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Big City Blues
By Dara Naraghi, Dan Barlow, Steve Black, Adrian Barbu and Rudy Lacovara
Published by Ferret Press; $3.99

Small press superhero material is something I often greet with more than a fair share of skepticism. Simply, the writers often aren’t attempting anything more complex than the average, well-produced major publisher book, or they don’t have the craft to pull it off. And even more often, the artists just aren’t dynamic enough to convey the action, the wonder, or even just a believable body or face. If you’re doing stories where normal people are just talking or doing ordinary things, as in many small press comics, you can get away with not having all those elements a little easier.

Happily, while only Barbu, a fine line virtuoso, really has reached the professional level, with good compositions and great depth and mood, the other artists all get the job done with credible style and storytelling. Some of the fonts are chosen poorly, some panels look too flat, and there’s a two page spread with a lot of text jammed in at the bottom that seems more like an expedient choice than a sound creative one, but overall it’s a good-looking book, with strong front-and-back covers by Black.

What holds it all together, though, is publisher/writer Naraghi, who has chosen to write not about superheroes, but how their presence affects the normal people with whom they share the city. At first, the premise seems done-to-death, and yet most of the books that come to mind really do spend a good deal of time on the spandex set themselves, which Naraghi assiduously avoids. He’s not concerned with the battle in the sky, but how it ties up traffic for a newly-single woman who’s going to be late for a job interview she desperately wants to nail, or how a college dropout would-be filmmaker’s video footage of the battle may change the guy’s life for the better, or how debris from the battle ends the life of a homeless man seen earlier. Naraghi moves fluidly between these small stories, mindful of the importance of small moments and details, treating the superheroes as just another natural condition, like Seattle rain or Kansas tornadoes. By the concluding story, “Plans and Perceptions”, we see that superheroes are indeed just like the weather, unpredictable and ironically, somehow beyond good and evil, in that one hero’s thinking better of entering into an endorsement deal may have an ominous outcome for the up-and-coming young businesswoman who put the deal together. 48 pages of thoughtful, ambitious comics isn’t a bad way to spend four dollars.

--Chris Allen

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