Review: The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury Vol. 1

There are so many adventures in Archaia Entertainment’s The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury Volume 1: Time Runs Out that writer Brandon Thomas doesn’t really bother with much in the way of set up.  Even in the seven introductory pages of backstory, the title character is dropped right in the middle of her first big crazy future-science fracas at the age of 10.  Even at that young age, she proves to be what she’s billed as – “the greatest science adventurer in this or any other galaxy” – and that’s the way Thomas wants it.

In the afterword to the graphic novel, Thomas explains that Mercury was designed to be an epic ode to the myth of impossibility, which is why she spends the vast majority of this book overcoming insurmountable odds with aplomb and barely breaking a sweat.  That sounds like the complete antithesis to Thomas’ experience in getting this book finished in the first place, claiming it took five years of dedication in the face of constant setbacks and naysaying to bring his new heroine into the pantheon as one of the very few black female lead characters in the entire medium.  That resistance is sadly unsurprising but hopefully lessening as each year goes by, and the dynamic Ms. Mercury is well and truly welcome.  Lest you think it’s some kind of preachy thing, think again.  This is the far-flung future, where racism is barely even mentioned, and even then, it’s as an ancient relic of a foolish time that Miranda’s grandfather James had to be plucked from so his genius wouldn’t be lost before it could be found.

No, this book is all about the derring-do of Miranda and her partner, Jack Warning, dubbed “The Boy With The Golden Brain.”  While the setting and high-tech intergalactic futuristic fantasticness brings to mind the Legion of Super-Heroes, for the bulk of the book, it’s pretty much just this brainiac twosome bringing defeat to bad guys everywhere, and help to the downtrodden wherever it’s needed.  Miranda’s storied family is in the intro and start to show up again towards the end, but we never really leave this dynamite duo, and they, in turn, never leave their job.  There’s virtually no downtime for them at all throughout the entire book, and when they do get a chance to breathe, it’s because they’re being held captive and tortured and finally forced to confront the main reason for all this breathless abandon – the fact that Miranda Mercury is dying.

This extremely kinetic take on the writing can be a double-edged sword.  On one hand, there are times when you really wish Thomas would slow down a bit and give us time to get to know who these characters are.  For instance, we don’t really get any insight into Miranda Mercury’s head until page 128 of a 173 page story, although it’s to Thomas’ credit that we’re still interested in finding out what makes her tick after 127 pages of sheer action-adventure, and once we do get in, it brings home the gravitas we’ve been itching for.  There are also moments wherein the absolute assurance of victory every time out undercuts the intensity of Miranda’s various predicaments, since she’s all about proving the impossible possible.  Then there are those occasions where the story is challenging you to comprehend it as much as the villains are challenging the heroes to puzzle their way out of certain doom, and that can get frustrating here and there. 

On the other hand, though, this book is so damn busy that it’s never boring for a second, and that’s really what anybody wants out of their entertainment, when you get right down to it.  It’s swashbuckling sci-fi and high-octane have-at-thee at every turn, full of brilliant ideas and cunning challenges for the heroes focusing as much on the intellect as on the physical prowess. 

There’s one bit of genius that involves fighting the Time Raiders – a group of villains who exist in a dimension outside time and use it as a way of conducting illegal activities – wherein Miranda and Jack find themselves trapped in a complete matter conversion without a distortion field, which means everything’s gone haywire, and the reader has to turn the book upside-down and read from right to left for a while.  It’s a really fun stunt from Thomas and artist/co-creator Lee Ferguson that could very well be one of the myriad challenges in getting this book finished in the first place.

Ferguson’s art in general, along with inker Marc Deering and the team of five different colorists really bring out the eye-popping flavor of this wide-open galaxy of space-faring intrigue.  It’s got a really old-school sensibility with a modern flair, and it just works really well.  Most of the time.  There are a few instances where the storytelling falters because it’s hard to discern exactly what’s happening in the panels, although it is possible that’s by design, due to the occasional subversion of the traditional methods in the interest of challenging the reader. 

Overall, this is a strong, fun and energetic opening effort for what promises to be a pretty dazzling saga once it’s done – assuming it does have an end point.  Perhaps in the ultimate defiance of the concept of impossibility, Ms. Mercury will overcome her own inevitable demise, too.  In the meantime, there are plenty more questions left to be answered.  The end of the book fiinally starts to dig into her family history, revealing the time-displaced nature of her grandfather (who may have been plucked out of the past by his future self?  Crazy-ass time-travel malarkey!), and there’s much more to learn – such as where are her parents?  The bigger question is what exactly happened between Miranda and the villainous Vega that is the biggest (and perhaps only) mistake of her life, which is big enough to potentially define that life? 

These are questions we need the answers to, Mr. Thomas.  We’re very much looking forward to Volume 2.




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