By Levi Remington
Misfit City tells the story of four girls stuck living in Cannon Cove, Oregon, the filming location for the infamous children's adventure movie of the 1980s, The Gloomies (a blatant homage to The Goonies). When these girls aren't fending off hoards of Gloomie-loving-tourists, they're tumbling oysters, serving coffee, running the Cannon Cove Film Museum, playing poker with their dog Pippin, or performing noise-punk in their Death Grips x Throwing Muses inspired band. Their small-town lives are uneventful, to say the least. The jury is still out on whether or not these kids actually attend school, though it hardly matters after they inherit a treasure map from the recently-deceased local pirate. Is this the impetus for a meaningful adventure, or yet another misguided attempt to capture youth culture via "randum" humor and hip references? Read ahead to find out!
I didn't grow up with The Goonies on a loop; I have no nostalgic connection with it, nor am I familiar enough to catch any callbacks or references to the property. I imagine many readers will be coming to this book with the same background, and thankfully they won't have to worry about it relying on intimate knowledge of the movie. It's very accessible. Fans of the movie may benefit from some slight nods and relatable instances here and there, but nothing significant enough to alter one's perception of the story.
After my run-in with the disastrous Coady and the Creepies, I'm not sure why I've come back so soon to the Boom! Box imprint. I suppose there's something very appealing about these kinds of books when they're done right. The voice of the youth, the relentless enthusiasm, the naive brand of humor and the colorful characters all add up to something very heartwarming when they're executed well, but they become a irritatingly toxic concoction otherwise. Luckily, Misfit City avoids many of the common pitfalls and delivers some light, solid entertainment with fun characters and a refreshing art style. Smith and Lustgarter's naturalistic dialogue helps make the interactions feel genuine, and it can be pretty humorous too. Each of the main characters occupies a familiar stereotype, but not to an insufferable point of predictability. Instead, the archetypes are just effective foundations for characters with their own unique expressions. Each girl has her own interests and hobbies, and these tie into their general motivations and reactions to the events around them. The group has a good dynamic, and its individual personalities stand out well.
Naomi Franquiz's character designs are not only distinctive, but they are suggestive of personality as well. Each of the four girls has a completely different look and style that is representative of their individual perspectives. Delicate attention is paid to their expressions and body language, lending a believability to the characters that is carried out consistently through the issue. But that's not all, as their hair, outfits and accessories were thoughtfully designed too. Each facet of their aesthetic is an element that helps describe who that character is. It helps a great deal in feeling connected to the story. Also, it has to be said that Pippin the dog is adorable.
Panel transitions are very smooth. The story visually reads without a hitch. Scale is generally very consistent, and the sense of place is well established. Sometimes the backgrounds felt a bit random and inconsistent. They would disappear and reappear at the story's will, substituted by color splotches that work for the most part, but would change for no discernible reason. For instance, going from a dark to light background when the mood, time and location hadn't changed. It can be a bit jarring in its pointlessness.
Misfit City earns a recommendation for those who are interested in stories of the young-adult and lighthearted variety. It's an adventure story from a simpler time, reminiscent of and paying homage to The Goonies. It manages to aim at a younger audience without talking down to them, making it accessible and entertaining for adults of all ages. No intolerable, cringeworthy teen dialogue to be found here, just genuine youth interactions and excellent character designs. The story is just getting started, and I'm looking forward to what it has in store.
Misfit City #1
Written by Kirsten 'Kiwi' Smith & Kurt Lustgarten
Illustrated by Naomi Franquiz
Colors by Brittany Peer
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Boom! Box (a Boom! Studios imprint)