Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #4: Super Cakes

Kat Leyh understands that the best part of superhero movies and comics are the interstitial bits when the characters are trying to get to know each other. Kurt Busiek once noted that his favorite part of the Lee/Kirby X-Men series was when the team would hang out at the beatnik cafe in Manhattan, and that was a significant inspiration for his Astro City series. Leyh's short collection of stories, Super Cakes, gets at just this series of interactions. The first strip simply starts out as a quotidian strip about two lovers, Molly and May, having a leisurely breakfast together and talking about deepening their commitment. Then May gets a page from her job, which turns out to be as the superhero Tank. Molly is also a superhero named Shift.

The comic mostly focuses on off-days, small moments, family gatherings and the like, focusing on issues of identity and connection. Mai's family is almost absurdly accepting of differences; never mind accepting a non-Asian partner for Mai, never mind accepting a same-sex relationship--this is also a family with a number of adopted super-powered beings. The contrast here is to Molly, who grew up an orphan who was taught how to use her powers in a cruel manner, making her overwhelmed by this much love and acceptance. It's no surprise that the weakest of the stories is the last, where they go on patrol and fight ice creatures, but more significantly meet another superhero. It's perfectly competent in its execution, but the constraints of action limits the way the reader is drawn into the story. This is a light-hearted story that makes great use of color but also revels in its quirky character designs, resulting in a solid mainstream comic.

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