Created by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming & Olivia Bendis
Written & Illustrated by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
Coloring by Nick Filardi
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Icon
Review by Jennifer Margret Smith
Takio is, at its base, a delightful all-ages superhero story about two sisters gaining both superpowers and new respect for each other. The plot is not twisty and turny; it doesn’t break much new storytelling ground. But a well-executed tale as old as time can be a breath of fresh air in an industry that normally thrives on shock and awe, and Takio is just such a breath.
Bendis and Oeming are best known in the creator-owned world for their long collaboration on Powers, and their work remains familiar here: Bendis continues to fill panels with rapid-fire, back-and-forth dialogue, and Oeming’s art is still clean and expressive. But they’ve both clearly modified their styles to fit the all-ages format, and not just by eliminating the innuendo and profanity they’ve made liberal use of in the past. Bendis does a particularly fantastic job of writing dialogue for the sisters that reflects their real ages (7 and 13), which is far from an easy feat. Older sister Taki is just the right balance of jaded teenager and insecure kid, while younger sister Olivia (named after Bendis’ daughter, who first inspired the book) is hyper and adorable and reminiscent of Molly from Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways, a character who always acted much more like a 7-year-old than the 11-year-old she was supposed to be. Oeming, meanwhile, has modified his style from the sharp, angular look of Powers to include softer lines and curves that emphasize the youth of the protagonists and the relative innocence of their story.
I say “relative” innocence because, while this book is definitely appropriate for kids of all ages, it also isn’t averse to conflict or drama. The villain of the book, a failed scientist who unintentionally gives the girls their powers, is genuinely menacing, as are the thugs he hires to attempt to kidnap the sisters. But the sisters’ moxie is so great that the reader always knows they’ll make it through, with the use of their “kung fu telekinesis” (which, for some reason, looks like lightning) and their abundant brainpower. And the action scenes, while great, are always balanced by the more intimate character moments, as Taki learns to appreciate her tag-along little sister and gain confidence to match Olivia’s. The story's major themes — about family, about friendship, and about learning to believe in yourself — are all drawn in such a way that even the youngest readers will be able to connect with them, but the book is careful to never talk down to its audience, and adults can easily find just as much enjoyment in its pages.
Ultimately, though, the execution of Takio is much less important than its political and industrial implications. The initial idea for Takio famously sprung from the mind of Olivia Bendis, a little girl who, like her namesake in the story, has an adopted sister of another ethnicity. The fact that the book is almost entirely about girls – the only major male character is the villain – is important enough in the male-dominated superhero industry, but the fact that one of the protagonists is Asian is even more significant. Olivia Bendis deserves to see families like hers represented in the pages of superhero comics – and little girls who look like Taki deserve to see themselves. By creating Takio, Bendis and Oeming have brought the industry one step closer to that reality. For the sake of female characters, characters of color, and the future of the all-ages market, I hope that Takio flies off the shelves, proving the naysayers wrong and ushering in an authentically diverse future for the next generation of superhero fans.