Magical, Light-Hearted Perfection in “Steven Universe Vol. 1” (REVIEW)

Jul 20, 2015

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stevenuniverse_tpb_v1_cover (416x640)Steven Universe Vol. 1 

Written by: Jeremy Sorese
Art by: Coleman Engle

I’m usually not a fan of comic book tie-ins for cartoons, especially not cartoons I love. More often than not they come across as bizarre fan fiction that barely manages to capture the tone of the original program or worse, the writers don’t try to match the tone at all and create something that bears little resemblance to the source material. Still, I absolutely jumped at the chance to review the first volume of Kaboom Studio’s Steven Universe comics because I am a die-hard fan who doesn’t mind the fact that a cartoon regularly reduces me to a blubbering mess.

*ahem *

For those unaware, Steven Universe is about the adventures of the titular Steven, an 11 year old boy who lives with a group of magical alien warriors known as the Crystal Gems, who spent centuries helping his mother defend the Earth from magical threats and now are his watchful guardians and surrogate mothers. This volume collects the first four issues of Kaboom’s Steven Universe comics, each featuring a main story with writing by Jeremy Sorese and art by Coleman Engle. There are also several backup stories by various writers and artists, including one by Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar.

What I enjoyed most about this collection is the sheer ease with which every writer seemed to grasp and replicate the tone of the show. Steven Universe manages to cram a great deal of story and character interaction into their eleven minute episodes and it was amazing to see that replicated on the page. Sorese and all the other writers involved have a fantastic grasp on the voices of each character and their relationships to one another and nothing in this volume seems as though it would be out of place in an episode of the show.

“Bike Race,” the main story in the second issue, which features the Crystal Gems all using gem technology to upgrade Steven’s bike so he isn’t hurt in an upcoming race, seems as though it would’ve fit right in with any of the light-hearted episodes early on in the show’s first season. As as matter of fact, Sorese’s story “Taxi,” where Steven and Connie begin using Lion’s teleportation powers to run a taxi service for the residents of Beach City is so entertaining and utterly in line with the show I honestly had trouble remembering if I’d read it in this trade or watched it on tv.SU 1 (640x449)

Sorese’s writing is only strengthened by some fantastic art by Coleman Engle, whose style reminds me of a cross between Paper Mario and the stickers my kindergarten teacher used to hand out. While obviously a departure from the art style of the source material, it works on every level and truly compliments the characters and the world they inability. And the colors. Oh my god, the colors. Color-work is something I think we gloss over far too often when talking about comics and while I don’t think I know the first thing about art, I can say without a doubt that Engle absolutely nails it. The palette he uses is muted, almost like trying to use the old gunk-covered crayons from your childhood. And I mean that in an absolutely complimentary way.

And lest I forget: Sorese and Engle aren’t the only creators involved.

The back-up stories by Josceline Fenton and her manga-inspired art a truly a joy to look at and read – I’d gladly pick up an entire volume with just her stories and Rebecca Sugar’s short at the end of the volume (with coloring and letter work by Sorese, I should mention) put a huge smile on my face.

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I’d say without any compunction that this collection would make a fantastic gift for the Steven Universe

fan in your life but most importantly, I can’t imagine there’s a kid on the planet who wouldn’t enjoy this volume, whether they’re a fan of the show or not. These stories are funny, light-hearted, well paced and fantastically illustrated. It’s a perfect pork chop and these days those are hard to come by.