Written by Elsa Charretier and Pierick Colinet
Art by Margaux Saltel
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by comiXology
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Surprise! ComiXology unexpectedly announced the launch of five new, creator-owned titles last Friday, including five issues of Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet’s Superfreaks. The tale of six young sidekicks left to fend for themselves in the wake of their mentors’ disappearances may evoke memories of Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones’ Danger Club, but the comparison is superficial at best – where Danger Club is a grim and often fatally gruesome tale, Superfreaks, from the start, is a much more light-hearted action comedy that follows a charming, ragtag band of undertrained sidekicks desperate to prove themselves to a city that really, really just wishes their bosses would come back home.
comiXology released Superfreaks all in one go, as five separate, binge-readable issues. To Charretier and Colinet’s credit as co-writers, it has the same addicting quality as turning on the first episode of a new season of your favorite show on Netflix. The series has a light and playful, almost campy vibe, and it’s a light enough read that it’s easy to make your way through all five issues in one sitting. The dialogue is quick and engaging, and the story is heartfelt with a hint of action; this is not a dark tale of teens forced to grow up too soon, but more of a coming of age story where young misfits come into their own against the backdrop of a gleefully goofy superhero romp. It’s set in a city that worships a magical Volkswagen minivan – the Superfreaks team clearly just wants readers to have a good time.
Artist Margaux Saltel delivers some stellar character designs, and her vibrant, colorful art is what really makes the Superfreaks and Edge City pop. Though the premise is that Blue Aura, Circuit, and their fellow sidekicks, whether heroes or villains, are always the butt of jokes they desperately want people to stop telling, Saltel’s designs underscore the idea that it’s not the kids’ fault nobody takes them seriously. This is a cast of extremely rad-looking characters who are doing their best and just need someone to believe in them. Saltel does a stellar job designing costumes for each of these characters that suits them perfectly - each look feels stylish and a little timeless and exactly like something a young teen superhero would choose to suit up in. Though the script at times has a bit of a fluffy, after-school special vibe, there’s no point where the script or the art ever take mean-spirited pot-shots, either at Blue Aura’s weight or Circuit’s stutter, areas where it would be particularly easy for artists to give in to the urge to make them the butt of some physical comedy.
All of this – plus Ed Dukeshire’s clear, very easy-on-the-eyes lettering – makes Superfreaks a very young-reader friendly comic book. The series does raise some sensitive issues, including eating disorders and emotional abuse; it’s clear from the very light touch Charretier and Colinet give these scenes that they weren’t intending to do deep dives into these topics, but they also manage to give them some emotional weight that keeps the series from feeling too shallow. There’s a Powerpuff Girls vibe at times – a similar wry, off-beat humor, and a similar gentle, coming-of-age guidance that will give younger readers some warm reassurance and positive values on tough topics without necessarily going full throttle on exploring them.
If you’re looking for an easy summer read, either for yourself or for your kids, Superfreaks is worth checking out. All five issues are currently available through comiXology, including comiXology Unlimited, or through Amazon, for $2.99 a pop. It would be great to see these characters return in future books, and if comiXology is ever looking to get into the physical publishing sphere they would be right at home as a middle-grade OGN alongside Raina Telgemeier’s works. Superfreaks is a sweet, silly superhero romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but doesn’t assume young readers are too young for weightier material, either. Charretier, Colinet, Saltel, and Dukeshire have delivered a solid offering from ComiXology’s first batch of creator-owned digital exclusives.