After attendees of an anti-police protest get gassed with an experimental chemical, several are left dead or severely injured, but a unique few have been blessed with special abilities - one of those is Virgil Hawkins, the teenager who will be soon be known... as Static.
It’s been almost ten years since the last Static solo series.
In that time, comics has seen many black superheroes come and go, some having staying power and others not, but none having the same emotional resonance as Static himself (except for maybe Miles Morales). Thankfully, through the efforts of Vita Ayala, ChrisCross, Nikolas Draper-Ivey and AndWorld Design, I can happily say that this first issue knocks it out of the park in terms of story, art and underlying thematic elements.
Vita Ayala has a specific kind of writing style that can blend the brooding nature of a hero with enough upbeat tones throughout a story to keep it from becoming far too dour and I feel like they do a good job in this book. Virgil Hawkins, aka Static, has been mutated because of his participation in the protest that led to the Big Bang and after blowing up and fighting school bully, Francis “Hotsreak” Stone, has become sullen and reserved. He mopes around for most of the issue, but has moments where he’s lifted up by his friends and family.
This has always been the case with Static, whether in the original series or in the show, his friends and family have always been the ones to carry some of the weight on Virgil’s shoulders and they make an impact immediately. White best friend, Richie, is still snappy and sarcastic; love interest, Frieda Goren, shows concern after being the only other person to see Static fight Hotstreak; Virgil’s family, including his mother who had died prior to the original comics beginning, each have different ideas of how Virgil can deal with his newfound power, but still have the love to think about his best interest.
In terms of making this an updated story, this Big Bang wasn’t caused as a response to gang violence like back in the 90s, but anti-police protests that led to said police using an experimental tear gas on the protestors. I feel like this is a welcome change that both echoes modern day racial tensions as well as the terrible history America has with experimenting on black people with untested toxins like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Of the protestors involved, the ones that didn’t die gained abilities or physical changes and the company that provided the tear gas is denying any and all involvement or blame with its use – causing the rise of an underground podcast that I feel will add a lot to the story if expanded upon.
Nikolas Draper-Ivey and ChrisCross are like a match made in heaven. Cross’ layouts make way for great sequential storytelling as each moment flows to the next without getting lost in a jumble of panels and speech bubbles. He also knows how to balance the use of dynamic angles and static shots to give each scene a different sort of tension – one good example is in the beginning as Virgil is describing the buzzing in his head. We are treated to three panels, two where Virgil is calm, with electricity flickering in his fingers and cut between them is the uppercut that he gave Hotstreak in the Milestone Returns #0 issue.
Draper-Ivey’s finishes and color are what tie all of this together as it gives the book a sleek, modern look while having bits of grittiness to maintain a sense of character. Utilizing what I believe is a combination of flat and airbrush coloring, the book has an alluring visual style that makes every character design and outfit pop right off of the page. And that’s not even talking about the action which can see vibrant and intense colors feel like they’re coming right at you, from Hotstreak’s intense flames to Static’s crackling electricity, the blue, white and orange colors are some of the most striking in the book. Speaking of striking, the poses that Draper-Ivey gives these character during downtime and fights straddle the difficult line of being realistically relaxed and almost as fluid as a moving image – the final few pages of this book are some of the most explosive that I’ve seen in a new title in a long, long time.
Credit where credit is due to AndWorld Design and their excellent lettering throughout the book as well. Thought bubbles have excellent contrast with white text over a blue background, speech bubbles make use of some of the empty space in certain panels and sound effects to windy WHOOSHs and zapping KZZZZTTTTTs only accentuate the action scenes they’re placed in.
Overall, I would say that Vita Ayala, ChrisCross, Nikolas Draper-Ivey and AndWorld Design have kicked off the Milestone Return with a full blown sprint to greatness. With dramatic art and fantastic storytelling, who knows the heights that this and the following series will reach!
Static #1: Can You Feel the Storm?
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10