Steven Universe #1
by Jeremy Sorese and Coleman Engle
BOOM! Studios and Cartoon Network have continued their relationship to produce comic book series for various television Cartoon Network properties. Many of these, Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball to name a couple, have been adapted quite well and their ability to cater to existing viewers as well as new audiences make them a great transition to this alternate medium. Now, Steven Universe makes its way into the comic book medium through Jeremy Sorese and Coleman Engle. Issue one also includes a few shorts in the back, and the end result is a pretty uneven opening chapter.
As the first chapter opens, Pearl finds a gem and makes an attempt to contain it while the rest of the group discuss how to spend their day. Steven and Garnett are both convinced they deserve some down time and would rather just lie around. Pearl, who is struggling to gain control of this gem, feels as though there are more pressing matters than an assortment of New Years Eve glasses and the weather in Beach City. An unfortunate mistake leads to the gem being activated and a chase scene that ends much as it begins, which is the same that can be said for this entire tale as well. All in all, the main story of the issue barely reaches beyond a dozen pages and amounts to barely a story at all.
One of the troubles of this issue is its structure and flow. While there is certainly an expectation that some readers are both fans of the show and active comic book readers, the structure of this issue does not cater to anyone who falls into just one of those categories. Sorese spends no time establishing the characters. While the book doesn’t need to set aside time to explain each one, the interactions and dialogue are so brief that even an implied understanding of each individual voice is lacking here. At the same time, Engle’s panel structure and the arrangement of text over the course of this story make the progression a real challenge. The creators don’t have to make this new-reader-friendly or child-friendly, though it is reasonable to assume that those audiences are likely the targets for this property. Unfortunately, both within panels and across them, often events and even some dialogue seem misplaced or confusing.
The main story comes to an abrupt end, much in the way that the hijinx began. The timing and physicality for the comedy that appears to be intended do not quite land and that has an impact on how some gags and the overall entertainment of this first issue. There are a few backup stories with different creators. For each, the creator attached is responsible for both art and story. These shorts are closer to hitting the punchiness of the show’s comedic writing and timing. Likewise, their panel layouts and flow are significantly easier to follow. They do not quite balance the main story, but they are successful on their own.
Steven Universe has been a very popular and entertaining show for Cartoon Network. In its opening chapter, its adaptation to comics has not found a way to capture that. With other problems that impact the readability of the issue, the debut issue has some serious troubles. Hopefully the book can right itself and find a way to simplify its storytelling such that readers are better able to follow and enjoy it.