By Brendan F. Hodgdon. Since the dawn of DC’s Rebirth era, one of its most intriguing and remarkable side effects has been The Age of the Imprint. DC’s publishing slate is more multi-faceted and distinct than it has been in a long time, and in the resulting chaos we are being gifted with some truly exciting books. These books tend to have strong identities and are built on stylistic and thematic choices that represent a rarified air for Big Two comics.
Continuing this trend is Eternity Girl #1, from DC’s Young Animal imprint, which tackles heady and challenging subject matter in a heartfelt and beautiful fashion.
In this first issue, Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew introduce us to Caroline Sharp, a shape-shifting superhero otherwise known as Chrysalis. She works for a secret organization called Alpha 13, but is currently on the sidelines after wounding one of her coworkers with her powers. Caroline is also suicidal, despite being an immortal who can’t die no matter how many times she jumps off a bridge or steps into traffic. All of these details are established in a swirling, almost disorienting blur, as Visaggio’s script intercuts therapy sessions (both with a doctor and with Caroline’s friend Dani) with flashbacks full of hallucinogenic imagery. These early pages, in addition to imparting the standard expository information in a non-standard way, effectively draw us in to Caroline’s frame of mind, imparting an understanding of the transitory fugue state in which our hero seems to exist in a visceral and emotional way.
It’s once the (literal) specter of Madame Atom appears that the creative team takes everything up a notch, and the book becomes even more of a live wire. As Caroline’s sense of emotional displacement deepens, she is visited by the ghost of her old nemesis, who tempts Caroline with a promise for the end she yearns for. And while Madame Atom’s ghost speaks of Caroline’s lack of connection to the world around her, and the possibility of undoing the world itself to assuage that deepest loneliness, we see Caroline tumble through a cosmic phantasmagoria of images. We see her become momentarily unmoored from the world entirely, as her former antagonist promises her the chance to be cast adrift for good.
It is in this sequence that Visaggio constructs an undeniable, instinctual metaphor for depression that resonates even if the reader has never experienced it themselves (or that perhaps reveals to the reader ways that they’ve been suffering without fully knowing it). And while there may not be a catharsis at hand just yet, this being only the first issue and all, it is not hard to imagine this team sticking the landing if this is where they’re starting from.
In piecing together this narrative puzzle, both Visaggio and Liew demonstrate a deft hand and careful consideration for each panel and speech bubble. Visaggio has laid out a complicated road map, threading the steady progression of the plot with glimpses of the bizarre, and establishing a reality for Caroline that is both emotionally resonant and existentially unsettling. Liew brings both the mundane and the fantastical to life with great energy and personality. They work in great harmony, and in the process what could have easily become another needlessly-obtuse and overly-vague arthouse comic instead becomes a seamless piece of narrative fiction imbued with specificity and purpose.
As DC’s imprint-o-rama continues over the course of this year (DC Ink, Jinxworld, and more on the way), it might be easy to lose sight of the fact that Young Animal was where it kicked into overdrive. But when this fertile idea factory can provide a platform for a creative team like Visaggio and Liew, to create a series like Eternity Girl, I think we’d be hard-pressed to forget it anytime soon.
DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal/$3.99
Written by Magdalene Visaggio.
Art by Sonny Liew.
Colors by Chris Chuckry.
Letters by Todd Klein.
9 out of 10
Check out this gorgeous six-page preview of ‘Eternity Girl’ #1, courtesy of DC’s Young Animal!