Alasdair Stuart writes;
Amelia Cole and the Hidden War is two issues old, and the changes from volume 1, Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, are all paying off. Amelia is now the city Protector, her predecessor is in the military and everything has settled down. Or has it? Well no, obviously, because otherwise that wouldn't be as much fun. The two strand plot cuts between Hector, serving with the Armed Forces in a very unusual and increasingly desperate war, and Amelia trying her hand at being a superheroine. The end result is crammed full of wit, invention and energy and here are five of my favorite things about it.
1. The Amelia Knight Rises
I've never really had the 'collect comic art' gene but this is the second page from an Amelia Cole book I'd be delighted to own as a print. Nick Brokenshire has a keen eye for architecture, subtly marking Amelia's home out as something not quite American, not quite European and definitively not quite normal. The slight hint of castellation on the buildings, the swirls in the stones of the ledge she's standing on and the shop front sign at the bottom of the page all combine to create something which is familiar and completely different. It's lovely work, and helps re-frame Amelia for the series. She's not on the run anymore, this is her home and her responsibility. And, as any Batman or Torchwood fan knows, the first thing any good hero does is stand over their city looking moody whilst their cape or trenchcoat flaps in the wind.
What's scarier than a small, grumpy dog? An immense grumpy dog rampaging across the city and causing untold damage whilst searching for the largest yellow rubber ball in the world, obviously. The absurdity of the idea is brilliantly handled, especially his terrible, terrible Doom ARF! and that final shot of the huge paw.
Okay, 'To Fight Magically Enlarged Corgis, We Created Magically Enlarged Rubble Golems' doesn't quite have the same ring but you get the idea. The image of a full on Kaiju smackdown between Corgizilla and the newly humongous Lemmy is gleefully ridiculous but, Adam P.Knave and DJ Kirkbride's script balances that with the human cost of the fight. Smart, character-driven action with added Rubble Golem/Kaiju Dog fistfight. Awesome.
The second issue shows us the original Lemmy and then rips our hearts out and shows us them too as something tragic happens to him. This is a crucial sequence, not just for Amelia's love for faithful, Motorhead-vocalist-named companions but for her emotional development. You never forget the first thing you do wrong, and realize you can't fix, as a child. The line about ruining her eyes here is heartbreaking and followed up later by an almost unconscious self-deprecating comment Amelia makes about herself in the present day. I recognize this behavior all too well, and it's the sort of needlepoint, precision characterization that it's all too easy to let slip through the crack with most comics.
Hector the (former) Protector from the previous series is in the background for these two issues but that doesn't mean he's not vital to the plot or safe. The monster interception duties his unit is on (Putting mines in place with wands and levitation, of course) turns nasty, fast in the second issue. This moment comes after the battle and it gives the entire team a chance to show their skills. Adam P Knave and DJ Kirkbride's script does a great job of setting up the tension in the panels down the left hand side, and the off center panel of the explosion is a brilliant way of communicating motion and force. Meanwhile, Nick Brokenshire's once again shines, aided by the color work of Ruiz Moreno and Rachel Deering's endlessly adaptable lettering brings the whole thing together. It's a brutal moment that caps off the first two issues and shows just how bad things are going to get. Amelia may not be entirely sure why she's been made Protector but as the second issue ends, it's clear the city is going to need all the protection it can get.
Amelia Cole and the Unknown World was one of the stand out titles of Monkeybrain's launch and Hidden War continues that standard. The format change, dropping to 12 page (And $0.99 an issue) has really paid off, with the book already starting to play with cliffhanger endings and a faster pace. It's smart, it's ambitious, it's fun and there's a fistfight between a huge corgi and a rubble golem. That's a win however you cut it.
The first two issues of Amelia Cole and the Hidden War are out now from Monkeybrain Comics, are $0.99 each and are available here.