the lettering. Here's a couple of them:
If anyone says this stuff isn't emotionally powerful I will punch their SOUL with my wimpy sensitive fists

Huh, that might be the first time I've ever made note of the lettering in a comic. Who did it in this? Oh, Pat Brosseau, I've heard that name before. Oh Pat letters Sweet Tooth, another series with AWESOME lettering.

On that note I should actually mention and suck up to the creative team on this. The initial concept and character and such is created by Allen Heinberg of Young Avengers, The O.C. and 'that one Wonder Woman arc I actually liked that wasn't Diana Prince: Wonder Woman' fame. I'm not sure how much I can attribute to his initial premise, so I'll just say that he's a part of this tapestry of brilliance along with Kelley Puckett, co-creator and actual writer of this mini.

Puckett is probably best known for creating Cassandra Cain, the previous Batgirl to Stephanie Brown. That's some pretty massive creative stature there, as Cain was one of the most well-received characters in the recent history of DC comics. But WAIT, that's not all. Puckett also created the BEST Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, whom I've actually read some material of so I can say something a bit more substantial, like ONE OF THE BEST THINGS EVER CREATED EVER EVER EVER. And I don't say that lightly. Connor Hawke is up there with Rikki Barnes, Arana, Lyra and Phonogram as far as BEST THINGS EVARRRRR go... Most of the time. Sometimes he's not, but that's not Puckett's fault.

The art is by Warren Pleece, whom I'd never heard of previously, but have been assured that he is a british artist who has contributed to such titles as The Invisibles and Incognegro, as well as the apparently brilliant 2000AD title Second City Blues. He's a pretty great talent who really should do more stuff that I'm reading, if only because it's easier for me to notice an artist when they're creating stuff I care about. Shove him on something like... um... ON SOMETHING. DO IT!

So, this has been a little slapdash, if only because this is the first piece of proper writing I've done since what, mid-March? Anyway, I'll wrap this up by saying that Kinetic is a one-in-a-million experience, that title you've never heard of that amazes you when you have the courage to check it out. It does little wrong and really knows how to work within the confines of its 8 issue length. You can probably hunt out the trade paperback on Amazon and I heartily encourage you to do so, else never quite understand all this crap I'm spurting out of my mouth. Oof that's not a nice image, I need to go wash my mouth out now.

So that was K, what's next? Oh it's L, and the pornagraphic high-art of Lost Girls. Gird your loins, but not in that way, as it's coming soon!

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