Jorge Corona’s new all-ages title, Feathers, is, at the high risk of mixing animal metaphors, a horse of a different color, compared to its ilk on the shelves. It’s got a little bit of everything--unreliable narrators, a riches-to-rags story, angelic and demonic symbolism, and really charming artwork. The unfortunate part is that it feels very stiff, though with some time, it could be a whole lot of fun. At the beginning of the story, a young boy with sensitive eyes and covered in black feathers is discovered in a trash heap by a man named Gabriel, who the narrators appear to dislike, or at least distrust. The book jumps forward in time a few years, and the young boy (Poe), is now some sort of Aladdin-style street rat who lives in the Maze, the rabbit-warren of poor folk outside the white walls of The City. When Bianca, the daughter of the lord of The City runs into the Maze alone to see how the other half lives, Poe may have to finally reveal himself--or find himself revealed.
This book suffers from two problems that could be turned to its advantage. Right now, the book has a very specific visual style, lying somewhere between Mignola’s bold lines and Guillory’s wacky, but humanized, cartooning. Corona’s art is truly the star of the book; the issue is that he’s using a story that seems to pull from a lot of really surface-level sources and doesn’t do much work to mesh them together. How many books or movies from the last couple years (or especially movie adaptations of YA books, while we’re on the subject) could you describe by saying “Rich people in the walled-off City are disgusted by the poor people out in the Maze”? I can tick off maybe three or four without really reaching.
Poe and Bianca’s story draws a lot of easy parallels, mostly to the aforementioned Aladdin. Orphan(ish) boy and rich girl explore the big, wide world outside. Sometimes, that works for a book; it brings to mind archetypes and they engage with the reader on a more basic level. This tends to work even better if the work is directly addressing the archetypes and taking them apart or strengthening them. In Feathers, it just feels like a shorthand to get to other parts of the comic that you don’t actually get to in this issue.
That was my only big problem with this issue. My only other minor issue was the dueling narrators. In a first issue like this, when the reader wants to find their footing, having three-to-four separate narrators, some of whom are contradicting each other, makes for a very bumpy read. I had to read the first few pages a couple different times just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and I’m still not convinced I wasn’t. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but at this point, it’s a strike against being an effective all-ages title. I’d like to think I’ve got better reading comprehension than your average eight year old, but I’m prepared to be proven wrong.
Corona apparently started this book as part of his coursework at SCAD, and as a piece created for a class requirement, it’s one of those rare beasts that can stand on its own outside of the critical eye of the classroom. That being said, it could have used some polish before being let out into the wide-open world. The concepts here are interesting, and they feel like they have some weight, but there are some shortcuts in this issue that speak more to a deadline than they do to a burning need to tell a story.
Writer/Artist: Jorge Corona Publisher: BOOM!/Archaia Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/7/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital