November 8, 2013

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Monkeybrain on the Brain: The Double Life of Miranda Turner

When Monkeybrain debuted in July 2012, I took a little time to feature a review on each of the debut titles, which I called "Monkeybrain on the Brain." Now it's home to Eisner winners and creators ranging from Kurt Busiek to Jen and I figured that now would be as good a time as any to revisit the line.

Over the course of November, I'll be featuring different Monkeybrain titles, both new and old. You can find them under the Monkeybrain tag, which includes links back to the ones I did initially.

Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by George Kambadais (with Mike Toris)

The new Cat's career might get blocked before it begins in this opening to a new series that gets off to a fast and interesting start.

Miranda Turner is the sister of the costumed adventurer The Cat, who was murdered for her powers. While her dead sister guides/cajoles her, Miranda's out to prove she can be a hero in her own right. The only catch is that she might be the next target, if the existing heroes don't get to her first.

Legacy heroes aren't new to comics. Once the Flash showed up in the Silver age, writers discovered that creating a new hero from the ashes of an older one had great storytelling potential. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work for a variety of reasons.

Rich takes a different tack on this one, opting to create a legacy character without doing any establishment of the original hero. We know that Miranda's sister was a hero, and presumably a good one, and that she was killed. Beyond that, we have nothing, which means the focus goes to Miranda and how she's able to handle her new role. I like the way that this story has implied back story, which Rich and Kambadais can mine as they see fit--or just ignore and press on with Miranda.

There's certainly no lack of fledgling heroes in comics, so to some degree, the missteps and mistakes you find here aren't going to be wholly original. What makes this one a fun read, however, is a combination of witty banter between the two sisters and the villains of the piece, The Blockheads. Their power is to create and deploy an endless supply of Lego blocks and talk in paired patter. From the first page splash, where Miranda is covered in them like she was trapped in a toy claw machine, they're the kind of villain you want to see more of, and feel a bit bad when their plans are bowled over.

Throughout the story, Kambadais plays with visuals and perspective, distorting the image to enhance one aspect of the panel. His layouts with the blocks are incredibly detailed, frequently drawing entirely more tiny blocks than a lot of artists would have the patience to do. The colors are bright, too, which highlights the individual linework. In terms of overall style, Kambadais reminds me of Colleen Coover, though in more of a pen and pencil style than the watercolor inspired work of Coover. His characters, even the bad guys, often are smiling with small mouths and eyes that nearly sparkle.

The Double Life of Miranda Turner definitely caught my interest and held it, feeling like a book that would fit right alongside those who are digging Amelia Cole or Princeless. Fans of those series definitely should give this one a look. Miranda may have a bright future as a new female hero in the months to come.