Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge – Grace Ellis, Writer; Brittney Williams, Artist; Caitlin Quirk, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: DC’s young readers line has made many impressive forays into the bookstore market, but I don’t know if there’s ever been a book more perfectly suited for it than Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge. Written by Lumberjanes co-creator Grace Ellis and drawn by original Goldie Vance artist Brittney Williams, it focuses on a 13-year-old Lois Lane as she investigates her first major story and tries to figure out how her passion and ambition fits in with her tight bond with her best friend. It’s a fun, compelling story ideal for kids in the age group, with a lower-stakes feel than many of the recent OGNs.
The first thing that really stands out here is that this has next to zero ties to the greater DCU, unlike many of the other OGNs like Superman of Smallville or Batman Overdrive that featured younger heroes. Not only are none of Lois’ Metropolis friends guest-starring, but even the ones she’d know as a pre-teen aren’t around. Sam and Lucy Lane are never seen or mentioned, and Lois’ mother remains off-panel. That gives this a slightly disconnected feel from its subject matter – this could even be an original graphic novel where the main character was given the name Lois Lane to make it a tie-in. That doesn’t make it any less entertaining, but I kind of think we could also use a Young Adult Lois graphic novel that brings her closer to the Lois we know.
The main cast here features Lois, her best friend Kristen, a college-age journalist friend named Henri Ortiz, a new girl in town named Izzy who Lois is instantly suspicious of, and a pair of dueling bike-shop owners. The main mystery, set against the backdrop of an upcoming bike race and Kristen’s departure for sleepaway camp for the summer, involves a blackmail note and a stolen box of fireworks. It’s all pretty low-key, but the real point here isn’t about the mystery. It’s about Lois figuring out who she wants to be and confronting some of her less charming tendencies – like being obsessed with social media and being in a rivalry with a fellow tween YouTube influencer who never actually appears in the story.
The art by Williams is probably the highlight of the book, which is no surprise – she’s always been one of the best cartoonists in the business, and her characters are wonderfully expressive. I’m a particular fan of Lois’ fat grey cat and partner in crime Ed, and a hilarious one-page cutaway gag involving Lois’ sketched out theory of the crime. It’s a good fit for the light tone, and it’s great to see Williams’ art on a DC character – she did a fanart design of the entire Daily Planet cast that can be found around the internet a few years back, and I’d love to see her on more DC works down the line.
Aside from a strange bit involving a disturbingly high-tech bike shop that steals Lois’ bike at one point, there are really no genre elements in this story. It’s all drama that could happen to any kid over the summer. My main issue with this book is that Lois can be kind of unlikable at times, but I think that’s the point. She’s so involved with her own drama that she’s basically ignoring her best friend, isolating the new girl in town out of paranoia, and her tunnel vision ultimately leads her to commit a betrayal that would be unforgivable if it wasn’t presented in such a funny way. There’s a long way for this high-ambition kid to become the Lois Lane we all know and love, but the end of the book sets her up to get there.
I have a feeling we’re going to get better Lois Lane stories from the OGN line sooner or later, but as a stand-alone OGN introducing kids to one of the DCU’s best characters, this is a another hit from a fast-growing line with a near-perfect reputation for quality.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes