A baby is placed with an unlikely protector who shields him from the world. He is unique, strange even, but with the power to be a hero. As he grows and his powers increas,e he is forced to confront the wider world and also the nature of his own being. This path leads him to a potential romance and to a villain who knows more about him than he thought possible. If that sounds familiar, it should: it's the basic plot of Star Wars, Eragon, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Hellboy, Books of Magic, and Dragonball . As it turns out, it is also the plot of Jorge Corona's new graphic novel, Feathers. This is not itself a problem, as these archetypes have been used to great effect time and time again, but Feathers varies so little from this formula that familiarity fast gives way to predictability. This is a shame because the art and humor of the book is worthy of a much better story. In the case of Feathers, the rescued baby is a bird-boy who, after being rescued by a mysterious old man, grows up in the dark alleyways of a city call 'the maze'. The boy, dubbed Feathers, becomes a mildly effective vigilante protecting the homeless thieves of the city call 'mice'. Meanwhile a cloaked man with hypnotic music steals children off the street and searches for Feathers. The Mice blame the missing children on Feathers, dubbing him 'the ghost', despite his heroic nature. The main plot of the book is kicked off when the king's daughter escapes from the walled central portion of the city in the maze and becomes friends with Feathers. She explain to him the religious myth of a feathered guide that might explain who Feathers is or where he came from.
All this serves to create a mythology, but it never is quite as inventive as I would like it to be. The religious aspect is never explored, and a number of important plot points are ignored in favor of some repetitive (and again, overly familiar) character beats. Feathers chafes at being secluded, distrusts his guardian, gets into trouble, and saves the day. The princess escapes her strict duities, and betrays her naively good heart. The villain hints obliquely at knowledge of Feathers past and his ongoing nefarious deeds. This class formula never manages to emphasize the creative aspects of the book that could set it apart. Instead of developing the interesting concept of a maze city with a walled-off center, the book more often than not falls into generic fantasy tropes (royalty, guards, street markets, charming urchins, and vague mystics).
All these downsides would serve to weigh the comic down (get it, because it's called Feathers), but Jorge Corona manages to bring a little characterization to the story through his art and script. The design of Feathers himself is immediately memorable--he's rendered as a wiry black figure in exaggeratedly large goggles (his comical appearance highlights the ridiculousness of the city's children fearing him). Further, while Feather's relationships with his father (only ever referred to as 'pop'), the princess, and the leader of the Mice are not exactly original, they are depicted with a sense of humor and warmth that makes the book fun to read.
As a final upside to Feathers, Corona is at times willing to let things get pleasantly dark--giving stakes to a story that could easily have none. This sophistication of storytelling is perhaps the reason I wanted Feathers to be more original and daring than it ended up being. Good children's books are few and far between, especially ones with as much potential as Feathers. As it stands, the playful Feathers would make a great Christmas gift for any new comics reader even if it may not give adults as much to chew on.
Feathers Author/Illustrator: Jorge Corona Publisher: Archaia/ Boom! Studios Price: $24.99 Release Date: 12/02/15 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital