October 2, 2009

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Grounded Volume 1: Powerless

Written by Mark Sable
Illustrated by Paul Azaceta
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[Grabbed a copy of this at SPX, figured it would be a good time to move this review over to Panel Patter with a few adjustments. Looking at some of these older reviews reminds me of how much I've changed as a reviewer.-Rob]

As a kid, if you at all liked comic books, you probably secretly checked for any hints of super powers. Got bit by a spider in the woods? Bet you tried to put footprints on the wall! And when you hit puberty, did you start seeing if you had any other side effects?

C'mon, you know you did, admit it.

That's the situation our hero Jonathan finds himself in--he's convinced superheroes are real, despite all evidence to the contrary. What happens when a young boy keeps trying to make his dream real?

That's how the story opens, as Jonathan moves from silly fantasies--trying to get his parents into a dark alley, for instance--to more dangerous pursuits, culminating in a very painful failure. Gone are the comic books, gone is his social life, gone are all thoughts of the past--until high school.

Reuniting with a childhood sweetheart, he decides to try a different form of dressing up. But before he can have any fun, he finds dad--in uniform--with another superhero.

Not only are heroes real, one of 'em is his own father!

This revelation lands Jonathan in a school for the children of other heroes--there's just one problem--in a world of intangible girls, speedsters, aquatics, and quite literal bullies, Jonathan is just a kid. No powers. While he struggles with this idea and takes his lumps, a dangerous exam is given--all the kids are to lose their powers for a time. But it's more than a test, and when things start turning ugly, only a powerless man can help them. Can Jonathan be a hero with no more power than his brains?

All in all, this is a good story that would have been better with a slightly different ending. I see what Sable was going for, but there's really no reason why Jonathan can't progress in more than one way by the end of the story. The ending is fine, but left me just a bit unsatisfied, personally.

Still, that's a minor fault in a story that takes the heroes out of their usual battles and puts them into high school and parenting--and, well, battles, too. Grounded was a neat idea that I wish would get a sequel.