I’m gonna come clean, here — I let Plutona get away from me. That is to say that sometimes comic books fall between the cracks, even more so when your backlog of comics to read is one hundred issues deep, as is mine. By the time I got to it, issue four had already hit newsstands and I had missed issues two and three completely. None of this is to say that Plutona is a bad comic. To the contrary, Plutona is so far one of the best comics of the year and an early favorite of mine. So after I finally worked my way down my read pile to Plutona, I was suddenly and violently possessed by the urge to drive to seemingly each and every comic book store in the county looking for the elusive second issue. A couple of hours and seven shops later, I’d rounded up to number four and dedicated my evening to thinking about how fantastic this comic is.
Written by Jeff Lemire, who you’ll probably remember from books like Essex County or Sweet Tooth along with a healthy roster of DC books, Plutona was co-created with web comic rock star Emi Lenox, who produced one of the funniest and most genuine semi-autobiographical web comics, EmiTown. The constant references to Stand By Me are going to get tiresome as you read reviews for this comic — and, frankly, those comparisons end with the first issue — so I’ll skip over the Stephen King allegory and move straight on to say that this is, quite simply put, probably the best new comic since last year’s Head Lopper. The story follows five kids who, through the magical, inexplicable, and sometimes terrible kind of accidents that only happen in grade school, find the body of Plutona, a popular (and rumored most powerful) superhero on the leaf-ridden ground of a nearby forest.
Superheroes are cool and everything, but don’t assume this is a superhero comic. The true core of this story is in the relationships of its central cast. Diane is a self-appointed outcast who prides herself in her new pug Loki, the leather jacket she painstakingly applied studs lining the shoulders, and her friendship with Mie. Mie is an aspiring ne’er-do-well who specializes in social apathy and ribbing on her little brother Mike. Mike, apparently, just wants to be left alone and is perfectly willing to be the kid who is quiet only because his GameBoy is constantly in his hands. Teddy moonlights as a capespotter, a kind of birdwatcher for superheroes, and doesn’t quite fit in anywhere other than the internet. Ray is a bully and a misfit, although he recognizes some element of kindred in Mie. These character interlock and weave in and out of one another, creating surprisingly complex relationships in the short span of just one issue. And if you absolutely need your superhero fix in a pinch, the comic is concluded with a brief introduction to the titular Plutona, premortem, as she goes about her superheroic business.
Jeff Lemire casts his narrative magic in this unique and alarmingly touching and deep take on the superhero genre. What gets me the most about this comic is how precise and thoroughly the characters are defined in such a short span of time. I’ve read some comics where even after a hundred issues, the starring characters aren’t as well developed as these characters are in just a few short pages. This is the rare kind of story where the characters speak louder than the plot, where the people in the story are incredibly more interesting than the situation they find themselves in. To match, Emi Lenox delivers the art with the same aplomb. A web comic veteran, Lenox eprfectly fuses the innovation and modernity of web comics with the artistry and precision of indie comics. If I had to pick one new creator in the comics arena to put on my watch list, it would be Lenox. Her work is emotive and deceitful in her simplicity — the art in every panel tells just as much of the story as the words do.
In Plutona, Jeff Lemire is giving the superhero genre the same treatment he gave to the post-apocalypse in Sweet Tooth, and Lenox (who collaborated with Lemire on Sweet Tooth #19), is blazing the path. After arriving home from my journey to find that scarce second issue, I sat down and mowed through issues two through four in what seemed like no time flat. Even now, days later, I’m astounded at how perfectly crafted this comic is and the brilliant story it is shaping out to be. If you’re looking for a recommendation you’ve got it. I couldn’t sing this comics praises loud enough if I tried.