ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY by Vito Delsante; illustrated by Sean Izaakse and Lee Gaston
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
This was a fun issue that makes me look forward to the rest of the series. The writing was consistent with the tone of the story, and so was the art.
80 %
No major bones to pick
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ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY is fun. Pure and simple.

The comic, written by Vito Delsante and illustrated by Sean Izaakse and Lee Gaston, spends most of its time going through the origin story of Stray, the dog-themed superhero. As a teenager, he helped to form a teen squad of superheroes known as Teenaegis. If any of that sounds confusing, don’t worry. Despite being a continuation of previous Action Lab comics, I never felt lost or scrambling for explanations.

So, why does this ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY work? The characters drive the plot.

READ: If you want more heroes for a younger audience, check out our story on DC’s efforts with Justice League Action!

Fighting Crime is Better with Friends

Rottweiler (Stray’s name as a teenager) wants to fight crime with other super-powered teens. His superhero father, Doberman, initially refuses but consents on one condition: the team his son forms needs to be at the discretion (and training) of the adult squad Aegis. And oh yeah — they better not use superhero antics as an excuse to shirk their education.

So, in superhero fashion, the father and son adventure in vignettes that introduce the reader to the different teens with superpowers that Doberman and Rottweiler recruit. There’s Quarrel, the weapon master from Vermont, and Heavy Metal, able to turn his skin to steel, who hails from Pittsburgh. All of the teens are competent in their powers but show room for improvement. Rottweiler is a good leader, but he lacks technical weapon expertise. Quarrel is a better weapon user, but he may be too idealistic for his own good. Heavy Metal is tough, but he shows a lack of respect for adult authority. Suddenly, an issue arises that the adults can’t solve themselves. Is the team ready to go? No — not by the standards of the adults — but that doesn’t matter. Duty calls.

CLICK: Check out our review of CHAMPIONS #1 to see how Marvel put together its own team of teen heroes!

ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY
Image courtesy of Action Lab Comics

The Heroes Use Action to Show Their Mettle

That’s where the story ends. It’s simple and does the job the first issue needs to: tell how the team gets together and what problem they need to solve. True, ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY is a standard superhero story. It’s also true that the traits of the characters fall into the realm of predictable archetypes found in the history of superheroes. Nevertheless, the story feels fresh. This is because of clear characterization. Nothing is simply told in this story; the characters myriad personalities are shown by their actions or otherwise revealed in what they say.

One of the best examples of this comes when the teen heroes face their trainer. We don’t know a darn thing about the Teenaegis trainer, but we don’t have to; she enters the training room from a dark hallway, draws a sword, and insults their naiveté. It works. The adults could have said, “We need to send in our cold-but-tough weapon master,” but they don’t. Vito Delsante’s words and Lee Gaston’s pens let the exposition sit back and have the character speak for herself. Because the conclusion is grounded in the personal goal of the protagonist, it comes off as natural and organic. And honestly, that’s all you need.

READ: For an analysis of another great young adult in comics, read our article on the new Ms. Marvel!

The Art Changes to Match the Narrative’s Age

The first character we see is Rottweiler as Stray, his adult counterpart. Here, Stray has the typical V-shaped build of a super hero: squared-jaw and brooding eyebrows to boot. Sean Izaakse draws Stray dodging bullets and tackling villains off of building tops. Izaakse highlights the action by cutting the background in and out of the panels — a typical move, but effective for a fast-paced, action scene.

ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY
Image courtesy of Action Lab Comics

READ: Want to see teens in motion? Check out why we think Marvel should make a cartoon for its own teen heroes!

But then there’s a shift. The moment Stray begins to flashback, Lee Gaston takes over. Although there is the occasional odd jaw angle, by in large, the art goes from being very adult-like and mature to a slightly more stylized, cartoony tone. The art is consistent with the somewhat gawky and awkward stage of being a teenager. And that works. The theme of being an inexperienced and unsure teen translates well with Gaston’s more cartoony style. The grit of Izaakse gets erased away, and I like it. A lot.

Final Thoughts on ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY

In the end, don’t expect a deep, challenging, and thought-provoking read from ACTIONVERSE #1 FEATURING STRAY. That’s not what this story is trying to do (although I suspect that’s what it’s capable of doing in the future — if you pick it up, read the intro after you finish the issue). Instead, expect a simple coming-together story that’s a product of good, tonally-consistent characterization that’s supported by the art. The only bad thing I can say about the story is that it ends somewhat abruptly, leaving me wishing for more. If this is the only bad thing I can say about the comic, then I have no qualms about recommending it.

Get this comic on September 6th, and if you can, help support the publisher on Kickstarter.

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