On the cover of issue one of “Start Again,” we see a lonely street with two figures facing each other. One is of a woman seemingly vulnerable. With her back to the reader, you may think she has no abilities because of her awkward stance and bare feet. Then there is the man she is facing in full superhero uniform, mask and all. He looks confident and threatening. ‘Start Again’ is already telling a story and you haven’t even opened the comic yet. Subtitled ‘Superhero Boy Meets Girl’ this comic book series is for grown folks. Yes, there is frontal nudity and it’s refreshing to see that both men and women are shown realistically (by the artistic team featuring Toni Doya) without being gratuitous.
But, more importantly, Ajay (otherwise known as the sanctioned superhero Jump) appears to have a deeper issue than his identity being exposed all over social media. There’s that voice that seems to plague him at inopportune times, mostly when he’s on the brink of happiness. This is immediately followed by Ajay doing something self-destructive. Essentially his being a superhero may be keeping him from being his best self. Then there’s the girl, Natalie who just may be able to help him get his life together or completely destroy it.
A narrative which deals with mental illness can be challenging to navigate, however, writer Jamie Me manages to balance comedy and irony with super-powered moments to make what happens to Ajay seem plausible. The voices in his head are real to him. And being stalked by paparazzi isn’t helpful to his mental state. The thing is as a reader, you’re not sure what brought on the voices, or why he’s seeing things. But from the first panel Ajay’s sidekick wants whoever is listening to understand the man. Things don’t happen in a vacuum. What’s more there aren’t traditional villains, yet. Right now Ajay seems to be the one sabotaging his life.
This concise written story gives you enough to keep you interested without bogging the audience down with self-depreciating characters. Even though we meet Ajay in the midst of a life-breaking crisis, there’s no whining, or why me. Instead you have a man with a friend who genuinely helps him, but in a realistic way. There’s no coddling, it’s more one guy telling another to change what you can. Ajay may mess that up to, but at least he’s trying. What’s more the artwork makes this story come alive. The characters in this work, set in London could be people you may come across in real life. Ajay, dark-skinned, tall is an adult male as is his Caucasian friend/sidekick and his maybe girlfriend Natalie. Her blonde hair and outstanding eyebrows makes her possible in the real world. Each character has lines on their face, they’ve lived and their bodies have just as much a story to tell. There is a considerable amount to uncover in the following issues, especially since the first issue leaves you with a genuine cliffhanger. Is Ajay being plagued by a psychotic break or is it a plot? Could there be a relationship between Ajay and Natalie, and what about the sidekick? Is he truly a friend?
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