Moth & Whisper #1
Ted Anderson (writer), Jen Hickman (artist)
September 12, 2018
Moth & Whisper is described by their publisher, AfterShock, as “a Young Adult cyberpunk thriller starring a genderqueer super-thief,” and if that’s not enough to get you on board, I don’t know what to tell you.
The book immediately introduces us to two of the most talented thieves the world has ever seen: the Moth, a mistress of disguise who could be anyone on any street, and the Whisper, an artist of stealth who could be right under your nose without you realizing it. While they’re known to the world as rivals, they’re secretly lovers, and when they go missing, their teenage child has to take up both their mantles if they want to find them.
The story itself is pretty classic spy stuff, although it definitely has more of a superhero feel than I was expecting from the description. These thieves aren’t just hyper competent; they’re bordering on the superhuman. Their gadgets—particularly Moth’s shapeshifting outfit, Weaver, which seems to have a bit of a personality of its own—are more on the level of the Iron Man suit than James Bond’s tuxedo.
If there is a classic spy feel, it’s related more to the art, which is impeccable and stylized. Bold, primary colors and stark silhouettes characterize the pages and give it a bit of a vintage pulp feel. I find myself particularly drawn to the artistic calling cards that both thieves leave at the scene of their crimes. Simple but memorable, there’s something about them that captivates the imagination and makes their life of crime feel romantic and glamorous.
But the real meat of this story is the main character, Niki. Even in this first issue, I’m already impressed with them. They come off as clever and determined, strong, but in tune with their feelings. The fact that they’re genderqueer didn’t necessarily come up explicitly in issue #1, although it was hinted at in ways that felt authentic to me as a genderqueer person myself. The reverence with which they treated Weaver, a device that can let them look however they want, was profoundly relatable. However, writer Ted Anderson has spoken about Niki’s gender in interviews and has described the book as being about “identity,” so I’m looking forward to see how Niki’s gender identity is treated in future issues and how it ties into the story as a whole. In any case, having a genderqueer hero in an action story is a big deal, and it’s really exciting to think that non-binary and gender nonconforming youth are going to have this book and this character to look up to.
Overall, this was a strong issue, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this series and the world that it’s set in. The cyberpunk setting was more of a background flavor than an active driver in this issue, in that I think non-discerning readers could have pretty easily skimmed over those aspects of it, but I do suspect that will change in the future, as it seems like the creators do have a vision when it comes to worldbuilding. (I particularly liked the “Facial Recognition Software In Use – Do Not Cover Face” sign in the subway, and the background details seem to suggest that surveillance culture will be a theme in upcoming issues.)
This is definitely one to pick up and look out for!