By Sam King
Sci-Fu takes a young boy from Brooklyn who likes to “drop sick beats and rhymes” and tosses him onto a planet where he must battle robots with a musical, science fiction kind of kung-fu. The story seems to love combining hip hop, science fiction elements, and martial arts, which I can applaud since it is a unique mix. However, this one didn’t hit the right beats for me, and it felt very messy at times.
Sci-Fu is the kind of story that would probably do better as an animated series with more development time, so you can see the action and hear the music and rhythms. This story is very music based, but this doesn’t necessarily work as well as it could. While comics can do a lot, this one doesn’t seem to hit everything at just the right pitch to claim epic success within the medium. The elements of the story are super fresh, but the story in of itself isn’t entirely. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if the pacing weren’t so rushed. This story could’ve used more of a slow burn approach.
At its core, Sci-Fu takes a kid named Wax, his uncle, his sister, his best friend, and his crush and her cat, and forces them out of New York and into an interplanetary fight he never expected. Wax is 13, and he has a crush that he hasn’t expressed his feelings too because he’s scared. He wants to be the best DJ in the world and happens to be a crazy prodigy of a musical sci-fi martial art. He gets a metal hand for it that helps him, and I guess that’s pretty cool.
This comic is intended for middle-grade kids, around age 10-14. I honestly think that kids who are into mixing, rapping, and science fiction would enjoy this one in terms of content. I don’t think that it can necessarily cross that gap though given the execution. I thought the art was pretty neat. It was cute and bright without being overly cutesy in a “lame’ way, and the color palette works. My main thing is that the pace gets pretty whack at times and some of the rhymes just don’t land. Some of the words the characters throw together don’t actually have a natural flow to them, which made me have to reread them a few times and try to get a rhythm on them. I’m no mix master or rapper by any means, but I do have musical experience, and I can catch grooves pretty well, by ear and in written form. An inability to locate a natural flow here definitely isn’t a result of not having rhythm. There are also several typos, and sometimes it is difficult to figure out who is saying what since the bubbles are abnormal as they include the face of the character talking or rapping when there’s a broader image spread or wider panels and not an exchange shown through multi-panel art.
The comic is broken down into five “tracks”, but things move really fast. It almost moves TOO fast, which doesn’t help character development. Wax isn’t a bad character, but there seems to be a lot of wasted potential with the rest of the cast. There are also familiar tropes that creep in over time, but they are not really done in a fresh way. Cooky P., Wax’s best friend, gets jealous and feels kind of shunned since Wax has to focus on learning Sci-Fu, which is understandable but at the same time really odd. They are in a crazy situation and that is what he’s most focused on? He should want his friend to not get his butt kicked so the planet is not taken over. Sure, he is a kid, and friendships can be pretty rocky over pettier things, but seriously, perspective. It is a crazy experience for a kid for sure, but give kids more credit than this. They know when stakes are high and that superpowers are pretty crazy and can use some working on. “Pirate” Polly is Wax’s crush and she isn’t too important beyond being the girl that Wax likes, until towards the very end. I won’t say what, but even then, when she suddenly gets her own crazy role, it is over almost as soon as it is introduced. We don’t really even know much about Pirate Polly and don’t spend much time getting to know her. She has a cat she really loves, she’s pretty, but how about letting us know what she enjoys, how she really feels about just happening to be tossed onto a planet where music is a weapon? How about why does she even have an eye patch beyond it’s a unique identifier for the character? The sister is rather generic overall and the sibling relationship is pretty average. Siblings make fun of each other a ton and when things get tough, they have your back. I have a sister, I get it, but that isn’t all that there is to being siblings. Give her something really worth doing beyond just hanging around with the uncle and selling ice cream. Sure, she reads books that lead her to figure things out right when they need them in a tight spot, but that is more opportunistic conflict escaping than genuine character development. The uncle is way too chill for what is happening. He seems more like he’s the cool uncle who isn’t used to being responsible for kids than a helpful adult figure to have around in a crisis. He loses his head, just runs with things, and decides that they can use their time to keep selling ice cream to alien robots instead of worrying about his nephew fighting a bunch of robots. Kabuki snowman is cute, but he also isn’t a great mentor in the long run. You want Pat Moriya’s Mr. Miyagi in a mentor, not a silly snowman who doesn’t give you the straight rundown on what is happening to you on a foreign planet despite training you for a life/death/free Earth/alien takeover situation.
The bottom line is that this one just needed some more editing to nail things out and give them a glossy finish. The writer can clearly tell a story, but they just need to finesse the way they go about it. Smooth out the pacing, connect the scenes better, really flesh out the characters and give them a personality that stands on its own and shines. Elaborate in a few more spots and say those rhymes aloud, try them out with some test readers for the flow. A few tweaks and closer reading could have made this comic shine. Instead, it falls just a bit flat. I’d be willing to give a second volume a try, but it would need the following things: a kicking story that doesn’t just retell this initial start, some more development of the characters, and smoother pacing and transitions from event to event. This is the kind of comic that should be checked out from the library first and tested with kids, to know if it is something they’ll enjoy for a while or if it will be just a passing fad that doesn’t hit the right notes with its target audience.
Sci-Fu Vol. 1