By Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre, and Zakk Saam
In between the polymorph octopus murdering, the guitar-wielding ass whooping, and all the general booze-filled, high flying, rock star, queer as all hell, middle finger flipping space bounty hunting, there’s a quiet surprise of a moment at the heart of Kim & Kim #1. It’s not so much the content of the moment, one that features our titular strapped for cash bounty hunter heroines swinging back that sweet space liquor atop their beat-up space van, that’s surprising, but rather the deft manner in which it’s employed that leaves you fully informed and damn near enchanted with the potential and sincerity pouring out from every gutter of this debut. Kim & Kim #1 is awash in vibrancy; a menagerie of glamour and punk-fueled “I don’t give a fuck” that manages to thoroughly develop its cast in twenty-six pages of science-fiction revelry.
The premise is straightforward enough as it straddles a place between not quite all-ages and not quite full bore outer space action-adventure with hearty amounts of swearing. That’s part of the charm, however, as the title’s search for identity appropriately mirrors its instantly endearing leads. Kim Q. and Kim D. are bounty hunters who are a little down on their luck as they’re out on their own after formerly working for Kim Q.’s father, who runs the baddest bounty hunting collective this side of the galaxy called The Catalans. There’s a rogue mob courier, an unassuming little sort named Tom Quilt whose appearance isn’t entirely reflective of his inner self, killing mob boss El Scorho’s associates and now there’s a pretty payday on his head that The Catalan and Kim & Kim are all about cashing in on. Inject all that with organic LGBTQIA representation, a pop-punk aesthetic by way of Jem & The Holograms and quippy dialogue in an outer space setting that’s far more Firefly than anything Asimov, and we’re off.
If one of the largest hurdles in constructing a successful first issue is to create characters that are likeable and enticing with actual depth, then Visaggio cleared it with ease. There’s a graceful ebb and flow to how she weaves characterization into the already legitimately fun space adventure narrative that spits in the face of rote exposition. Much of this is attributable to the way that both Kim Q. and Kim D. are like so many of us in that, hell, they’re just trying to figure things out as they go along. They’ve got dreams, they’ve got pasts they’re trying to make fit into the larger picture of where they are now and where they think they’re going, they’ve got problems with dad, they’re low on cash, and they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes turn out working in their favor, and sometimes not so much. It’s nothing some booze and some sunset chats can’t help put in perspective, though.
Let’s get back to that aforementioned quiet moment; in what could easily have been structured as a clunky info-dump that existed solely to say to the reader “psstt…by the by, Kim Q. is bi and Kim D. is trans” it instead reads as a wholly natural incidence of two close friends trying to ground themselves amidst the realities of where they are in the plot at that point. Visaggio doesn’t betray the story at any point to plant a giant flashing sign saying “queer representation found here!” and instead crafts a lovingly human moment that provides insight to the larger narrative at work. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s utterly relatable to all audience members, and it provides depth that bolsters and informs the themes found throughout the issue. While so much of the joy can be found here, Visaggio balances it well with the overall tone of high-flying adventure that is figuring it out as you go.
The use of self-aware, and often sardonic, caption boxes by Visaggio is well utilized as well, but borders perhaps too close to breaking the suspension of disbelief in how they may reflect a lack of confidence in the story beats. It’s not a problem here, it’s actually largely on-point in its humor, but it is something going forward that could benefit from being dialed back to allow more breathing room.
With Kim & Kim #1, Cabrera and Aguirre craft a cacophony of face punches. This is a visually vivacious book that refuses to subdue itself. Rife with fully saturated, high-frequency colors and bubbly line work that manages to still cut with some sharp edges, it feels every bit as frenetic as the bar brawls depicted within. Cabrera’s style is certainly reminiscent of Babs Tarr with her use of oversized eyes and soft features that comfortably transition to elastic movement when the action kicks into high-gear. The panel layouts are largely traditional and Cabrera clearly likes to allow for her character expressions to set the tone for scenes, but the fight sequences are where she shines brightest as they explode into sharp action-to-action cuts akin to the latest Black Canary series from Annie Wu. Moments of sparse backgrounds and stiffer figure work (primarily when characters are in profile) display an occasional inconsistency that could benefit from more dimensionality, but are forgotten when one turns to the dynamic choreography of multiple angled, guitar-filled fury. There’s not much in the way of texturing in the pencils and inks as they’re largely flat, but that could very well be by design to allow for Aguirre’s colors to carry that particular load. It’s a welcoming style, one that might at first glance scream “all-ages” in its rounded, animated energy, but one that will likely grow with the book as it progresses to further attune itself to the full range of depth at work. There’s an unmistakable confidence in Cabrera’s line, a bold outline that frames the finer nuances and scratchier details of a character’s emotional turmoil that makes her an ideal fit for the story at hand.
Claudia Aguirre turns this whole thing into an intergalactic atomic candy zoo trip fantastic with her color work. Instilling texture and dimension with a bold, lively palette and smooth as smoke shading. To say that it fits the work as a whole would be an understatement of extremes. Even while most everything would appear aglow, Aguirre still has a keen eye for light source in several instances that helps establish setting and mood to wonderful effect. What on many other titles would feel too colorform or cel-shaded in its application, lacking any real subtle gradients, suits the intentionally outrageous in Kim & Kim #1 to a tee. The reliance on the more digital effects is more of a mixed bag, however, with the star bedazzled sky and design patched planets therein creating too sharp a contrast to the bolder, flatter color layer sitting atop, with the rocket flame of a tractor being a particularly egregious example of this atop a digital skin. Those instances are few and far between and the overall complementary work of Aguirre highlights her talent as a storyteller that understands thematic tone and delights in going big or going home.
Kim & Kim #1 is overflowing with potential and already has asserted itself as aggressively fun and full of genuine heart. It’s a romp wrapped in the familiar saga that is trying to figure out exactly what our identity is even when we’re not sure that there is such a thing as only one identity. Bounty Hunters. Space. Rich, complex characters with rich, complex relationships. Vans. Hitting people with guitars. Like, really hard. Let’s do this.