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Leave it to Chance
by James Robinson and Paul Smith
issues #1-5 (#1-4 are also collected in paperback)
Rating: , Content:
When artist Jim Lee announced that he was going to start his own publishing company, he had two "hits" lined up to be part of it: Kurt Busiek's Astro City, and Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, both critical successes and fan favourites. Astro City was already touted by some as one of the best superhero series of the decade; Strangers in Paradise was already praised as self-publishing success story. But what was this third, unknown title they mentioned: Leave it to Chance?
It's a pleasant surprise... that's what it is.
One reason it's surprising is that it's a change of pace for the writer. James Robinson has a reputation for "dark" and "pretentious" storytelling, based on his The Golden Age mini-series (which depicted many of DC's classic heroes as rather flawed people, compared to the idealistic characterisation they'd received during their heyday), and his current Starman series for DC (which seems to ape artsy movie directors like Tarantino). But Leave it to Chance has avoided these traps. The darkness in this series (which admittedly has been abundant) lies only in the night-time scenery and in the hearts of the villains, not as stains on the character of the heroes. And instead of pretentiousness, we get a shamelessly innocent spirit of "let's pretend".
The protagonist in particular is quite innocent and forthright, in fact. She's Chance Falconer, daughter of the city's magical protector Lucas. For generations, the men of the Falconer family have taught their sons the magical arts, so that they can each take their turn keeping the forces of evil at bay in Devil's Echo. Chance has just turned 14, the age at which her father (and his father...) began training. But Lucas is old-fashioned, and refuses to put an adolescent girl in that kind of danger.
What's not surprising is that Chance (who's "old-fashioned" in the spirit of Sojourner Truth, Susan Anthony, Lois Lane, Amelia Earhart, Wonder Woman, and Rosie the Riveter) won't stand for this, and resolves to prove that she can do the job just as well as any boy. With a mixture of childlike naivete and mature sensibility, she manages to get herself right into the thick of things. She gets in over her head, but never loses her head. And I don't think I'm spoiling any surprises to say that Chance ends up proving herself worthy of consideration as the next protector of Devil's Echo.
While Chance is the clear star of the book, her supporting cast is interesting and entertaining. Her father is a caring - if overly protective - man, dedicated to his important mission, and generally worthy of Chance's emulation. In the opening story of the series, she earns the affection (and assistance) of a rather unconventional "pet". She also makes some friends in the adult world, who provide her with support (both logistical and emotional) she needs as she takes on demons and such on her own. (Another nice surprise is that one of them, the cop, is a woman: another important role model for a girl whose mother was killed by enemies of her father.) Even some of the bad guys are interesting... but still despicable.
Those expecting to see art like Paul Smith's work with Robinson on The Golden Age will also be surprised. This is much simpler and cartoony, fitting the tone of the series very well. One thing that takes a little getting used to is the way some of the characters are more "toony" than others. For example, Chance's features are pretty realistic human features, but the butler Hobbs has a bulbous nose almost as round as the lenses of his spectacles. And characters' eyes tend to switch back and forth between fully drawn almond-shapes with lids and lashes... and little circles or dots. But once you're accustomed to such quirks, the art draws you in and carries you along. Jeromy Cox's colouring is also very effective, helping to establish the mood in various scenes.
The first four issues (just collected in a trade paperback) contain a single story, establishing the main characters, the setting, and starting Chance on her journey into the dark, forbidding world of her father. Issue #5 tells a self-contained short story, a nice little breather after the opening "epic". This is certainly a series that should be enjoyed by many early- and pre-teen girls... which is a surprise to find in today's comics market. Equally surprising is how much fun it is for early-thirties man such as I. Even if you don't think you'll like it... give Chance a chance. You may be surprised.
The Leave it to Chance books are available in many comics shops (call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK or check your local yellow pages to find one) and mainstream bookstores. Or you can order them online from Barnes & Noble here (and help support this site through the small commission we get on each sale): Shaman's Rain, Trick or Treat, Monster Madness.
This book can be discussed in rec.arts.comics.misc