A Kid at heart
“You’re only as old as you feel” is a nice adage, but at some point reality begins to outweigh optimism. It could be one year or 30, but at some point you feel it — a confounding ache, a never ending hangover — and in that that moment you realize that certain things were a lot easier before you put on some years. So what if you could go back to that younger, ideal you? And more importantly, what if that you also came with super powers? That’s the question Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Wilfredo Torres present in their emotionally strong but narratively sporadic first volume from AfterShock Comics.
In overly simple terms, Captain Kid is essentially a reverse Billy Batson. Rather than a young boy turning into a muscle bound adult, Kid’s Chris Vargas instead reverts from a creaky, middle-aged man with bladder issues to a super strong, ab-tastic teenager. It’s wish fulfillment of the highest order, and its easily the most engaging part of this series. Writers Waid and Peyer do an excellent job of laying the emotional groundwork of the series early on. Chris is a bit of a sad sack when we first meet him, with a dead end job and ailing father to go along with the aforementioned physical ailments. And yet, he’s not a loser — he’s a sharp guy with caring friends, just one feeling the grind of a life halfway lived. And when he changes into Captain Kid, those problems don’t disappear. Flying doesn’t pay the bills, electromagnetism cant help his loved ones — his powers are a gift to be sure, but Chris and Kid lead almost entirely separate lives.
It’d be easy to look at that dichotomy in a wholly negative way, but Waid and Peyer rarely let Chris fall into self pity. He finds true joy in his powers, using them to help people in myriad ways, but he’s also aware enough to know that his life is what it is, powers or not. Some of the book’s most affecting scenes come through that realization, and while the book’s more emotional moments can read a bit rough, they don’t rob the character of his general positivity. It’s an assured take, and one that makes the rest of the narrative feel undercooked by comparison. Where Chris makes sense from page one, some of the book’s other elements are less successful. There’s a glut of side plots here, from a time traveling accomplice constantly at war with different versions of herself to a villainous businessman whose idea of world domination encourages retail therapy. Add in trouble both at work and at home and you get a lot of moving parts, so much so that the pacing of the series often suffers. Certain transitions come from seemingly nowhere, where other plots taper off with little resolution.
That confusion spills into the book’s art at times, though Wilfredo Torres turns in a mostly strong first volume. Some of his layouts are tough to follow, his panels not always leading to clean transitions from one to the next, but its tough to say whether or not that falls on him or the script itself. It is easy to give Torres credit for much of the character work exhibited here. While he doesn’t go overboard with detail, Torres shows a great eye for expression, his characters showing plenty of personality through their various physical quirks. When Chris transitions to Captain Kid he’s not just physically younger but emotionally unburdened, and that joy radiates from the page. Conversely, we never forget the wealth of experience that resides in Kid’s younger form, a testament to Torres’ nuanced ability. Kelly Fitzpatrick also deserves mention, her strong color work doing an excellent job of fitting the various moods the script presents. The fill-in issue by Brent Peeples is also solid, though it would have been nice to see Torres tackle those emotional moments.
Though busy and at times borderline confusing, Captain Kid’s first volume succeeds on the sheer will of its strong creative team. While unrealistic, Chris Vargas is never anything less than fully relatable, and its that assured take that gives Waid, Peyer and Torres their base for further adventures down the road.