Written by Daniel Bell, art by Katja Lindblom, Iain Buchanan, Daniel Bell
Yes, PT Barnum presents…. yes, the same PT Barnum who runs the circus. Except in here, it’s the Psircus he’s running, the Psircus being a way for writer (and sometime artist) Daniel Bell to shoehorn PT Barnum into his comic in a sort of weird Professor X (less wheelchair, more elephants perhaps?) fashion, the leader of a secret society of psychics, and secret saviour of the world.
Once you get over that bizarre, slightly off-putting inclusion, what we have here is 28 pages of comic, and three stories that deliver this Psi-sage really rather well. It’s by no means perfect sure, but for what it is, for what it’s trying to be, it does a fair job.
Kathy and Icarus are two girls with psi-powers, and in the three short tales we get a couple of origins of sorts, and a joint mission. What I thought was handled particularly well was Bell’s control of his storyline. He’s obviously got something bigger he’s trying to tell through this and hopefully future issues, but he understands that to tell what he want to he has to tell the smaller stories first, establish his characters, work them into the plot, and if he’s clever enough, he can combine all of that into these 28 pages.
Quick answer – yes, he’s clever enough.
(Kathy Isn’t Right by Daniel Bell and Katja Lindblom)
Kathy’s tale involves young Kathy breaking out of the mental hospital she’s been incarcerated in to deal with what they see as her paranoid schizophrenia, but actually is her massive psychic power.
She’s part of a power struggle between the afore-mentioned Barnum and some other, unseen force that calls to Kathy to escape. And this is very much her first meeting with Barnum, her introduction to the world she’s to inhabit in the future.
(Icarus by Daniel Bell and Iain Buchanan)
Icarus’ tale has something of the Leon about it; the young girl being apprenticed in the ways of the professional assassin. Or at least that’s what she thinks she’s doing.
In actual fact, she’s a powerful telekinetic, and her trainer is more concerned with the power of her brain than he is the power of the gun. I could tell you more, but that’s a sweet twist in the story that’s yours to discover.
(The Pull by Daniel Bell)
Finally, in story three – The Pull – we get to see a little of the girls in action now, what feels like a few years after their individual origin-ish stories. Now they’re working for Barnum’s Psi-operation and out on a job tracking down a particular piece of lowlife with low level psi-abilities that he puts to all too pathetic use.
Kathy and Icarus trawl the local flesh pit nightclubs, posing as more prey for this nasty little rapist, and deliver a suitable punishment after a well worked psychic conflict.
Three stories, each one well done, short, sweet, telling a tale within the story, yet also delivering something more, something of the greater saga.
If I had to criticise, it would be over bits of the art. None of the three artists are particularly bad here, but neither do any of them really stand out. Personally Bell’s story with his own art is the best of the three. Too much of Lindblom’s work seems too rough to me, with some panels really making me question just what she’s trying to show me. Buchanan’s art is suffering as it seems to be merely a black & white version of the colour work on Bell’s blog. It makes the tones artificial.
But even as I write those criticisms I feel a little too harsh. What worked best of all was the story, and each artist delivers the story as best they could, without real detriment to my enjoyment. For someone who’s always more story driven than cares about the art, that’s just fine.
There’s some interesting questions left unanswered here, although never to the detriment of the story in front of you. But who is Sunnyside? Who are the girls reporting to at the end of The Pull? It’s not Barnum. Who was Barnum up against in his fight over Kathy? How long has all this been going on? Who is Icarus’ trainer, Barnums’ partner, something else, just another team member?
Just having this many questions and still having enjoyed the comic tells me that it worked, that it’s enjoyable as a single issue, yet full of enough to make me want more. That, I think, is proof of job done for any #1 of a comic. Well done to all involved.
Now, where’s issue 2?