This past Wednesday a new title came out from the increasingly impressive Mad Cave Studios and oh what a comic it is! The book in question is called Pantomime and it is written by Chistopher Sebela with art by David Stoll and colors by Dearbhla Kelly. If you’ve been jonesing for a really enjoyable criminal romp starring young folks (and who isn’t?), then look no further! Let’s get into it.
Haley and Max are deaf siblings who have been recently orphaned and left to a world that they already know can be harsh. When the invitation to start attending school at the Wayfair Academy of Special Needs pops up the two don’t see how it would be possible not to take them up on it. Off the bat the two meet some friendly faces, from teachers to roommates to the enthusiastic Kestrel, who is interpreting during Max and Haley’s tour. This first issue felt like a story of getting the band together, as we get introduced to a few new friends at the school, each with their own lives and different situations including Kestrel’s mutism and Harry, who was deafened by meningitis. It doesn’t take long for the students to start getting along, helped no doubt by the overly friendly Lexi who insists on communication and happens to have climbed the popularity ladder. This is simply the first issue and I wouldn’t want to spoil what is bound to be a gripping story, but suffice it to say this squad quickly learns that Lexi is in a bit of trouble, and by helping her they may find themselves in quite a bit of it as well. As far as introductions go, this issue really moved, through a 2 page spread we learn what we need to about the secondary characters, but more fun is the personalities that they all have. The conversations quips and jabs are just so reminiscent of schoolyard chat, the friendship of the cast felt very nostalgic (…when it didn’t involve crime, of course).
I would consider the look of this book to be pretty realistic for the most part. Not photorealistic but grounded in realism. This gave gravitas to these individuals right off the bat and treated their accessibility with respect. This made the world feel like it’s not dissimilar from our own while further pushing some of those previously mentioned nostalgic memories. Also on this book is Jamie Vander Clute as the Diversity Reader, who I can only assume assisted in the referencing and gesturing of the art/writing pertaining to signing and representation (apologies if that’s incorrect). I bring this up because throughout the book most of these characters speak to each other how you expect they will, via signing. The signing that is drawn is always very specific, and the speech balloons lead to the hands during these times, further bringing attention to the hand motions. In my opinion this is one of the many ways that Pantomime is an educational title. Sure it’s going to get real thrilling real quick, but I’m certainly learning some things as well. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the action scenes in this book, really solidifying that Sebela’s words and Stohl’s body language make these kids feel their age. The way everyone is moving and especially as they work through some villainous scenarios you can feel the adrenaline fueled excitement each of them is harboring.
Pantomime is undoubtedly on it’s way to being a fantastic series. It adds details where they’re needed, looks good doing it, and once it starts up you won’t be able to put it down. I couldn’t possibly give an opinion of how the subject matter is handled from a place of experience, but I felt it educates those with less exposure to deafness with what they will need to enjoy the story and hopefully walk away with a bit more knowledge of how things work. There are no comics I have seen that utilize similar writing and illustration nuances, and I cannot wait to get my hands on more. Sebela and Stohl seem to be coming out the gate already in sync, and it’s good stuff. You can buy this title here if you don’t sign and would like to learn more about [American] sign language, I recommend checking out the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders.