Steven Universe #1
Written by Melanie Gillman
Art by Katy Farina and Whitney Cogar
Lettering by Mike Fiorentino
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Justin Partridge
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Steven, Lapis, and Peridot learn the joy and heartbreak of motherhood in the debut of BOOM!'s latest Steven Universe title. Written by As The Crow Flies author Melanie Gillman, this new debut takes a more disconnected and intimate approach to the usually-serialized television series culminating in a heartfelt and character-focused first issue.
Amazing World of Gumball penciller Katy Farina and Giant Days colorist Whitney Cogar handle the art for this new debut and absolutely nail the rounded style of the critically acclaimed cartoon, laying out their panels in neatly organized traditional panel grids. Though it lacks the stakes and propulsive nature of the TV show at the moment, Steven Universe #1 still sails merrily along thanks to its solid artwork, abundant charm, and firm handle on the voices of the characters.
The story of a child finding a lost baby bird isn’t exactly the newest of tales, but thankfully Melanie Gillman puts a novel and thematically rich spin on it. While hanging around their barn turned launch pad, Steven, Lapis, and Peridot find a hurt hatchling and thus commit themselves to nursing it back to health. Like I said, its not exactly reinventing the wheel, but the way they endear the young bird to each character is the simultaneous source of the debut’s comedy and pathos.
Of course, Steven bonds quickly with the bird and agonizes about letting it leave the nest (a.k.a. strawberry basket lined with a towel) when it is back to full health. Lapis responds with a sort of detached curiosity. And Peridot wants to train it so it will transform from a songbird to an eagle and then perform tasks like fetching a drill and attacking an enemy. Gillman fits in very well with the tone and comedy cadence of the source material and it shows throughout, particularly in their handling of Steven’s big heart and Peridot’s high-strung, but heartfelt grandstanding.
This debut is also gifted with an art team that also adapts well to the source material on a visual level. Katy Farina and Whitney Cogar keep the visuals fairly reined in during this debut, opting to work exclusively within the barn and its surrounding area, giving this debut the look and feel of a well-blocked one-act play. Though confined, that doesn’t stop the pair from making the most of what’s found within the panel layouts. Like Gillman from a scripting standpoint, Farina understands how these characters react and move and draws them accordingly; Lapis with a coolly confident stance, Steven always leading from his chest/heart, and Peridot basically aping the stances and gait of Doctor Doom but in a small and angrily adorable package.
Farina’s linework consistently impresses throughout but special consideration should be given to colorist Whitney Cogar whose choices in this debut amp up the sweetness and emotionality of this debut to their maximum level without crossing into schmaltz. Cogar’s colors start evoking the feeling of a warm summer morning both in set lighting and the panel’s base colors. But as the issue goes on and more and more time passes in the bird’s recovery, Cogar conveys that with a slight shading or slightly darker version of the character’s costumes. Just on a production level, that’s a marvel; to take readers on a trip through the season with a mere flick of the brush. But more than that, it really hammers home the feeling of change and maturing that the script’s deceptively simple premise is predicated on. Though this debut starts small, Katy Farina and Whitney Cogar do big things with the intimate set and plot.
While the television show has moved on to grander stages like outer space and Gem homeworld prison ships, Steven Universe #1 shows what kind of fun you can get up to while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. Melanie Gillman, Katy Farina and Whitney Cogar take the reigns of the beloved property and treat it with the utmost respect while still extrapolating what makes it so loved in the first place and funneling it into a sweetly funny opening story. As far as returns go, the latest return to store shelves for Steven Universe is pretty much the best-case scenario.