Agents of the Lord of Shadows have come to Earth to suck all the color away, and only two young girls stand in their way in Rainbow Brite #1.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this comic
Rainbow Brite #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Brittney Williams
Colorist: Valentina Pinto
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: October 3, 2018
Collected in: TBD
|The adventure begins for children and adults alike, as the classic character Rainbow Brite comes to comics and brings a little color to your life! Wisp and Willow are best friends who live in a small town. They are inseparable, until one night Wisp discovers something is stealing the color from the world! To escape their grasp, Wisp must use her wits and the help of a new friend?from somewhere else! Then the adventure begins! Follow along with writer Jeremy Whitley (My Little Pony, Unstoppable Wasp) and artist Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Goldie Vance) as we find out how this seemingly normal girl becomes Rainbow Brite and how it changes Wisp, Willow, and their world!|
Normally in this section I would give you a little history of the book and its characters. Sometimes I would also talk about the creators or some publisher history. In the case of Rainbow Brite #1 there is literally nothing here I can talk about save the writer, Jeremy Whitley. Even then there’s not much.
Last year I was introduced to Mr. Whitley’s writing last year with his work on Unstoppable Wasp, which remains my favorite book of 2017. The series didn’t last long, but it is making a later this month with a new beginning. I also got to meet Mr. Whitley briefly at this year’s AwesomeCon and bought a tradepaperback of his Princeless series from Action Lab Comics. It wasn’t as good as Unstoppable Wasp was, but it still engaged me and I ended up buying the other trades on Comixology.
So it is on the strength of Jeremy Whitley’s writing that I approached Rainbow Brite #1 with a degree of optimism. I know nothing about the character, her history or even what she can do. I did consider doing some research in advance, but ultimately decided that it would be better to go in blind. How often do we get to go into a story being completely clueless about it these days? So that’s where we’re at, a middle-aged guy reading Rainbow Brite #1.
And enjoying it.
Rainbow Brite #1 brings the story all the way back to the beginning to do an origin for the titular character, which apparently has never been done before. With that in mind, the actual character as she is traditionally presented never shows up in this issue, though the way is paved for it. Instead we focus on a pair of friends: Willow and Wisp. These two young girls live an active life where their imaginations run wild.
The first half of the issue is mainly about laying the groundwork and world-building. Willow and Wisp spend most of this time playing in their fantasy world together. The intensity that they play with is both amusing and endearing. Traditionally in this style of story we get a view of what the girls see when they are playing, but not this time around. We see them as we would see our own kids running around the lawn yelling about foul beasts trying to destroy them. It helps us transition to when monsters really are trying to get them later in the book.
There is a lot to like about this half of the book, and we get plenty of information crammed into a relatively short time-frame. We learn a lot about Willow’s family and their tolerance for the girls’ playing. The way they use the kids’ own narratives to get them to do the things they need to (take their shoes off before entering the house, making sure they’re fed, etc) speaks volumes for all four characters.
Similarly, Wisp’s family life is established in just a few short pages. While Willow’s family are obviously well off and close-knit, Wisp’s parents have to work extra hard to provide for their family. There’s a certain sadness to the house, and an impression that Wisp has had to grow up a bit more than Willow has, but it’s not without love and care. We are presented with two starkly contrasting realities between Willow and Wisp, but both are wholesome in their own way.
The second half of the book shifts things around and gets the plot moving. Minions of the King of Shadows show up to suck all the blue out of the world, and Wisp catches them in the act. She’s not supposed to be able to see them, so this comes as bit of a surprise. Equally surprised is the sprite Twinkle, who reveals himself to Wisp to help guide her in her fight against the minions.
There is something vaguely disturbing about Twinkle, and this is where knowledge of the character’s history would probably come in handy. I assume from the cover that this is a sidekick character to Rainbow Brite, but I’m not 100% certain of it. Perhaps it’s his eyebrows, which come across as more menacing than annoyed, or perhaps it’s his snippy attitude, but I’m not entirely keen on this character just yet. This is the one and only place in this issue where I genuinely felt like there was a part of the story that I was supposed to be getting that I just wasn’t.
There is always a risk with licensed properties like this, particularly older ones, that they become a bit too self-indulgent with their own continuity. Fortunately Rainbow Brite #1 largely avoids that trap, although to be fair it doesn’t seem like there’s a massive volume of continuity to mess with. With the exception of Twinkle I never felt like I was missing something. Did I actually miss things that Rainbow Brite fans would have caught? I am 100% certain that I did, but the fact that I never felt like I did is more important.
Further, for books aimed at younger audiences there is the additional risk of being too preachy or heavy handed. This book never really falls into that. It does emphasis the kind of morals you would expect, but it does so in a way that feels natural. Ideas like friends sharing with each other, keeping the house tidy, and doing your chores before bed are shown in a positive light without shoving them in your face. This book could easily have felt like an 80s PSA informercial, but it avoids that.
Thoughts on the Art
The art comes from Brittney Williams and Valentina Pinto. Ms. Williams’ work I’m familiar with from her run on Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, but Valentina’s work is largely new to me. She did work on Force of Destiny: Ahsoka & Padme earlier this year, but other than that I don’t think I’ve read any of her comics. Regardless, the two end up being an excellent team for this book.
Ms. Williams’ art is highly dynamic for such a cartoony look, and there is always a sense of motion in her panels. My main quibble with her work is her odd tendency to occasionally reduce characters’ eyes to just pupils. It can be a jarring look, especially when they have normal looking eyes the rest of the time.
A book with “rainbow” in the name is practically going to require a heavy emphasis on the color work, and this is where the book does shine. Everything in this book likes bright and vibrant. The only dullness comes from the minions, as you would expect, and even they have depth to them. It would have been easy just to color them a gray color and call it a day, but there are actual shades to them.
Rainbow Brite #1 is a shining example of what an all-ages title should aim for. It obviously is going to be more light-hearted and innocent than your normal comics, but it doesn’t shy away from subtlety and nuance. Most all-ages titles feel that they have to explain every little thing in extreme detail, but Rainbow Brite #1 is content to let you put some pieces together. Granted we are not talking about particularly complex puzzles here, but it is still important to let kids work things out for themselves at time. It also gives adults a little depth to latch on to.
None of this is to say that Rainbow Brite #1 is some beacon that every comic fan needs to read. It is a book aimed at a particular set of audiences, and it knows how to talk to them. It’s an example of how an all-ages title should work. It also has creators working on it who know their craft and work well together.
I’m not going to pretend this is a book I would have read if it hadn’t landed in my lap, and I’m not planning on getting future issues. I am simply not the target audience for this book, but I did enjoy it for what it was and can appreciate that it should be well met by those it’s intended for. This is a solid book that I would easily recommend to parents with younger children or anyone who has nostalgia for Rainbow Brite.