MIRANDA IN THE MAELSTROM, ISSUES #1-3
Writer: Riley Biehl
Artists: Koi Carreon (#1), Dailen Ogden (#2), & Jamie Jones (#3)
Colorist: Borg Sinaban (#1), Dailen Ogden (#2), & Jamie Jones (#3)
Flats: Drew Wills (#2)
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Brittany Matter
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A soft sci-fi cosmic adventure that changes its art style and creative team with each new dimension explored.
Think Earthbound meets Guardians of the Galaxy.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The Maelstrom is a cosmic storm that wrecks up and sometimes cleaves apart entire worlds. As a side effect, it opens up portals that allow for mostly involuntary travel between dimensions. Miranda, a three-eyed alien, is an endling, the last of her kind after the Maelstrom tore apart her home. Using her considerable survival skills, her shark-dog companion named Noodles, and more than a dash of dumb luck, she jumps from world to world in an attempt to find her long-lost parents who may have also escaped the catastrophe.
On the way, she'll encounter a world where the wind is water, an inter-dimensional being that collects endlings and keeps them on display, and a pirate ship of pillow people trapped in a bottle that sails the heart of the maelstrom. In such a wide universe with infinite dimensions to explore, will Miranda ever be able to find her parents? Or, for that matter, will she ever be able to find a place she can call home?
Riley Biehl expertly activates the fun-loving, childlike part of your brain that once allowed you to pick up a stick and, in your mind, become a legendary knight fighting for all goodness. It's adventure and exploration at its most pure.
Koi Carreon's artwork in the first issue is super clean and crisp, giving the reader a good baseline with which to interpret the other issues. A messier, more cluttered style would have made the reading experience confusing, so leading with this art was a great choice.
Ogden's art in the second issue is highly character-focused, rougher, and more detailed than the previous issue. This reinforces the exploration of Miranda's character and origins in this issue and allows the reader to develop a more personal attachment to the character.
Issue three has the highest contrast in art with Jamie Jones, who uses a cartoony style to complement a bunch of new characters that wouldn't look out of place in a Looney Tunes episode, a childlike premise, and a much meatier plot.
Borg Sinaban and Dailen Ogden do an excellent job setting up the color scheme of Miranda in the Maelstrom, creating connective tissue between the issues and a stylish look that doesn't go away between art styles.
Taylor Esposito's lettering is easy to read and acts as an anchoring point for the reader without sacrificing its energy and unique properties. It's never confusing or boring to read.
Miranda is at its best when it's taking advantage of its "anything can happen" attitude. The sheer uniqueness of the premise makes you want to pick up the next issue just to see what they'll come up with next.
The third issue stands out as the most interesting in the bunch with the most outlandish premise, clearest stakes, and most human moments. It's hard not to be swept up in the adventure and genuinely feel for Miranda and her situation, and it's nice to see that the series is getting better rather than running out of ideas.
Noodles the shark-dog is the perfect companion for Miranda, embodying the playful innocence the series seeks to capture, the unspoken threat of danger in every adventurous encounter, and the utter strangeness inherent to the world of the story. Also, he is precious and must be protected at all costs.
The art swapping gimmick is, all in all, pretty well-executed. While there are some nitpicks I could make about consistency, the sheer logistical headache and forethought that went into making such a feat possible is incredibly impressive. Great job to everyone involved in seeing this idea through.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There's a bit of tonal whiplash with the series that doesn't feel intentional. There's meant to be a fun-loving kid's adventure vibe to many of the encounters, but people are also explicitly murdered, sometimes by Miranda. In the same vein, the separation of Miranda from her parents gets treated with some emotional weight, but similarly traumatic events are swept under the rug.
The plot itself is a mess, though that could be expected from the dimension-hopping gimmick, but it sometimes does become difficult to follow, particularly in the first issue. I was only really able to piece together what the story was trying to do after I finished the third issue.
There's some action that's drawn in a really lazy fashion, like a fight that cuts to black with sound effects and then shows the aftermath. For something as high pulp as this, it's a puzzling choice that I don't think works.
While there are some legitimately funny moments in the series, most of the one-liners are pretty forced and distracting. It probably won't kill the series for you, but if you aren't a fan of puns it may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Maybe it's the fact that the world is a bit of a mess right now, but despite its flaws, Miranda in the Maelstrom grabbed me. The chaos of the narrative mixed with the fun-loving adventure feel and ever-shifting art style makes for a unique reading experience that may not be the most consistent, but it is certainly a compelling one. Likable characters, a breakneck pace, and an utterly unpredictable nature make for an enjoyable ride that's hard to stay mad at, even when it goofs up.
If you're into highly episodic adventures, the childlike whimsy of an imaginative adventure, or the idea of watching a girl and her shark-dog work their way out of tough spots, I'd encourage you to give this comic a go. If you were underwhelmed by the first issue for being a bit of a mess, hang in there, it definitely finds its footing by the third issue and carves out a niche I don't see many comics out there attempting to fill.
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