Plutona #3:

Want To Be A Superhero?

The Roman Empire had nothing on groups of kids when it comes to conspiracy, collusion, forming alliances and keeping secrets. That’s one of the great truths about young people that Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox share with us in the third issue of Plutona. The series began about a group of kids who find a dead superhero, and introduced us to their diverse and colourful personalities. Here in issue #3, things start to take a dark turn, as keeping Plutona’s body from the adult authorities is going to be much more difficult when the children themselves can’t agree on a course of action, and can’t seem to cooperate. At least, not fully.

It’s difficult to write about what this issue really concerns without revealing too many juicy plot surprises, but readers can rest assured that nothing in this issue contradicts or is off-base with the tone and the characters we’ve already established. Though some of what happens here might seem extreme, there seem to be excellent reasons for it, based in a thorough understanding of the social dynamics of pre-teens, particularly with regards to their younger siblings.

Every kid seems intuitively aware of the social pecking order. And it goes without saying that younger siblings are at the bottom, or at least the bottom of the next step up the ladder of power. But with that lack of power sometimes comes a useful anonymity. Mie’s younger brother Mike, in this issue, uses that to his advantage, venturing out into the wild unknowns of the night to retrieve his lost gameboy (what modern young person wouldn’t risk their life for their digital friend, especially when it’s a video game machine?). As his sister texts with her friends, and their mother cleans up after dinner, Mike’s actions go unnoticed, just like many a youngest child.

But while younger siblings may slip about unnoticed, they usually require the help of an older, bolder kid to really get into the action. It makes sense: all a younger kid wants to do is be accepted by their elders, and an offer of getting into mischief and being trusted with deep secrets would be fairly irresistible. That is essentially what this issue is about, in terms of character.

Of course, this is also a superhero book, or at least it seems to be. Lemire continues his story-within-a-story by flashing to Plutona’s last great adventure in the end, and even here we get some interesting hints that her powers might be borrowed. She refers to them as her “Plutona powers”, which is an interesting twist, but certainly not unprecedented in comics, going all the way back to Billy Batson and Captain Marvel. That, and another plot twist which we won’t reveal, appear to set the book on an intriguing tack, addressing the time-honoured superhero comic themes of power and responsibility.

Which means, of course, that for all its wisdom about children, their social lives, and their relationship with the peculiar kind of comic-book celebrity, Plutona may evolve into a powerful superhero story of its own. That dedication to genre while keeping the characters rich and true is why readers keep coming back to Jeff Lemire, and why this comic is becoming essential reading.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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