Critter #1

A comic review article by: Ray Tate
Cassia Crawford, alias Critter returns in an all new series from Big Dog Ink. Critter doesn't truly have animal powers. Rather, her name honors her mother the Velvet Fox, memorable for among other things halting a tsunami and saving a city. Critter fights on the side of justice with heightened strength, speed and agility. A child's kidnapping pushed this local Michigan hero-- the terror of cowtippers everywhere-- into the big leagues and writer/creator Thomas Hutchison picks up where he left off. He integrates his hero into city heroics and exposes her to occupational hazards such as meeting a time traveler that knows more about her than she knows about herself.

In a sense, Critter is like Dazzler. Her creator loves her. He's committed to relate stories about her. She's not just an ends to a means, and these stories aren't necessarily going to be ones that you would associate with a character like Critter. There is however an important difference. Whereas Dazzler was treated as a low-powered neophyte that operated in a better known universe, Hutchison reveals his superhero universe through Critter's eyes. The absurdity of Dazzler is that her co-creators threw the kitchen sink at her. There is no absurdity when Hutchison does the same to Critter because Critter is the character readers were exposed to first.

Hutchison opens the book with a nod to that superhero universe. He introduces the Electric Youth, his speedster, to the audience and characterizes him with a brief exchange of dialogue. It gives you a sense of the writer's skill. From the dialogue, you can tell that Electric Youth respects the superhero community and the legacy of the Velvet Fox. Hutchison then spends a little time in Critter's home town with a nostalgic farewell fight against cowtippers. What's funny is that you can really imagine her as a rural legend. A creature that preys on cowtippers is a ready made campfire tale, and like the Jersey Devil, it would be centered in one area of the country.

Hutchison then jumps head and begins Critter's urban adventures already in progress. Cassie joins up with Rookie, another female crimefighter and faces off against the Yellow Jacket in an alley. Fico Ossio designs Yellow Jacket with a sense of creepiness. He looks like he was put together from a raid of a Salvation Army clothing facility. In contrast, Ossio illustrates a female heavy cast gorgeously. There's a little cheesecake involved in his work, but they're delicious slices and resulting more from a side-effect. What happens when you put athletic women in costume, and let me stress these costumes are practical. You're bound to get some eye-candy. The same thing can be said about Misty May and Kerri Welch, the gold medalist Olympian beach volleyball players. In bikini uniform or in regular clothing, in action or just relaxing, they look fantastic.

Yellow Jacket's eponymous rancher's coat is probably the last thing a witness might see at the scene of the crime, and you can imagine a newpaper dubbing him the Yellow Jacket Killer. There's a lot of that in Critter. A backstory for each character hinted at but never forced. Surprisingly there are also consequences. At first glance, you might think Critter is going to be frivolous, and that's admittedly what I expected when I reviewed the one-shot, but the child's kidnapping changed all that, and in this issue, Critter's encounter with Yellow Jacket leads to her hospitalization.

In the hospital, Critter meets the time traveler, and this is where the comic book takes a freaky, unexpected turn. Hutchison logs a page from Enterprise. That series chronicled the travels of the first starship Enterprise commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, and in that series, he faced time travellers battling the Federation in a Temporal Cold War. The alien time travellers wanted to prevent the Federation from coming into being, and that's where you would expect them to stage their attacks. At the cusp when humankind reaches for the stars. Likewise, this time traveler wants to safeguard the superheroes, for reasons not explored but can be guessed. So, he would appear when the heroes are just starting out, when they're vulnerable. It's an ambitious move from Hutchison, and it really suggests a plan. As well, it answers some questions that nit-pickers might have.

Hutchison concludes this issue of Critter by introducing Cassia's spunky roommate Gina, and while this might be considered fluff--it's certainly well-written-- there is the possibility that Hutchison is actually setting up something besides a humorous boys will be boys situation. The hi-jinks could easily escalate into something nasty. Whatever the choice, I'll be there for the next issue. So should you.



Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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