I have recently had the pleasure of reading an ‘ASH’can of the first issue of ASH, Academy of Super Heroes, by Loran, from Sloth Publishing.
ASH, Academy of Super Heroes is a gorgeous, full-colour, pocket sized publication. Its cover is an exuberant homage to the classic team books of the silver and bronze ages.
On the first page, we’re introduced to one of the key characters, Tatum, attending nursery school. Things do not go well. Along with this being an elegantly crafted one-page origin, it does a great job of setting the agenda: “With big powers, come big problems…” It’s also a fine starter for the main course which is the rest of the book, in terms of pace, tone and irreverent humour.
As one turns over the page, one promptly jaunts ten years into the future with an introduction to the academy itself and some of it’s more prominent students; There’s a host of exceedingly endearing characters, such as Chame-Leon, Liquid Eye, Invisiboy and “Kaboom” Tatum, to name but a few.
We initially encounter them partaking of a group sport activity. This proves to be a fine manner in which to concisely enlighten a reader to their individual special abilities.
More pertinently, Loran begins to reveal aspects of their personalities, wrapped up in the roustabout behaviour one might expect from such a bunch of kids. In addition, the displays of group dynamics are a tool finely utilised to succinctly reveal more about these super-tykes, as the story progresses. Whilst there are jackanapes a-plenty, the characterisations are sincere.
As the students go about their day, we encounter their Headmistress, Zeta Eldridge. She is in the midst of dealing with an inspection of her academy, by a rather proper bureaucrat and a cynical army Colonel who one feels might well have ulterior motives behind his rather gruff disposition.
From here on the tale deftly proceeds with parallel strands, advancing through the student’s day and the aforementioned inspection. You can be assured that antics and shenanigans ensue. Each separate class is a fresh tableau with which to amuse and poke general fun.
Loran’s art unsurprisingly supplements and adds great texture to the story itself. There is plenty of colour, fine design and boundless energy. Ultimately however, it’s the characterisations, facial expressions and exquisite background detail that treat the reader to a spectacle that is fully realised.
Particularly rewarding for more adult readers perhaps, this book is littered with jibes and delightful “amuse-bouches”, referencing mainstream classic comic book tropes, story-telling devices and characters.
However, we haven’t finished just quite yet. The tail-end of this booklet has a back-up that proudly presents the story of Atom Girl. There is a charming reveal therein that is a fine way to sign off on this first installment. It succeeds in being both a rather arch observation of some of the prevalent attitudes of yester-year, whilst being an affectionate nod to the comic-book contrivances of those times.
This is a fine all-ages reading experience, crafted in the finest tradition yet populated with characters and traits that are contemporary and fresh. This deserves a wider audience.
Please Monsieur, may I have some more?
Loran is a highly amusing and talented story-teller, who hails from France. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at The Marvellous Origins of Loran!