A year ago, I reviewed the first two issues of Elemental. I commended James Purdy‘s comic on its unique, hand-drawn art style and its innovative and educational concept. I was pretty excited to get my hands on the next two issues to see how the story continues. Issues three and four of Elemental more-or-less follow the same structure as its predecessors, but there were a few moments where I felt like the comic missed out on some great opportunities. (minor spoilers ahead!)
As you may recall, Elemental is the story of a teenage boy named Sean with the ability to adopt the qualities of any element on the periodic table. Like with any superhero story, he has to deal with his personal and his crimefighting life while trying to keep the two separate. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible, and deep into issues three and four of the Elemental saga, we watch as Sean’s personal and vigilante lives clash.
The third issue throws us into the action right away with Elemental fighting a menacing super-villain named Drake. The design for Drake is very similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Yellowjacket with his extra appendages and overall menacing image. After Drake kicks the crap out of Elemental, Sean discovers that the villain is actually wearing an exo-suit, and that someone must be controlling it from the inside. But who could it be?
Sean’s Uncle John realizes that Elemental needs some proper training, so he takes him to a professional karate instructor to teach him how to fight better. This whole training scene happens very, very briefly, and it’s hardly mentioned again any time afterwards. I figured that Elemental would use what he learned to help him out in a fight against Drake later on, but it doesn’t happen. It was almost just a filler scene. I’m curious as to whether the instructor or his lessons will have some significance in the future.
We learn a little more about Sean’s personal life in these two issues, namely his situation at school and with his friends. I’m still a little off-put by how Sean is supposed to be 13 years old, yet he acts like he’s 16 or 17. I’m hoping we get some sort of time jump in a future issue just for the sake of convenience.
We’re briefly introduced to Sean’s close friends Sasha and Tom, and the school’s authoritative headmistress Jane Hill. For a while, I figured that Jane Hill was Drake given her attitude and general demeanor; however, in a huge twist, we discover that the villain is actually another main character, but I won’t tell who. This twist caught me by surprise, and I have to applaud Purdy for pulling it off.
Just like with the last issues, some of the things I loved about Elemental include the authentic, hand-drawn artwork, and the educational value. Every time Elemental uses a specific element’s properties, there’s a small box that pops up to inform the reader of the element and its attributes. The comic is actually making science fun! It’s incredibly creative how the story incorporates the various elements, all the way from Carbon, to Plutonium. I almost want to pick up a chemistry textbook and learn more about the periodic table.
However, even if I love the comic’s creativity and artwork, there are still some downsides that I have to address. The dialogue is a bit clunky here and there, and it feels unnatural the way some of these characters speak. It didn’t seem like the conversation was flowing naturally half the time. It also got a bit confusing concerning the interior monologues with Drake and Elemental. The story shifts between the two’s inner thoughts and it can get confusing if you’re not paying absolute attention. You may have to go back and read a panel once or twice to catch on.
Overall, Elemental still holds up as a fair comic. It could actually work well for a pre-teen comic if some of the language was adjusted. I think Purdy may have struck upon an idea for a valuable educational tool that combines science with comics. For now, I think it’s a nice little story to have on your shelf (or on your hard drive), especially if you like good artwork and some chemistry sprinkled into your comics.
Have you picked up the latest issues of Elemental? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!