Take a Chance | Graphic Novel Reviews (ongoing series)

People Power
Michael C. Riedlinger

            Typically, I steer clear of super-hero comics. I don’t trust them because Deus Ex Machina comes into play way too often. Avoiding that is what made Rising Stars great a few years ago, and it’s one of the reasons I still re-read Watchmen at least once a year. Then along comes Take a Chance from Dabel Brother’s Publishing.

            C. E. Murphy’s title character is a hero, but she’s far from super. In fact, it was refreshing to see a comic book hero take the same stance as me on the super-powered type of characters. They’re all fine and good if you like that sort of thing, but it comes easy to them, so what’s to respect? Chance is a normal woman living in a post-apocalyptic world where a North Korean super soldier experiment has given some people powers and wiped out others. By day, she works for the mayor’s office, and by night, she runs around as a masked vigilante. Murphy’s approach to the non-powered vigilante isn’t the Batman cliché either. This woman isn’t rich, and doesn’t like to just rush in and try to bust skulls. Quite often in the pages of Chance, we’ll see the hero on a stake out collecting evidence for the police. She isn’t looking to replace the justice system; she’s looking to augment it.

            Of course, the character isn’t without her own tortured, vigilante-creating past. Frankie Kemp (Chance’s real name) watched her son get shot by a careless crook several years before the start of the series. Afterward, her marriage fell apart, she finished law school, and she started taking kung fu classes. In fact, Frankie is the model of an independent, empowered woman. She reminds me a lot of Anita Blake without the vampires, and she kicks just as much ass. Through the series so far, she puts her son’s killer back in jail after he escapes with new found super powers, and she’s gotten involved in a major drug investigation. Despite the occasional super character, the series has a lot of the tone of The Wire to it. What the Dabel Brothers have here is a series that is as innovating and refreshing as any title from Vertigo or Wildstorm in the last five years.

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Image copyright Dabel Brothers Publishing

            Artistically, Adrian Syaf has excellent storytelling skills. His work reminds me of Whilce Portacio, and his attention to detail and emotion really compliment C.E. Murphy’s story. In Syaf’s hands, Chance manages to be attractive and strong without taking on the aspects of your typical Marvel pin-up hero. Instead of focusing on skin and breasts, the artist shows us her eyes, or when appropriate, her boot. His sense of action is kinetic, but it doesn’t get distracting, striking a balance with the words on the page.

            Probably my favorite aspect of this book is how grounded in reality it is. Frankie is likeable, but not without her flaws, yet they never threaten to become clichés. C.E. Murphy covers a lot of ground with a character who is just an otherwise normal woman who wants to make a difference. When Superman and Captain America replaced the Lone Ranger, comic writers got lazy in a sense. The only people without powers had to have money or a government agency behind them, and Chance has neither. Frankie maintains her day job, runs into real problems with the police (who haven’t been infantilized, thank goodness), and has a social life to think of. She isn’t perfect, gets her ass kicked, and as a hero, fights for all the right reasons, not just the typical heroic tropes comics usually feed us about “truth and justice”. Finally, her sense of humor is distinctly normal. C.E. Murphy doesn’t have to cover bad writing with witty repartee, so Chance’s jokes have as much tendency to be humorous and appropriate as yours or mine. What remains to be seen are her limitations. How long can a person keep up a one-woman war on crime before she falls into a downward spiral of exhaustion, frustration, and a relaxing moral code? I’m not sure where Murphy is going to take Take a Chance in the end, but it’ll be worth seeing.

Final Verdict (out of 5):