Enter the fast-paced world of dodgeball in the latest new series from Boom! Box, “Dodge City.” Read on for our review, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Josh Trujillo
Illustrated by Cara McGee
Colored by Brittany Peer
Lettered by Aubrey Aiese
Josh Trujillo (Adventure Time) and Cara McGee (Over the Garden Wall) team up for a new series about the high-energy chaos of competitive dodgeball!
Tomás is the new captain of the Jazz Pandas dodgeball team, and he’s got a certain knack for keeping an eye on on the ball (or several!).
However, he’s untested and still not quite part of the team. If the disorganized Jazz Pandas want to make it to summer regional championships they’ll have to pull together under Tomás’s leadership.
When it comes to great sports stories, the ones that truly stand out above all others are the ones centered around the rise of the underdog to the top of the world. Okay, so maybe that’s the majority of sports fiction, but there’s a reason the underdog tale is so common in the genre, and that’s because it works. Writer Josh Trujillo knows this, which is why he’s doubling down on the underdog dodgeball drama, by putting lead character Tomas – the textbook underdog – in a team filled with them.
While there’s not much seen of the titular town in “Dodge City” #1, it’s clear how important the sport is to all the characters we’re introduced to in this world. No less so to the Jazz Pandas, the perpetual losers that Tomas has found himself a part of. Each with their own unique skills, the Jazz Pandas haven’t won a game all season, and with their best player, the beefy hunk with a perfect throwing arm Amardeep, not able to show up to every game, the Pandas recruit clumsy newbie Tomas to make up the numbers.
“Dodge City” #1 is an instantly charming book. The issue’s opening page gives a full rundown of all the team members of the Jazz Pandas, but each one is so distinct and fleshed out, even at this early stage of the series, that it hardly feels necessary. Artist Cara McGee has a keen eye for character design and makes a conscious effort to diversify the team so that we’re not stuck with the same-old athletic white guys. Instead, we see a more realistic set of characters, each with their own body shape and distinct features, and as the story progresses we get to see just what each of them bring to the team.
Trujillo, a veteran dodgeball player himself, ensures the game is front and center in “Dodge City” #1; by throwing us right in the middle of a match as soon as the issue begins, you’re treated to that same frantic sensation that you get when you play the game for real. The opening credits even hit you in the face with a dodgeball, for that fully immersive experience. While the sport is the main driving factor in the drama, at least throughout this first issue, Trujillo is keen to include other moments of teen angst, including flirtations, arguments and the potential for newly developed crushes.
Aiding the feeling of teen drama is Cara McGee, whose bold style and expressive features convey both the big action and smaller emotional beats perfectly. The fast-paced style of the book is inevitably going to draw comparisons to some of the more prominent sports manga, and it’s clear that it’s an influence on McGee’s work. Her layouts especially benefit from those influences: the dynamic, angled panels with content that explodes out at the reader, the use of action lines as backgrounds, and the way she drops the backgrounds altogether in favor of flat colors in order to accentuate the foreground are all techniques influenced by manga.
Those influences pay off, because “Dodge City” #1 races along at a breakneck pace thanks to McGee’s control of the flow of the action. The clear, bold coloring of both McGee and Brittany Peer ensures that the action is never muddied or unclear, and the choreography of both the characters through the scene and the readers across the page is only improved by the bright palette. Peer also employs color to denote mood and emotion rather than realistic lighting. This is emphasized in those moments where, for example, the characters are hit with dodgeballs and their world turns red, or when characters are crushing on each other and the background turns a romantic pink. It’s this attention to subconscious emotion that makes this a great book for any age-group or even those readers brand new to comics.Continued below
“Dodge City” #1 takes the classic underdog trope and adds teen drama, comedy, and thrilling sports scenes to make a great all-ages book. There’s a twist in the tale that leads you nicely into the next issue, and just enough interpersonal drama to make you want to see what happens next. The super-fast speed of the issue means that the more subtle character moments don’t perhaps get the time that they deserve, and the manga influences don’t extend to an over-exaggeration of the drama, but depending on your tastes that could be a good thing. Overall this sits nicely alongside such recent sports series as “Slam!” and “Fences” to become the perfect comic for fans of dodgeball.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – A fun and frantic teen drama that doesn’t slow down for a second.