Readers should not expect Vita Ayala, Nikolas Draper-Ivey and ChrisCross’s Static: Season One #1 to be Dwayne McDuffie, Robert Washington III and John Paul Leon’s Static (1993) #1, or the Static Shock! cartoons. That’s the trap of this issue. This creative team has brought the first unique voice to the character in a decade, and in many ways the book feels fresh because of that. This ain’t your daddy’s Static.
Ayala makes the very conscious decision here to pivot their focus from Static’s external interactions and struggles to his internal ones. Readers are brought into Virgil’s thoughts to understand the fear and anxiety he’s experiencing shortly after such a traumatic event. From the first word Ayala makes use of Static powers, and his control of them, as an apt metaphor for the current anxiety surrounding police’s treatment of Black people and the way some have chosen to respond to such incidents.
In an interview with AIPT, ChrisCross said, “People are doing things in front of you and they’re looking at you saying, ‘It didn’t really happen. We didn’t really just do that to you,'” and that feeling is reflected in Ayala’s script. This is especially true as the script expands to show readers the perspective of various onlookers who are also experiencing this injustice.
It’s crystal clear that this series will have the same political edge that the original had, though in many instances seemingly dropping its more mature roots in favor of something a little more PG-13.
It’s in some ways here where the book suffers the most from being in the shadow of McDuffie’s legacy. He was such an incredible writer of authentic sounding banter and conversation that at times a character like Hotstreak can feel very produced, and unnecessarily polished. Even when a character stands out like Sharon does, they simply standout as being as good as McDuffie’s take.
This isn’t to say the book is bad — it isn’t! Ayala simply succeeds by standing out in different places. Static’s family, who only got so much attention in the ‘93 series, is a central focus of how Static is coming to terms with his powers. His relationship with Sharon stands out as real, from the snippy banter to the compassionate annoyance she has for him. They’re shown coming together to try and help Static overcome what he’s going through as a unit, which is unusual for a superhero comic, especially one centered on a Black character.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the sole focus of the book. It seems like Ayala was given the unfortunate task of having to introduce all of the Milestone-isms, and while the book is successful when focused on characters, in other places it can feel like it’s jumping through the hoops of both its genre and its publisher.
There are also a couple decisions that feel weird in the story. For example, Static being trained in martial arts feels like a shortcut to circumnavigate explaining how he might become a good crimefighter. It’s even shown as being effective despite Static being out of training, which feels inorganic.
Lastly though, this issue ends on a banger of a hook. It’s reminiscent of Invincible, in that while threading the needle through the tropes of the genre it smacks the reader in the face with real consequences which must be followed up on.
This is all beautifully rendered by Nikolas Draper-Ivey and ChrisCross. Right off the bat, Draper-Ivey’s fusion of styles stands out from anything else on the shelf today. His use of textures and patterns in the early sections of the book lend it an ultra-modern style, and his blend of Eastern influences in the latter sections make the conclusion appropriately dynamic and epic for the re-introduction of Static to the world.
Draper-Ivey has committed to distinct and well-defined visual identities for each character. Each feels as if they could be a person one would meet, with a full life, taste in film and clothes and hobbies. Virgil himself is well-dressed and slight, with a bit of a baby-face, and this communicates so much of his personality without him even speaking a word.
This also expands to characters being depicted changing outfits. It’s not seen very often, but the way Draper-Ivey takes the time to have a character wear what they would wear to bed, and wear different outfits to school on different days makes the world feel so much more lived in.
There’s not a better character to put to use Draper-Ivey’s 3D effects than Static and Hotstreak. The lightning and fire pop off the page in a way that makes the fights feel electric. It’s a style that is undoubtedly a little ahead of its time, and due to be adopted by a generation of artists pretty soon.
There’s so much potential here for the series to take off now that it’s introduced readers to all the concepts they need to know, and they’ve gotten past the shock of this not being McDuffie’s Static. As long as the series continues to focus on Virgil’s close relationships, internal struggles and healing from his trauma, it can only get better from here. Of course, it would be a crime if all Draper-Ivey got to do was quiet contemplative scenes, so maybe Ayala will throw a few more villains in there, too.
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