Comic Review: Emily and the Strangers #1

The counterculture icon Emily the Strange has returned to comics with this three issue miniseries starring the black-clad thirteen-year-old and her quartet of equally black cats. Emily and the Strangers has the heroine enter a contest to win the guitar of one of her music icons, but she might just have to learn how to play nice in order to gain the prize. This Dark Horse comic is written by the creator of Emily the Strange, Rob Reger, and Mariah Huehner, while the art is provided by Emily Ivie.  A film adaptation of the character is currently in the works, with Chloe Grace Moretz pegged to star.

Emily the Strange is intellectually stifled; she just can’t seem to find a project on which to focus her intellect. Her time machine won’t stay in the present long enough for her to fix it, her turn-everything-blue gizmo resulted in something decidedly pinker, and she has already made herself an octopus. A radio announcement promoting a song-writing contest to win the guitar of the recently deceased Professa Kraken (“the best musician of all-time”) peaks her interest, and soon she and her four cats are hard at work creating the world’s next masterpiece. Some misfortune on the way to studio, and the intervention of a prodigious young musician named Evan “Stranger” may either make all of her efforts for naught, or allow her to achieve her goal. Oh, and she totally needs that guitar.

Emily is clad in black, has black hair (with bangs), wears black boots, sports black lipstick, and owns a clowder of black cats. Expectedly, she is not the most sociable of girls and, seemingly, the only company she keeps is her cats. Like many an intellectual teenager, she sees herself as more mature than she really is, for example, she flavors her statements with the sort of expressions only a thirteen-year-old would use (what does “drapples” mean, seriously?). She also sees the solution to a broken skateboard to be a roll of duct tape, though I can get behind her logic. Her character is a bit one note, but I can’t help but to enjoy a character that uses the phrase “for the love of physics” when things don’t go well.

Evan “Stranger” is the only character of note, aside from Emily the Strange herself; he is a trained concert pianist who just wants to rock. A bit of a stereotypical punk teen, the character remains a bit cryptic after one issue, potentially being an antagonist or a love interest for the raven-haired Emily, but up until this point he can only be described as one thing: a plot device.

The art by Emily Ivie is sufficient, but is not anything special. Her character designs are reminiscent of the anime-tinged simplicity of Bryan Lee Omalley’s Scott Pilgrim series. The best pages of the work feature the sepia-toned workshop in which Emily the Strange builds her inventions, tries to create her music, and hangs out with her cats (one of whom is named Sabbath). These pages are very busy, and the clutter of the scenes is quite interesting to look at. The artwork seems a bit rushed, considering the later pages have next to nothing happening in the background, but it isn’t overly distracting.

The story is pretty basic, and surprisingly octopus-heavy, but this issue is clearly setup for more eventful fare in the other two issues. The prospect of a battle of the bands later in the story could be enjoyable, but that particular storyline has been used so often it has fallen into cliché, though it is admittedly not one that is frequently seen in comic-books. The target audience of this comic is most likely young adults, probably skewing female, so I might be being overly harsh on the storyline.

Emily and the Strangers is fun enough for what it is, and fans of the character will definitely want to pick it up, but otherwise it can easily be skipped. The art is okay, the writing is amusing and shallow, and the title character is fun and holds the reader’s attention. This limited series will be better for those of the young adult crowd, but older readers and those not familiar with Emily the Strange may not find much to like.



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