Written and Pencils by Jamal Igle
Inks by Juan Castro
Color by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters by Frank Cvetkovic
Published by Action Lab Entertainment
In this climate of ours, creating an “all-ages” book can be like walking the tightrope for a circus that rolled up its tents and left without you years ago. The colorful characters are all over t-shirts, bedsheets, and Saturday morning TV, but no responsible parent would consider letting their kids see comic book heroes in their natural habitat; darkness and cynicism moved into the neighborhood and took over a long time ago. Unfortunately, most attempts to counteract that vibe end up painfully, aw-shucks earnest and put agenda ahead of content like some kind of propaganda, sending adult readers fleeing into the hills like the book is radioactive. By attempting to be something for everyone, “all ages” books usually end up being something for no one.
This brings us to Molly Danger, Jamal Igle’s new Kickstarted graphic album. Igle is a man with a mission, setting out to birth an all-ages book about a young, strong female hero that isn’t a pastiche of some existing male-dominated comic, isn’t exploitative, and leaves room for “fun, magic, and genuine good.”
As with most “all ages” books, unfortunately, that pitch is a mission statement. It’s not a story. Any book that gets done because the creators have a type of story they think should exist, rather than an actual story they are dying to tell, already begins its life behind the eight ball.
Good news, then: Molly Danger is a relatively engaging first chapter that is a joy to look at. The book vividly tells the story of the title character, a powerful, ageless “ten year old” who routinely saves the world with the help of a full-time support staff. Molly is a living weapon surrounded by a small army of people in charge of pointing her, firing her at trouble, and maintaining her in her downtime, but those people are never allowed to engage with her or treat her like a person, much less like a child. Molly is isolated, alienated and alone, and she is starting to rebel against her captors in increasingly dangerous ways. (Daughters and parents of daughters will not find her behavior entirely unfamiliar.) Meanwhile, the gaggle of supervillains who cropped up shortly after Molly appeared on Earth are learning that they all have more in common than they realize, and they’re beginning to join forces in a way that spells trouble for everyone.
The book has its pleasures for the adult reader who misses the kind of comic where a kid fights a caveman and a brain in a jar. Talking animals and robots cannot be far behind. If you have ever read Invincible and thought, “Gosh, I wish everyone in this book wasn’t gushing blood from holes made in their skin by several broken bones”—in other words, if you have ever read an issue of Invincible—you will probably find something in Molly Danger that speaks to you. The characters are relatable, likeable, and behave more or less like recognizable human beings.
But is it fun? Is it magical? Is it full of genuine good?
The two children in the book both have dead parents; one lost her entire family in a crash that left her in a coma for a year. That may be fun if you have been looking for an opportunity to explain to your daughter what a coma is, but otherwise it is a scenario that can best be described as “short on laughs.” The fact that this dead-mom exposition is tossed off casually by another kid who’s touring of Molly’s HQ (“I know! I know! Her whole family is dead!”) only adds to the dissonance. The coldness with which all the adults in the book treat Molly, like she’s a gun in a cupboard, also fails to bury the needle on the fun-o-meter. While the book sets the stage for a rollicking second chapter, it is a Kickstarter project, meaning one has no real idea when or if the next volume will see the light of day.
Older kids will find plenty to like in Molly Danger and may see a little of themselves in the character. Adults, particularly those who remember A Simpler Time, will find something here as well. All ages, though…? Not so fast. The book makes a better story than it does a mission statement.
Story: 3 / Art: 4 / Overall: 3.5
(Out of 5 Stars)