By Ben Boruff
Bradley Adan and Michael Milham have created a comic that straddles the line between two different narrative worlds. Super Ready Battle Armor's left foot is planted in the slapstick absurdity of shōnen manga (少年漫画), but the comic's right foot touches something more mature—something beyond the comedic action-adventure narratives of similar comics. According to the comic's Facebook page, some reviewers have said that Super Ready Battle Armor is "superhero horror," but that label misrepresents both sides of this story. Protagonists of shōnen manga rarely match Western perceptions of superheros, and "horror" is a poor label for any comic that features a character named Professor Insanus who verbally narrates the actions of other characters (once while perched beside the protagonist's bed like a parakeet). Super Ready Battle Armor has the trappings of clichéd manga, but the narrative, when stripped naked, is surprisingly more complex.
Super Ready Battle Armor is about the burdensome powers of Infector (or "Fector," as people apparently call him—but "Fector" is a stupid name, and I refuse to use it). Infector is a manga-style semi-Byronic hero who sports skinny jeans, a flame-accented jacket, and a gnarly unhealable wound on his chest. A supporting character named B.A., Infector's best friend or romantic interest, looks similar but lacks the scar, and that difference is the driving force of the protagonist's story line: Infector has emotionally isolating powers that he does not know how to handle.
This comic has a lesson for its readers, but I am not yet sure what that lesson is. The narrative encourages readers to ask some intriguing questions: When it comes to expressions of love, how much is too much? How should we cope with guilt? Is death a disease that can be cured? Does Professor Insanus borrow more characteristics from Pokémon's Professor Oak or RWBY's Dr. Oobleck? What the hell is a "weaponized toaster glove"? But few of these questions have answers. In fact, the comic's synopsis provides one of the only (sort of) answered questions of Infector's story: "Will he and his friends survive? Probably not..." Super Ready Battle Armor has substance, but the first issue only hints at it.
The comic contains ample amounts of the teenage comedy and melodrama that may be expected of something titled Super Ready Battle Armor—and some readers will not bother to look past those elements—but slapstick action and stylized male bonding do not seem to be the only (or even the most important) aspects of this comic. The comic's narrative flows well, focusing on the present story and often eschewing backstories entirely. Reading Super Ready Battle Armor is like falling down a Slip 'N Slide, and experiencing the panels that end this first issue feels like hitting the grass at the bottom. This issue does not answer many questions about Infector or B.A., but it does not need to. It's entertaining, and it may have a lesson to share. If nothing else, the goofiness of Professor Insanus will tempt most readers to seek out the second issue of this story, which is available for free on the comic's website.
Super Ready Battle Armor #1
Writer: Bradley Adan
Artist: Michael Milham