Leave It to Chance
Created by: James Robinson, Paul Smith
Published by: Image
ISBN: 1582402531 (Amazon)
During the ‘90s, as comics waded in the gentle throws of evolution, the medium struggled to find its new voice. Comics from the era often suffer from some of the stylistic impoverishments that had latched onto the published form over the previous century. As the books tried to assert themselves as worthy of attention, even many of the best examples of the medium offer sore points that seem stilted when compared to the contemporary product.
Appearing concurrently with Starman, James Robinson’s better-known work, Leave It to Chance is one of that decade’s better examples of comics adventure fiction to come from either of the two big publishers of American comics (it was originally published by DC). Chance magnifies that sense of the adventurous that the young ideally possess when their spirits haven’t been sequestered by disappointment, shame, and humiliation. The book’s protagonist, a fourteen-year-old girl named Chance, embodies all of what we might expect to see in a youth uninhibited by personal boundaries constructed in moments of fear and pain and discomfort.
Chance hopes to inherit the role of protector of the town of Devil’s Echo from the many paranormal threats it regularly faces. This, after all, is the generations-old Falconer family legacy. Her father forbids her training, hoping to pass the legacy on to a male heir (because he lost his wife to supernatural elements years earlier, he cannot brook the thought that he might lose Chance similarly). Chance, as these things go, gets into troubles and adventures regardless—half through her own precociousness and half through author-scripted circumstance. Like I said: as these things go.
The story is a lot of fun and Chance is a perfectly likable heroine. Being a big fan of Paul Smith’s art since his work on The Uncanny X-Men in the early/mid ‘80s, I was happy to be experiencing his work again. Smith’s character work is elegant and lively. He illustrates a world that arrives with a certain fluidity that is missing from the real world and this serves to elevate the adventurous aspect of Leave It to Chance. Readers caught up in current themes in fantasy-adventure illustration might find his work quaint and old-fashioned, but Smith’s cleanliness of line and clear cartooning reads like a breath of fresh air to those wearied by the dark attempts at realism that have proliferated over the last decade.
Still, as fun as Leave It to Chance may be, there are era-centered peculiarities that readers must decide to overlook lest they become frustrated. The book is clearly a product of its time and that is nowhere so apparent as it is in Robinson’s writing. Chance's narrative is governed by thought bubbles that don’t just give insight into the hero’s thought process but serve to exposit the story with heavy-handed mitts.
In one early panel, there has been a scene shift from Chance’s kitchen to an alleyway. Chance is getting out of her small, sporty adventurer’s car (she’s only fourteen but it’s an adventurer’s car, not a real one). The following internal monologue takes place in a single panel:
Or if you couldn’t read that well:
The case file Saunders left in dad’s study said that this is where Raven was staying.
Bad area. The Maze. Full of dollar-a-day tenament rooms. Whatever brought the shaman to Devil’s Echo hadn’t paid off yet. Not if this address is anything to go by.
So already I’m guessing he was attacked to stop him from doing whatever he came here to do.
It’s overblown and a tool from another age. We wouldn’t forgive this kind of writing in the current era, but just like we’re willing to accept the unbelievably coy boy-girl dynamic in Casablanca or the fact that certain old Disney movies and Warner cartoons were brutally insensitive to non-WASPs, if we are considerate, we may be able to overlook these slights to our enlightened sensibilities and find an enjoyable product. Leave It to Chance isn’t perfect, but it’s still quite a bit of fun and should appeal to younger readers.
Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:
3 Stars = Good
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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.
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