Review: Steven Universe #1

Steven Universe seems to hold at its core a small boy with severe attention problems. If the comic is looking to mirror the mindset of Steven, then it is working. This issue has nine covers, one main story, three backup stories and a preview of Uncle Grandpa. That’s a lot to take in. In the main story, Pearl is trying to carry a gem from one place to another (not sure why or where), and she is stymied by the rest of the group’s desire to go to the beach. Eventually, a monster appears from the gem and the gang has to play to their strengths to win the day. In theory, it sounds like a pretty good all-ages comic, and it may still be that. But the story in this issue lacks focus, and tries to give away too much for too little. The page limit on the main story leaves it feeling rushed and unfocused, while remaining pretty unfriendly to people not familiar with the universe.

The writing in the issue by Jeremy Sorese felt particularly uneven. While characters would do things that are wacky or zany, they didn’t pay off. It almost felt like he was telling jokes backwards, where the set up for a joke would be after the punchline (e.g. Pearl tells Amethyst not to make fun of her nose before Amethyst has made fun of her nose at all). I’m not saying that a visual gag can’t work; it should just try to pay off with something more complex than “look at how funny this looks.” The jokes, much like the story itself didn’t seem to have any stakes, and they fell flat when they should have killed.

StevenUniverse01_COVER-AThe art in the story is on-point. Coleman Engle does a great job bringing the characters to life and selling the gags throughout this colorful universe we’re inhabiting. Especially compared to some of the backup features, which occasionally look like they were drawn with a ballpoint pen and scanned, Engle’s art truly shines.

The backup features themselves are fine. I’m not one to be huge on backups in the first place, so they have to be stellar for me to be excited, but the ones in Steven Universe are all solid pieces, with one exception. I mostly count it as an exception because it’s about two characters that aren’t anywhere else in the book, and who therefore could be literally anyone to a new reader. It’s a one pager, but it still manages to (literally) not go anywhere.

I love that KaBoom! is bringing these Cartoon Network shows to comics, because it provides a direct line from television to tie-in comic to the whole wide magical world of other comics. It’s been to their credit that Regular Show and Adventure Time have extremely talented creative teams who make the comics stand on their own two legs and work independently. With Steven Universe, it feels like it's still glomming on to the show and worrying more about psyching you up for a different title coming soon than the one you have in your hands. Steven Universe has an undeniable charm to it, but it felt like it was being wasted this month on cheap promotion and a quick comic to get onto the shelves. Fingers crossed for a better issue next month.

Score: 2/5

Writers: Jeremy Sorese, Raven M. Molisee, Kali Ciesemier, Josceline Fenton Artists: Coleman Engle, Raven M. Molisee, Kali Ciesemier, Josceline Fenton Publisher: BOOM!, KaBOOM! Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/6/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital