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Graphic Depictions: Leave It To Chance

In our younger fanboy days, many of us turned
to books like The Hardy Boys or Tom Swift for our
daring danger and amazing adventure fix. We waited
with baited breath as each page told us how Frank and Joe would solve The Secret of The Old Mill or The Shore Road Mystery. We marveled as Tom Swift invented super-scientific ray guns and “macro-telescopes” and time machines.

But what about that other 50% of the population that
grew up reading Nancy Drew?

Far too often in the field of comic books, we forget that around one third of the readership is female (I think the figure is about 31% but feel free to correct me, true believers).

In fact, we sometimes subconsciously exclude women from comics; why is it “fanboy” and not “fanperson” or maybe the extremely ambiguous “fan?” The industry itself includes few female writers and artists compared to the amount of males, the lovely Devin Grayson being a notable exception. And let’s face it; most women are more drawn to the Indy books or Vertigo titles than they are to mainstream comics, due to the sometimes juvenile, overtly macho, male-oriented content of the mainstream.

Maybe if James Robinson, Paul Smith, and Jeremy Cox created more books, the male-to-female proportion would even out a little. The trio are responsible for Leave It To Chance: Shaman’s Rain, a collection of the first four issues of the original series published under Wildstorm’s Homage imprint.

The town of Devil’s Echo has always known of, and been plagued by, the supernatural. Demons are commonplace, faeries exist through hidden doorways, and goblins were once a house pet trend. And while it might be cool to live in this kind of town, having Hell demons try to open the barriers between Earth and the inferno once or twice a week is less than great. Luckily for the residents of Devil’s Echo, their town has always been protected by the magically adept Falconer family, and its current protector, Lucas Falconer is no exception. Having lost his wife to one of his magic menaces, Lucas is very protective of his fourteen-year-old daughter, Chance.

Chance wants nothing more than to carry on the tradition of protecting Devil’s Echo and happily awaits the day her training can begin. Unfortunately for her, the tradition only passes to the next male Falconer, leaving her to spend her life sitting around and trying to produce a male heir. Which, like a dutiful daughter, she does, and that’s the end of the book…

Just kidding.

Chance defies her father and investigates a case that he deems beneath his attention. As she
investigates an attack on a powerful shaman that left him in a coma, she discovers a conspiracy that involves the mayoral race, goblin attacks on sewer workers, and an enemy related to her father’s past that is seeking to end the Falconer line. Chance, with the help of her trusty dragon sidekick, St. George, has to save Devil’s Echo from a great evil about to
arise that will bury the town forever.

This book is great. I say that a lot, but it really is. In his introduction, Robinson tells the reader that he used to read Nancy Drew as a child and readily enjoyed her adventures. He set out to create a character that combined “Nancy Drew and Kolchak the Night Stalker” and that could appeal to female comic book readers who were “post-Archie and pre-Vertigo…instead of drifting away and leaving comic books to their brothers.” In creating Chance, Robinson has succeeded.

She’s young enough and naïve enough to appeal to the Harry Potter generation, yet adventurous enough to appeal to the diehard adventure comic reader. Finding great female comic book characters that are drawn realistically, that are strong-willed and independent,
and that actually appeal to women is hard in today’s world. Most of today’s leading ladies in three color ink are femme fatales like Lady Death and Vampirella, or complicated heroines like Promethea and Alias’s Jessica Jones. Chance is a simple, straightforward good guy and she makes reading the book plenty of fun.

The supporting cast is strong, too. From St. George the dragon to Officer Margo Vega, all the characters lend depth to the story, each possessing a distinct personality. As Batman has taught us, the butler is always a source of sagely wisdom and Lucas Falconer’s gentlemen’s gentleman Hobbs is no exception. Even the thugs in this story (thug personalities in literature being about as diverse as a Klan meeting) possess memorable qualities. You’ll also learn what a “trogg” is. Comic books: always out to expand your vocabulary.

The art on this book is simple, at times appearing similar to Akiko by Mark Crilley, though slightly more detailed (not every character has “pencil dot eyes,” only some), but Smith really shines when drawing action. Whether Chance is zipping down a clothesline or St. George is scrapping with a giant amphibian, Smith makes the reader feel every death-defying minute. Cox’s coloring also contributes. Each panel is lush with color. Even the nighttime scenes are chock-full of bright coloring, which is a nice change from some comics where negative space and an abundance of black ink tend to make a night scene look like the Exxon-Valdez crashed onto the page.

The book’s greatest strengths are its heroine and the well-constructed, interestingly populated world that Robinson creates. It’s a great story and a fun read, but the reason you should buy this book is to expand the literary world of someone else. Pick this up and give it to your younger sister or your girlfriend. Give it to your mom and see if she finally understands why you spend so much time reading those “silly funny books” that you always have your nose stuck in. I’d yell “You go girl!” but someone would probably slap me.

Leave It To Chance was one of the few books Homage published. Astro City grabbed more attention leaving Chance by the wayside, so it’s good to see that the series is seeing new life in graphic album form. The book itself is $14.95 and currently in release as a hardcover. (Robinson and Smith want to emulate the European mode of releasing their work in the form of albums.-- editor) Whatever, it makes a classy present for the lady in your life, whether it be your girlfriend or someone else. My sister will love hers.

Robert Sparling has been slapped. -- editor

Leave It To Chance Vol. 1: Shaman's Rain at Amazon.com

Robert Sparling

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