A seemingly malicious crystal specter from Gem mythology is loose on Beach City with no conventional way to stop it and it's up to Steven and his guardians to solve the mystery of this assailant to save the citizens of his coastal home.
Sounds like a pretty standard episode of 'Steven Universe', no? It reads like one too, the tone, pacing, and characterization being very much in line with the successful Cartoon Network program. This third part of a four-part miniseries feels like it could easily be animated into an actual episode to air on television, which interestingly enough is part of the reason I found this comic mildly underwhelming.
The problem is the comic reads like storyboards, which isn't a bad thing inherently, but it is a problem when they are paced so evenly to actual animation time that a twenty-page issue of a four issue miniseries covers the same amount of ground that perhaps three minutes of the television show could have when put in motion. Beginning to end, not a lot happens in this issue and a lot of what is shown feels like it could be compressed in a way that the comic medium is capable of in ways the animation medium is not. It all feels like something that could have been consolidated into a tidy giant-sized annual rather than four financially distinct installments. With licensed comics of existing all-ages properties, creators have the opportunity to tell stories that couldn't be told in the property's home format. With 'Crystal Gems', you get exactly the TV show in comic form, but without the ability to pull something new out of the series lore and not a lot of personal flair.
The art, like the writing, is functional but unmemorable. Intentionally rough and unfinished looking with dirty linework and sketchy colors, its on-model enough to give you the feel of the show but doesn't really do anything interesting with its lack of polish, not lending any individual character to the book.
While I appreciate a lot of Boom's all-ages lines for being some of the better licensed comics from the major publishers, 'Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems' highlights a lot of the reasons I tend to stay away from the miniseries companions to their ongoing titles; asking readers to fork over more money each month for content that often doesn't provide more bang for the buck or stories that benefit or require what should be a highlight format. The miniseries format should be where the property can take some risks aesthetically or narratively, but having worked in a comic shop, I've seen titles like the 'Adventure Time' minis consolidated into one shapeless stack of unsold issues, treated like comic shelf clutter. This comic isn't bad, but with so many titles fighting for shelf space out there, I can't say I blame comic shop owners when these books get lost in the shuffle.
Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems #3 Writer: Josceline Fenton Artist: Chrystin Garland Publisher: BOOM!/KaBoom Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/25/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital