Friday, March 20, 2015

Power Lunch: First Course

Power Lunch: First Course is an interesting take on superheroes for younger readers. It stars a boy named Joey who is the new kid in school and looks a little bit like Clark Kent. He as strange dietary restrictions, and is only allowed to eat foods that are white. He meets and befriends Jerome, who used to be the new, weird kid and looks a little like Jimmy Olsen. He is bullied by a taller boy named Bug, and one of the main plots of the book is about how the duo deal with him.

The plot twists when Joey eats some trail mix (which is not white) and manifests superpowers. It turns out that whenever he eats other foods, he gains different sets of powers. These powers comes in handy when dealing with a bully, but they also might give him a leg up when he tries out for the soccer team (see what I did there? HA!). That last bit raises an ethical quandary about using his abilities, which will get taken up in the second book, aptly named Seconds.

For the most part, I found this book pretty enjoyable. The artwork is clear and bright, and I feel that the story is pitched well to children without being condescending. Its depictions of bullying seemed realistic and upsetting, which is appropriate. But there was one aspect that also bothered me about the ending. It seemed abrupt to me and also troubled me because Joey decides to use his powers to scare the bully into behaving. I know that the message may be to take up for yourself and also to stand by your friends, but I also was left with the impression that Joey is sort of a bully himself with how he handled the situation. Maybe this point also gets addressed in the sequel, but I felt it was a strange way to end things here.

This book is a collaboration between writer J. Torres and artist Dean Trippe. Torres has written a number of comics aimed at younger audiences, including the Jinx series and Alison Dare stories, as well as the autobiographical The Copybook Tales, and a number of titles for the big two comic book companies. Trippe is known for his webcomic Butterfly, his work with the website Project: Rooftop, and his autobiographical comic about dealing with sexual abuse Something Terrible.

The reviews I read about this book pointed to its positive qualities but also brought up some reservations. Jamais Jochim praised the art and pacing but also wrote, "This is a young man learning to use his abilities in at least marginally selfish ways, and it feels just a little off," but added, "This is a good start to a series; here’s hoping it gets better." Eric enjoyed the plot and artwork and also commented that the book had "a great approach to the real issue of bullies that embraces a non-violent, but assertive response." Stephen Theaker offer these thoughts, "Older kids may find the lack of substance underwhelming; younger children might be upset by the bullying scenes. To get a kid’s-eye view, I asked my daughters to take a look, but it failed their first test: 'Is there a girl in it?'”

Power Lunch is published by Oni Press. Comic Book Resources offers a preview here

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