What once took hours of cutting, pasting, copying, and stapling followed by a trip to a couple distribution points can now be be created and shared with the whole world in a few clicks. Add Facebook and Pinterest into the mix and suddenly even a blog seems like a lot of effort. Without the tedious work to weed out the less than dedicated, an entire echosphere is filled with reposts of other people’s work. It’s fair to say the blogs and then social media dealt the zine generation a two-button fatality.
There is one area where the zine spirit has not only survived but even thrived in the online environment: the small press comic. From Michael Connor’s Coelacanthus to MYX, originally edited by Jamie Chase, these indie publications have the covert feel of a note passed during class and the creative energy of Burning Man.
With the release of Action Teenz #2 at the end of March 2013, writer ER Mixon and artists John A Palmer IV and Yudhanto Pratama offer readers a series as gritty, fun, and creative as most zines from the 1990s.
In Action Teenz #1, readers are introduced to an Earth blasted with gamma radiation. Mutation becomes not just an oddity, but something expected in a significant portion of the population. Superheroes, supervillains, vigilantes, and reactionary government agencies pop up around the world. The focus shifts from the big picture to five high school students discovering their own powers in a world populated with bullies, dealers, and predatory coaches. Each of these students is a tiny tribute to the heroes that came before them. From Transformers and Power Rangers to Grace Jones (the closest thing to a real life superhero) and Wonder Woman, the icons of two generations are brought together through a mysterious forum posting.
The story of the forum post becomes the cliff hanger for Action Teenz #2. Although a stronger and more cohesive work than the debut issue, the second issue highlights Mixon and his team’s strengths and weaknesses. While text becomes much more readable in the newer issue, the multiple shifts in page size requires readers to break from the story to re-size the image. Worse than most layout distractions, this one prevents readers from ever fully losing themselves to the story. The suspension of disbelief—an essential element for the enjoyment of any fiction—becomes much harder to maintain.
The room for improvement in layout is not a deal breaker. In the two and half years between Action Teenz #1 and #2, both the writing and the art have matured. Mixon’s characters have evolved beyond homages and paeans of classic and modern superheroes into characters of their own. The bad guys are still mono-dimensional, but reading a story where you know whose ass is going to get kicked and why is always a blast. If it wasn’t, nobody would have given a damn about Kill Bill.
And most importantly, Action Teenz #2 was fun. It stands on its own, and readers will look forward to seeing where Action Teenz #3 goes. Hopefully it won’t be as long a wait.
Merriam Jones, writer of Cards & Stars, regularly reviews random items of interest for Isotropic Fiction.