One Punch Reviews #69: Blue Yonder
For some reason, comic book superheroes don’t seem to fight supervillains anymore. Rather, they seem content fighting each other. Last year, DC’s New 52 kicked off with Flashpoint, where heroes became murderous villains living in an alternate timeline. This year’s big event is Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men, where the merry mutants square off with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (And before that: Civil War, where Captain America and Iron Man took opposite sides on superhero registration.)
Is it because the average age of the comic reader is a decade or two older than the original intended audience. Do we now find standard black-and-white morality to be childish, to the point where comic book villains look no worse than the morally stodgy heroes? Perhaps it’s our general distrust of authority? Or, in a genre rooted in rebellion, are we compelled to take sides against fatherly ultrahuman types? Maybe there are just more storytelling opportunitiies when Batman and Superman aren’t friends? These thoughts and more flit through my mind when I read Blue Yonder, a webcomic written by Luke Perks and Richard Pulfer and illustrated by Diego Diaz. Here, the villains are, for the most part, laughable… and the greatest threat to the heroes are themselves.
Blue Yonder centers around a young teenager named Jared Davenport. He goes by the call name “Blue Yonder,” which is kind of silly but at least is thematically consistent with the rest of his team/family, who all have aerospace-themed names. He gets separated from them after the first villain, a bearded fellow named Black Dog (who I imagine is something of a Zep fan), counters the attack with the Davenports’ greatest weakness: fully armed F-16’s.
Jared wakes up in the care of Lena, a young woman in goggles and overalls and is pretty much what Gadget Hackenwrench would look like in human form. To his chagrin, he discovers that he’s now in apartment located in the middle of the slums. Fortunately, it turns out everyone in the apartment is a superhero… Even Lena, who has the power to turn cellphones into laser guns! (Kudos to Diego Diaz, by the way, for making this not look totally ridiculous.)
Blue Yonder envisions a world with two classes of superheroes. The upper class is represented by the N-Forcers, an organization not unlike the Justice League or the Avengers. There’s even a Superman-like character named the Spokesman. These heroes are well-funded, have public support, and are generally clean cut. The apartment dwellers are more down to earth. They scrape by with few resources like a bunch of hobo Batmen, but they together like family through their shared poverty. Things come to a head when a cold-themed rogue who goes by “Soft Serve” gets brutalized by the N-Forcers. Soft Serve is such a cheesy villain that he’s not actually much of a bad guy. In fact, one of the heroes in the slums had a personal connection: Soft Serve was an informant to the villain underworld. His horrible treatment at the hands of the N-Forcers brings the antagonism between the two sides to a head.
Blue Yonder is not flawless. Superhero webcomics — both dramatic and comedic — have a tendency to create an entire superhero universe immediately. Blue Yonder is no different. A lot of characters, all with superpowers, are introduced, and it gets a little tricky to follow the names, the superhero names, the powers, and the personalities. Characterization hardly goes beyond one dimensional… And that Jared, who comes off as a bit of an insufferable brat. (Likely, though, this is part of the standard hero’s journey, and Jared gets more likable down the line.) And the authors seem to find “taco salad” a lot funnier than I do… It gets brought up a lot.
However, there are a lot of points in Blue Yonder‘s favor as well. Diego Diaz’s art, for one. The character designs and superhero costumes bristle with personality. Faces are unique and easily distinguishable. The action scenes look great, with poses naturally following the motion lines. And, as a fan of aerospace, I love his detailed illustrations of fighter planes.
Blue Yonder also manages to hit some storytelling elements that can catch you off guard. There’s a scene where Jared and Lena are alone together in a room, and Lena has to change into her superhero outfit. Jared turns around, almost tripping over Lena’s father. Though Lena tells Jared that this is mere her dad getting drunk, you sorta wonder if he’s been knocked out by a villain, like you would imagine would be the case in most superhero comics. Nope… he’s trying to douse out his troubles with alcohol while yelling out a woman’s name. It’s an emotionally touching moment that, I admit, completely caught me off guard.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).