Posted on March 9, 2011 by alanajoli
Available at DriveThruComics.com
A long while ago, Matt asked me if there was anything in the DriveThruComics.com store that I’d like to review, and I spotted a new (meaning new to me) superhero series called Freshmen. The first six issues were up and available, so I requested them and wanted to give them a go. (I found out after reading all six issues that the series is co-created by Seth Green of Robot Chicken and sundry other projects, which makes *perfect* sense.)
Here’s the short of it: due to dorm overflow, fifteen college freshmen are shipped over to live in the science building, which has been modified to create living space. When a lab experiment explodes, their cells evolve — granting them powers related to whatever they happened to be thinking at the moment. The one character who would have loved to be granted powers — the resident comic book geek — is the one character who stepped out for pizza, missing the explosion and remaining powerless. They face all sorts of evil, from robbers to a mad and evil genius to frat boys with super strength. The overall arc is as much about the students learning how to care about each other — rather than wallowing in their own worlds — as it is about the super powers or the main thrust of the plot.
Each of the six issues is narrated by one of the main characters, sometimes more obviously than others. The writers make really good use of that narration, particularly in the third issue, when you can guess who the narrator is, but the voice seems almost omniscient, so the reveal at the end is excellent. The science is appropriately comic booky — the machine that breaks is designed to make cells heal themselves; clearly it also impacts the cells on a different level — and the conceit is believable inside the scope of the story. Most of the characters are likable — and even the ones who aren’t are easy to enjoy disliking. The art suits the style of storytelling. It’s in the traditional superhero style, and the panel work is almost invisible — the art serves the story without ever drawing attention to itself.
It’s hard to imagine this series going too far — a quick internet search shows that there’s a second arc and a couple of tie-between issues — because it would be too easy for it to become just another superhero story once it got beyond figuring out the relationships. But being a college freshman is all about figuring out who you are once you’re away from all the people who have known you your whole life, and learning how to relate to other people on your own terms. Adding super powers heightens those basic issues, which brings the comic together as a coming of age story for a group of characters. It’s definitely worth the read.
Review by Alana Abbott