Before you can ask “who is S.A.V.E.?” Amazing Age #1 throws you into battle, with action panels that keep you abreast of where everyone is in the scuffle. The fight reaches its resolution. The crayons and loose leaf come out. We’ve been inside Sam’s comic book all along.
Amazing Age is a comic Sam made for his two friends, Mike and Violet (artist, Jeremy Massie’s lettering acts as a cool hint). The superhero crew, J.E.T. (Justice Enforcement Team), is based on them. “J.E.T. is a trio,” Sam says, and one that makes S.A.V.E. bystanders to their own fight, when they fly in as a second charge. You’re dealing with heroes, so instead of being insulted, S.A.V.E. welcome the support.
That’s teamwork without ego and Massie backs writer, Matthew D. Smith’s, play by keeping the teamwork train going. Instead of directing readers’ gaze to certain players, Massie opts for panels where you can see everyone at once. When you don’t know who anyone is yet, that might not sound like a big deal, but seeing how they work together as a team leaves so much to look at in every direction. Their robot attackers are identical (and purple, a great color choice by Christine Brunson), so there’s no confusing who’s on what side. The view is unobstructed.
Every character contributes to the scene. There are ribbon lassos and electricity. Speculation over who sent the robots, in-between throwing punches. It’s very casual and unalarming, which again allows readers to gain their bearings and see everyone in their element.
If transitions could be described as attractive, these would be the cat’s meow. Here’s one that doesn’t mark a time jump but tickled me as funny: one of the heroes yell out “Gee!” like a cut off “Gee whiz,” but when you turn the page it’s a name, not part of an expression. In my head there’s a deep, dramatic voice narrating this going, “Not gee but, Gee, the super villain!” and it’s very droll.
What’s not is that Sam’s excitement over his comic has to be broken off. Sam’s family is met with personal tragedy and when we see him again, years later, the trio is estranged. Sam is angry, and the new crowd he’s hanging with can’t carry the blame. They’re not egging him on to be mean. That’s on Sam.
One of the reasons Stand By Me is such an addictive movie is it limits its scope to that pocket of time when friendship is pure. We realize it doesn’t often last but knowing that doesn’t make it better, or easier to recognize. These are the friendships we wish we could replicate, that nostalgia is built on. It hurts when Amazing Age exceeds that pocket so quickly (Mike’s line on the football field especially), but there’s also hope. With some literal magic, and the comic book from their childhood, J.E.T. could get back together. If you have a special place in your heart for eighties friendship movies, this is a comic that plays all the right notes.
Available as part of Alterna Comics’ newsprint line 5/3!