Awake #1 sees Regn, a young girl with the power to heal planets, crash land on a world frozen in ice. With her mentor at her side and a newfound companion, can she save this world? Is it good?
Awake #1 (Action Lab Comics)
Awake #1 is Action Lab’s newest all-ages offering. While the term “all-ages” often is treated as a sign of a comic being “for kids,” Awake #1 never feels limited in its audience, and all manner of readers are sure to enjoy this opening chapter.
The issue opens in media res, as a young girl named Regn crash-lands on a planet that she does not know. She is greeted by a fox, which she quickly names Bashi, and the two set out to find Regn’s trainer, Operi. The large canine-like being is not far, and soon the three find themselves on a path to the this world’s heart. Regn is a healer of worlds, and this one is broken.
This is an interesting premise for the fledgling series to take on, and Susan Beneville’s script is up to the challenge. While there is some expositional dialogue, Beneville never talks down to the audience by over-explaining the premise. While that does keep the issue from being bogged down in background information it also has its drawbacks. The relationship between Operi and Regn isn’t given much time here. It’s clear that the canine is Regn’s mentor, but readers are left in the dark when it comes to how they met, or how Regn discovered her powers. These are things that can be explored in later issues, but the lack of character background here makes it harder to immerse oneself in the narrative.
These issues are only amplified by some transitions that don’t quite work. The big one is the first cut from Regn’s group into the secondary plot of the issue. This plot centers around two young men fishing and sharing stories about their past. The cut to this scene is a bit jarring as the narrow focus on Regn and her group in the early parts of the issue makes one believe they will carry the entire book. The transition back to Regn is also jarring. It really becomes a matter of letting the scenes breathe. Both the lead into and out of this subplot feel like there should have been an extra panel or two to set up the change in scene. Admittedly, this is a matter of personal taste, and some readers may not find the transitions jarring, but those that do will find Awake #1 to be a bit of a bumpy read.
While the transitions don’t always work, Brian Hess’ artwork here is simply perfect for the tone. With a slightly exaggerated style that feels as if it jumped off of a Saturday-morning cartoon, Hess’ work here is great. The character designs presented here are invitingly friendly. Even the menacing foes facing the heroes have an air of liveliness to them that keeps them from being too gritty for the tone of the book.
Brian Hess’ color palette also reflects the tone of the series. For the cold winter skies, Hess uses a combination of deep purples and heavy grays that still impart a sense of fullness that keeps the book from becoming grim. Had Hess opted for a more realistic tone, it may have left these scenes of winter feeling too dire for an all-ages book. The warm oranges of Bashi’s fur also work nicely with the purple of Regn’s attire and the beige of Operi’s own fur, and so while the characters have only just met each other within the context of the story, on the page they look like a team.
Is It Good?
Awake #1 is an entertaining debut, but not without its flaws. Susan Beneville’s script clearly has the foundations for its cast of characters, but while Regn and her partners are endearing, there’s nothing that makes them stand out at this point. Brian Hess’ artwork in this issue will likely be the real draw for readers, with a cartoon-like style that brings some liveliness into the story. The transitions between scenes and the introduction of so many elements make this issue a clumsy, yet lively beginning to the new series.