MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 written by Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith, Kurt Lustgarten and illustrated by Naomi Franquiz
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 combines high seas mystery with high school nerdom. Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarten write wonderfully fresh characters that artist Naomi Franquiz illustrates with flare. Life just got more interesting for MISFIT CITY’s young heroines and for the readers alike.
95 %
The Map to Comic Adventure

Combine NANCY DREW-worthy riddles, a female-centric narrative, an ancient pirate treasure, and you have a great starting point for an adventure comic. Adding lively humor, unique characters, and exceptional artwork to the mix makes for an instant classic. Writers Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarten team up with illustrator Naomi Franquiz to deliver a fresh take on a swashbuckling adventure in Boom! Box’s MISFIT CITY Vol. 1.  

In MISFIT CITY, Smith and Lustgarten humorously tackle the 1980s classic THE GOONIES. This film revolves around a group of young boys who must follow a pirate’s treasure map to save their neighborhood. Meanwhile, MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 takes place in an Oregon coast town, where the (fictionalized) movie “The Gloomies” was filmed. This and other pop culture references (including a shout-out to Boom’s GOLDIE VANCE) make MISFIT CITY hilariously self-aware.

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

MISFIT CITY’s heroes are a little different from the boys in THE GOONIES. Wilder and her friends Karma, Dot, Macy, and Ed, are a band of, well, misfits. These high schoolers lead ordinary lives. They have crushes, college applications, summer jobs, overbearing parents, and bullies. That is, until Captain Denby, a strange old sea captain, bequeaths an ancient trunk to the museum where Macy works. A mysterious map and the promise of pirates’ treasure pull the friends into a whirlwind adventure.

The artwork is energetic and engaging. The writing is both punchy and intelligent. Moreover, the comic takes every opportunity to highlight powerful female characters, from the lovable team of adventurous young women to the mysterious pirate, Black Mary.

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“Booty” and Other Pirate Jokes

As is appropriate for a pirate story, MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 does not shy away from the “booty” jokes. And the TREASURE ISLAND-esque plot certainly recycles some ideas. For example, the treasure map includes a contrived rebus cipher. Additionally, the map has “secret” invisible ink codes. Moreover, Captain Denby’s secret hideout, complete with booby-traps, seems straight out of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. 

Smith and Lustgarten are aware that they are recycling jokes. The not-so-subtle references to THE GOONIES (sorry, “Gloomies”) makes that obvious. But the choice to highlight young women as the true heroes updates the more familiar plot points. And a visit from Black Mary’s ghost definitely livens things up. Even without the fantastic mystery to drive the plot, these characters deserve a comic series. Each has her own personality, giving the comic chemistry and depth.

A Stand-Out Cast

Certainly, they don’t pigeonhole their heroines. Wilder’s environmentalist concerns and college goals make her a winning leader. Her friends are just as colorfully written as she is. Macy and her rebel brother are in a punk-metal band, and her songs have appropriately deathly lyrics. Karma has puzzling psychic abilities but nevertheless launches a successful seance. Studious Dot, whose mother is a fiery librarian, is the group’s philosopher. Finally, Ed is the team’s heartthrob lesbian. With this motley crew, MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 has something for everyone.

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

The text’s notable inconsistency is Ed, who drifts in and out of the story as if she was an afterthought. Heck, she doesn’t even make it onto the comic’s covers. Ed is necessary to introduce the character of her ex-girlfriend, who helps the misfits find the next clue on the map. However, Ed is otherwise undeveloped in the first volume. Ed’s disappearing act, while possibly unintentional, is disappointing. As the more masculine-presenting member of the team, it’s a shame that she’s left on the bench. Hopefully, Ed will have a more direct role in future issues.

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Feminist Heroes: The First Treasure of MISFIT CITY Vol. 1

Smith and Lustgarten deserve major props for developing an adventure filled with riddles, ciphers, and even mechanized totem poles. But credit goes to Franquiz’s art brings for bringing spirit to the series. The adventures unfold on a backdrop that mimics the well-worn pages of Captain Denby’s treasure map. The artwork is not without detail. In fact, the meticulous attention to background gives the impression that clues might be found everywhere. Franquiz illustrates with bold lines and stunning character design. In particular, her characters’ faces, with fantastic noses and eyebrows, stand out. Moreover, she brilliantly captures the emotions in each panel. As a result, it is fun to see how the characters respond to the problems they face (such as breaking into and then out of Captain Denby’s creepy mansion).

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

Of course, it can’t be a real pirate story without pirates and “really well dressed evil people,” as Karma points out. Not only does Franquiz create some swarthy images of Black Mary and other pirates, but she also pulls off a Cruella-De-Vil-meets-Harry-Styles pair of evil siblings. Captain Denby’s ungrateful relatives are after his treasure map. Only Wilder and her friends stand in the way.

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

More importantly, Franquiz’s illustrations compliment the personalities captured in Smith and Lustgarten’s writing. For example, Karma’s kind and quirky personality is reflected in a style that’s reminiscent of the adorable KIMMY SCHMIDT. Franquiz also highlights body size diversity within the group, which is exciting to see in an action adventure comic. Despite their differences, the team has genuine affection for each other. Although they might be the biggest misfits in town, their friendship makes the comic.

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Adorable Dogs: The Second Treasure of MISFIT CITY Vol. 1

Before we move on, proper attention must be paid to MISFIT CITY’s real treasure: Wilder’s dog, Pippin. This fantastic companion is the salty pup our team of underdogs needs. Pip plays poker, outruns bad guys, and helps solve the final part of the totem pole riddle. In general, he is the real hero of this comic. So maybe you don’t like pirates. Maybe you don’t like riddles. Maybe you don’t even like badass young nerds solving said riddles. But Franquiz’s adorable dog illustrations should not be missed.  

It’s all these quirky details that add a great deal of character to MISFIT CITY as a whole. Without the illustrations, the story might feel tired. Franquiz brings the weirdness one would expect of a comic about misfits.

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

Final Thoughts: Satisfying Adventure For All

MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 may be home to a few of overused tropes. However, it is an exciting first volume in what is sure to be a thrilling series. Wilder and her friends are lovable and relatable to young readers who dream of adventure. References to THE GOONIES and other pop culture titles give the comic engaging self-awareness. Most of all, the characters – written and illustrated with style and skill – make MISFIT CITY Vol. 1 a standout collection.

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