By Magdalene Visaggio, Eryk Donovan, Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam, and Jon Gorga
“Dude, whatever. Let’s jack this thing in there and crank it up.” Behold the mission statement for Quantum Teens Are Go. Or at least, that’s the more overt methodology to deliver a story that manages to balance mad science shenanigans with that grounded everyday high school bullshit all us proud weirdos put up with for four years. At once, it’s over-the-top, robot-blasting, time travelling, Explorers enthused (shout out River Phoenix!) joy and a surprisingly intimate exploration of wanting to feel like you have some semblance of control. Vissagio, Donovan, and co. convey this desire to take your own destiny by the reins and flip off any and all jerkasses judging from the sidelines. Insane sci-fi babble and lasers? Check. Humor meets heart at a time of change? Check. Rounded, thoughtful queer rep? Check. Vibrant visual madness with bitchin muscle cars? Check. We are go.
You’re immediately dropped into this world with no time for hand holding, as Visaggio smartly hits you with the wild stuff up front. Two teens robbing a facility are confronted by a wave of security droids and there are ray guns and ass kicking and some sort of rival group and a whole lot of infectious giving of no fucks. There’s no explanations of what “Exxies” are, none of the characters seem to bat an eye at the fact that crazy Star Trek sounding tachyon manipulator totally exist and it’s done in a manner that draws you in. Then Visaggio deftly guides the book to the heart behind the frenzied fun and effectively creates the balance that is the most charming element to this debut issue. We have two teens that don’t feel accepted in their home lives, or at least not truly accepted for who they are and how they see themselves. Their relationship to each other is one that is, firstly, adorably real, and secondly one that feels intimate. Visaggio weaves together these facets of their own vulnerabilities into a stronger whole, one that goes on misdemeanor raids together and holds hands in the cafeteria and kiss in the parking lot, all the while working to build a time machine. It’s a qausi-absurdist reality that’s grounded by two intelligent “outsider” characters who make each other feel better and be better.
The time machine plays a crucial role beyond just being, you know, the thing wherein all the big plot beats will bleed out from. Unlike Kim & Kim, where Kim Q. is a character farther into her transition, in Quantum Teens we have a character at a far earlier point in their transition in Nat. We see her mother obliviously cause grief and other students outwardly abusive towards Nat, and while she takes absolutely none of that shit, one has to wonder what role it plays in her own motivations towards wanting to build a device that transcends time. Sumesh is adopted and while he’s loved and supported by his family, they haven’t been his “real” family forever. Visaggio allows their specific circumstances inform a lot more about their scientific endeavors beyond just the ripshit fun it would be to have a time machine and it’s a clever subtly to the work. It is an escape and an endeavor to dictate their own destiny at an age when that’s about the number one thing you’re looking to do.
If there are any bumps in the storytelling, they’re expectedly found in moments of overly expositional dialogue. There are only limited instances of this (like Sumesh’s backstory being told to him by his adoptive brother) and considering that this is a four-issue series, they’re likely a necessary evil in order to focus on the thematically and structurally important aspects.
As frenzied and fun as the opening sequence is (especially if you enjoy automaton beat downs, i.e. everyone) Donovan most impresses in the quieter moments, the morning after scene being especially so. It features a large establishing birds-eye panel of a typically untidied teenager’s room with long horizontally stacked panels outlining the morning doldrums of what getting ready for school means for Nat is really well paced and revealing. Utilizing a slightly loose style, Donovan has a sharp eye for body language that conveys personality and facial expressions that speak volumes. Combined with some great designs both fashionable and technological, Donovan manages to pack a lot of information about who everyone is and how this world works into these twenty-four pages and it’s clear he’s having fun while doing it.
The only inconsistencies come in Donovan’s backgrounds which alternate between detailed interiors (Nat’s house, Arclight laboratories), ill-defined exteriors (outside of Odyssey’s headquarters, specifically page 17), and non-existent on several close-up panels that allow Aguirre’s colors to enforce the intended emotional effect to varying success. It’s a noticeable choice and an occasionally unfortunate one made even more so by the instances where backgrounds are lovingly sculpted. By and large, Donovan delivers where it matters most in the realm of injecting palpable life and attitude into the characters.
Aguirre runs the gamut on a saturated palette that sees magentas lovingly mingle with midnight hues and move straight on into the well-worn risk averse neutrals of suburban interior design. A lot of the punk flair comes from her use of hot pink splashes, but the most effective technique Aguirre employs is a spatter atop and across the entirety of a page. It provides actual texturing to walls and asphalted streets, but continues onto every plane; similar to what Hollingsworth does in Wycthes for example, but dialed way back. It’s a surprisingly effective unifying element that adds to the irreverent tone.
Quantum Teens Are Go #1 is a tactfully balanced adventure with a punk aesthetic that harkens back to a 80s “kids do crazy science and it works because it just does” rationalization. And that’s fun as hell. It isn’t mindlessly frantic by any stretch; instead at its core is a relatable experience of feeling maladroit in one world but assuredly comfortable with who you really are in the one that matters most. All that’s needed is a way to take control of all of it. Don’t just fight the future, make the future.
Quantum Teens Are Go #1 will be released from Black Mask Studios on February 22nd