Looking at the cover of Lady Phenom, I am overcome with childhood nostalgia for Super Girl starring Helen Slater. While not a commercial or critical success, I can remember staring at that movie poster for hours wanting to be Helen Slater . . . to be Super Girl. I wonder if young girls will get the same feeling looking at this Lady Phenom cover, which may have been the same feeling many girls also got looking at the Wonder Woman covers. I suspect they will. There is nothing more magical than to be a child or adult and see a superhero looking back at you in any art form. As a girl, when most of what we are given to play with is dainty and delicate, it is even more life changing to have a woman that flies and saves lives on a cover for all to see. Now that is PHENOMENAL!
Lady Phenom tells the story of Carolyn Quinn, a fighter pilot for the U.S Air force. In Missing Time, the foundation is laid for Carolyn’s future adventures as Lady Phenom. Carolyn disappears in a burst of light while flying her F-18 in a routine exercise and is gone for three months. When she reappears, she has distorted memories of an alien world. We are not told yet what Lady Phenom’s mission will be, and we have much more to learn about Carolyn’s missing time during her abduction. The creators do an excellent job of leaving a plethora of story possibilities for future comic editions.
Gabe Marquez’s costume design for Lady Phenom has the patriotic feel of Super Girl and Superman and yet with the child-like quality that Carolyn herself comments on: “It looks like a bathing suit.” What child hasn’t put on a bathing suit and galoshes, rapped a towel around their neck, and stood proudly, gazing in the mirror, fists planted firmly on their waists, goggles on their eyes? This is Lady Phenom. Ironically, those swimming goggles are also so eerily similarly to her pilot goggles- the overlaps astound. What I like about this is that it is instantly identifiable, relatable, and makes sense for the character. A patriotic pilot would make this costume. And, who knows . . . there may be even more to learn about the costume’s origins in the next issue. The rest of the artwork is kept simplistic. The focus is the action and story of shading and artistic intricacy.
Writer Paul Jamison sets an otherworldly tone using ethereal, verbose narration with a heightened sense of urgency. At times, it can come across as over the top, but the consistency with which he holds command of the tone helps to keep the reader in the same belief and world as him. I only wish he had the same command to stay with and develop each scene. The poetry he uses in narration can cause some confusion in plotting, as he quickly moves from one moment of Carolyn’s metamorphosis to another without fully explaining her thought process. The reader is left to interpret her actions and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Jamison has left clues in his writing along the way, but the reveal, the most important moment of Carolyn choosing to become Lady Phenom, was confusing for me. In addition, there was a character I was left to wonder if he had died, and I really want to know! Quinn became the champion for dogs forced to fight in dog fights everywhere – watch out, Michael Vick – but again, why, I am not sure, as it was a bit out of nowhere. I am intrigued to see what the next addition has in store, as it promises more details of Carolyn’s missing three months!