I’m a big fan of sports anime and manga, so when I learn about new sports-focused comics my interest is easily piqued. Boom! Studios’ Dodge City is one such comic, starring a high school dodgeball team who are out to improve their reputation after a disastrous prior season. The series is written by Josh Trujillo, lettered by Jim Campbell, illustrated by Cara McGee, and colored by Goncalo Lopes with McGee. This month’s issue shows how the team is shaping up with direction from its new captain, furthers multiple team members’ character arcs, and reveals what actually happened during the team’s last season. Does Dodge City #2 juggle all these plot threads effectively? Is it good?
One of the best aspects of this issue is that it touches base with each member of the Jazz Pandas. With issue #1, I didn’t feel like I knew much about the players as people, but that’s starting to change. Amardeep’s issues with illness in his family are handled in a way that feels truthful, capturing the reality of such concerns rather than ramping the drama of them up so high as to feel forced and insincere. Elsie and Drew’s relationship is also handled well, and this issue plants the seeds for major conflicts to come. A new team member, Chase, debuts in this issue, and while we don’t get to know him well yet he has an interesting dynamic with several of his fellow players.
I also appreciate how Huck’s plot points are handled. Much of the focus on him takes place in the backgrounds of panels, where the reader can see his reactions that his teammates don’t pick up on. These scenes do a good job of capturing the frantic nature of sports, where one person can’t possibly keep track of everything going on at once. Speaking of a lot going on, it seems like every team member but Tomas gets some time to shine in this issue. I know you can only do so much in twenty-two pages, but it’s disappointing that Tomas, as the protagonist, has yet to stand out as more than a generic new kid/audience-point-of-view character.
Art-wise, I like more about this issue than I dislike. The relatively simple cartoony style fits the subject matter and tone well. The characters’ facial expressions are frequently charming and emotive, which helps keep the cast likable. The bright coloration is also a solid fit for the story, as it keeps the issue fun and lighthearted. On the downside, there are pages where the color is a lot flatter than usual, which makes the comic’s world feel less developed. This is especially problematic because of how simple a lot of the line-work is; when the coloration doesn’t add significant details the characters often look underdeveloped visually speaking. This isn’t always the case, and the line-work varies in its amount of detail throughout, but it’s still disappointing when the characters suddenly feel less real.
Overall, Dodge City #2 is a solid issue. Most of the Jazz Pandas get some time to shine, and we learn more about what drove the team apart in their last season. The visuals are also more solid than not, and fit the fun tone of the narrative well. I didn’t love this issue, but I had a good time, and I’m intrigued to see what the creative team will do in future installments.