by Andy Wolverton
I’m always pleased to see strong female characters headlining comics/graphic novels, and Jamal Igle (who has previously worked on Supergirl and Firestorm) provides just that in Molly Danger, Book One, the first of a projected four-book series. This initial volume opens with a girl named Molly battling Medula, a purple-caped villain with a floating, talking brain in his helmet. (I must confess a fondness for floating-brain-in-the-helmet villains, so Igle had me early on!) It’s a great battle scene and a good introduction to Molly’s powers and abilities. We soon discover that Molly is the focal point of Danger’s Action Response Team (D.A.R.T.), an organization whose stated purpose is to assist and equip Molly on her missions. Their real purpose? To keep reckless young Molly out of trouble.
Molly is, in fact, a 10-year-old superhero who’s been fighting crime in Coopersville for nearly 20 years. “Wait a minute,” you’re saying, “the math doesn’t add up.” You’re right, it doesn’t. That’s because Molly is a 30-year-old trapped in the body of a 10-year-old girl. She’s also the sole survivor of an alien ship that crash-landed on Earth years before our story begins.
Most of Molly’s crime-fighting efforts are directed toward a group of supervillains known as the evil Supermechs. The public adores Molly for keeping them safe, but the City of Coopersville finds itself constantly scrambling to come up with millions of dollars to pay for the collateral damage caused by each of Molly’s battles. D.A.R.T.’s administration puts strict controls on Molly, which helps keep Coopersville safe, but dooms Molly to a life of loneliness.
Yet Molly isn’t the only reckless character in the story. Austin Briggs is a risk-taking cop who gets transferred to D.A.R.T. and eventually gets an assignment to back up Molly on a mission. Austin has his own issues to sort out, which I won’t go into here.
Molly Danger is a beautifully drawn book that makes excellent use of pacing, point of view, and color. A bold, easy-to-follow layout is always a strong selling point, and Igle has a great eye for visual storytelling. A large amount of backstory gets dumped on the reader, but Igle keeps it interesting by not allowing those sections to go on for too long.
The biggest problem with Molly Danger stems from the fact that it’s an all-age comic, which creates some interesting challenges. Baker & Taylor lists the book’s audience as “Children’s – Grade 1-2, Age 6-7.” (The Amazon age range is 6 and up.) Igle is dealing with several thematic issues that are pretty sophisticated for a six or seven-year-old: identity issues, family problems involving stepchildren, isolation, authority, and more, all written with a pretty hefty amount of text. Molly Danger is far more than a fun-and-games title for kids. There’s a lot of depth here that younger audiences probably won’t fully understand. Can they still enjoy the book as a good action story? Absolutely, but Molly Danger would probably be best enjoyed by kids 10 and older.
If the book’s level of sophistication is a hindrance for younger readers, the second problem may come in the form of consistency and believability for older readers. We’re not really sure what to make of a 30-year-old person trapped in the body of a 10-year-old girl: D.A.R.T. treats Molly like a 10-year-old, and Molly often acts that way, but not always. Older readers may also have some problems believing a reckless guy like Austin would so quickly be allowed to backup Molly on a solo mission, much less take her home to meet his family (a meeting which is telegraphed early on). Again, younger readers may not pick up on these consistency/believability issues, but older readers probably will.
As with most all-age comics, different readers will enjoy the book in different ways. I congratulate Igle for creating a good comic accessible to many, but I hope that marketing departments and vendors (which are beyond Igle’s control) don’t limit his potential audience. Molly Danger presents us with a bold lead character, and Igle has a strong visual sense of where she should go. In the project’s Kickstarter video, Igle states, “I think that there aren’t enough characters for young girls to look up to who aren’t hampered by being overly sexualized or by being subservient to another male character. I specifically designed Molly to be sort of an antithesis to mainstream superheroes.” I agree with his first sentence and applaud the second. I look forward to seeing where Molly Danger will go from here.
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