We Are The Danger #1
Fabian Lelay (Writer and Artist), Claudia Aguirre (Colorist), Taylor Esposito (Letterer)
June 6, 2018
We Are the Danger #1 is not writer and artist Fabian Lelay’s first tryst with Black Mask. Having co-created Jade Street Protection Services with writer Katy Rex, Lelay is back to team up with colorist Claudia Aguirre and letterer Taylor Esposito to create this new Young Adult comic about a teen band.
Readers are introduced to the story by Julie, who plays upon the age-old YA tradition of being the new girl to her high school. Julie is ignored by all of her classmates with the exception of a girl named Tabitha, who invites her to a gig that night. For some reason, Tabitha completely omits that she is playing at that gig as a drummer in her own band, surprising Julie with her talent. Readers are told by the swiftly moving (perhaps too swiftly) narration that Julie feels a natural connection to her and the two decide to start a band together. Slight digression: this is not a queer story, like your reviewer expected going in.
The creative team continues to bring in a forgettable cast of characters to fill in the spots for the rest of Julie and Tabitha’s new band. This includes a guitarist whose name the comic never mentions despite it trying to sell that she’s very talented, and Scooter, who’s apparently only around because he owes Tabitha a favor. Outside of the band, there’s Dee Dee, Tabitha’s friend, who is there for no discernible reason. Bizarrely, while a lot of these introductions bog down the comic, the narration rushes itself at the same time. It skims over the most important parts of writing, including backstory, character development, and essentially anything emotional that readers would be able to grab onto.
To replace where these details should be are a shallow collection of cliches. Ultimately, Tabitha’s former bandmate, Logan, swears vengeance because, according to the other characters, she’s spoiled and used to getting her way. Not exactly the newest or most enlightening motivation ever. In a sort of tangential response to Logan’s subtweets about them, which seems like a rather large reaction to a petty issue, the comic ends on Julie naming the band We Are the Danger.
Lelay’s artistic style serves We Are the Danger #1 well as a YA book, if not one that’s about a band. It never quite loses itself in a music-affectionate aesthetic, playing it safe with more facial shots than instruments. We’re told in the beginning that Tabitha and her original band are amazing, but the images captured in each panel are never lavished on the stage and the supposedly excited crowd seems somewhat separate from what’s happening on the page. Even small shows feel bigger than they are, but the gig we see hardly takes up the space that such an atmosphere demands.
This isn’t to say that the art is entirely weak. Lelay’s layouts are undeniably impressive. They’re dynamic, shifting on every page and keeping a momentum that the narration lacks. Even if the events on a page seem like they could have been cut from the story, their presentation often makes a quick read. Lelay achieves this often through well placed and sized panels as well as the slant of panel borders, which help to push readers forward.
We Are the Danger #1’s most successful page comes early. It’s shaped like a tape, containing eight panels that tell Julie’s isolation at school through the distance between her and everyone else. It’s an interesting page to take in, particularly because We Are the Danger #1 is not the type of book that is trying to be experimental. However, if you think a tape layout seems like an odd choice in a story that apparently takes place in a modern setting that has Twitter, you would be correct. Even within the comic’s strengths, there is a sense that the creative team paid little attention to detail.
While one wishes one could say something different for the colors, the work there also unfortunately falls short. Whether the blame lies in Aguirre’s efforts or Lelay’s foundation is uncertain, but the colors seem often confused by the lighting and appear inconsistent throughout the comic. In order to try to convey the energy the comic wants to have, Aguirre fills Lelay’s empty backgrounds with neon gradients. Not only does this look cheap, it pulls readers’ attention to the backgrounds when they should be looking at the foregrounds. While backgrounds are often time-consuming for artists and unnecessary for readers, We Are the Danger #1 has an unusually high ratio of panels with no backgrounds to panels with backgrounds. This means the comic is trying to be “loud” most of the time, and what’s actually happening on the page often doesn’t justify it.
So in the end, what we have is a comic based on a cliche structure, evidently themeless, and with clumsy execution. “I forgot how music can affect people,” Julie says in one of the dumbest lines in the comic, but readers barely get the sense of what music means to her, never mind what that says about how music relates to them. While it’s always nice to see books led by girls of color on a surface level, it’s even nicer to see them with some depth attached. Unfortunately, We Are the Danger #1 doesn’t have that depth nor the intimacy with its subject matter needed to sustain itself.