Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Matt Cummings
Publisher: Boom! Box
Release Date: July 22, 2015
The Magical Girl genre’s rise was inescapable in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, especially with Japanese titles like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura hitting American shores to become cultural mainstays. Even today, the Magical Girl remains relevant in properties like Jem, the synth-rock homage set for a dual revival in film and comics; Disney’s animated show Star vs. the Forces of Evil has also gained a decent amount of attention and accolades. And now, publisher BOOM! updates the micro-genre with writer Kate Leth and artist Matt Cummings’ whimsical Power Up.
In its first issue, Power Up exudes confidence. It reads like a direct response to the recent influx of Cartoon Network’s 11-minute shows a la Steven Universe, a stylistic choice that’s particularly noticeable in the tone of the book and its irreverent sense of humor. The story falls on millennial stereotypes: Amie, our heroine, rolls out of bed late on the regular. If there’s a more seemingly unreliable hero, I’m not sure who that could be.
Power Up is more familiar than it is groundbreaking, partially due to mixing modern, comedic storylines with decades-old ideas. Kate Leth writes the book from what feels like a safe place—the quirky, unreliable lead; the slightly off-kilter world; the bright magical elements; a strange, shadowy villain. These elements feel standard, Leth reflecting her potential influences without quite making them her own yet. Power Up only lightly touches on what will assuredly become a larger, budding mythology, but this debut chapter only scratches the assumed surface.
That said, Power Up still excels in its self-aware storytelling. With a hyperactive view of the world that doesn’t establish a broader context, the narrative remains quirky, fluid and charming, and certainly sets expectations. The issue also succeeds on the strength of artist Matt Cummings’ fun artwork. With flashes of Yoshito Usui (Crayon Shin-chan) throughout, Cummings’ work brings a sense of revelry and freewheeling wit that keeps the pace of the book even, between the comedic moments in Amie’s home to a later confrontation in which a goldfish gains magical powers. The approach follows in the same animation style of something like the aforementioned Steven Universe or Bee and PuppyCat, but manages to escape the “comic as a set of storyboards” traps of some of BOOM!’s other cartoon-to-comic adaptations.
Power Up makes many promises in its first issue: powerful characters, a diverse cast, unlikely heroes—Oh, and laughs. Leth and Cummings have put together a world comfortable and inviting. While the first issue doesn’t break or reinvent the wheel, there’s still plenty in the issue to delight.