Any conversation had about Dodge City #1 (BOOM!) has to start with how cute it is. And not in a cloying, saccharine way that makes it hard to appreciate. Dodge City is cute in a way that fans of manga like Princess Jellyfish or comics like Squirrel Girl will appreciate: it’s smart and motivated, driven by distinct characters who all have their own nuanced needs, but allows them to have fun. Especially for people who like to read monthly comics, it can be hard to find that kind of story on the shelves of any local comic shop. Though some publishers have been trying to fill this niche, the vast majority of books with that same feeling are young-adult or all-ages graphic novels, or manga being translated into English for Western audiences.
A lot of that welcoming, happy tone is set by Cara McGee’s art. McGee worked previously on a slew of different variant covers and the Over The Garden Wall comic, but what she’s best known for is probably her fan art and the loyal following she’s built with years of work online. Many fans got to know her when she began to create custom tea blends based on popular characters and fandoms, from BBC shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who to the Avengers. That sensibility has carried into her professional work, imbuing her art with a lively sense of joy and expressive, relatable characters. Colorist Brittany Peer has a bright, poppy sensibility as demonstrated in her work on Jonesy, and that serves her well here as the characters are largely wearing the kind of saturated colors that come along with being on a competitive sports team.
That’s what Dodge City is really about: competitive dodgeball. More Whip It than the Ben Stiller vehicle, the comic follows perpetual underdogs the Jazz Pandas as they struggle to win at least one game before ending their season. It’s the kind of story found in sports manga and anime regularly, but that, despite the success worldwide, has yet to catch on with Western publishers. Writer Josh Trujillo has worked on several Adventure Time comics as well as both the Love Is Love and Mine! anthologies. Dodge City has the same bouncy, sharp comedy and great timing that make shows like Adventure Time really work, and fans of that show or Trujillo’s other work should definitely check out this book. What’s even more remarkable is the effortless way that the characters are established through this first issue, personalities and backgrounds ranging widely in every direction. Without putting any stress or too much weight on any individual character, Dodge City is inclusive of race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, and body type in a way that most comics aren’t. The diversity isn’t a punchline or a goal, it’s just a fact that reflects the world as it really is.
It’s difficult to make a book that can be all-ages that also keeps the interest of adults, and one that displays the amount of heart and humor that Dodge City does is remarkable. In just a few short pages, Trujillo and McGee introduce and add enough depth to a fairly large cast of characters, getting readers just emotionally invested enough to make them come back for more while leaving some mysteries to be uncovered in later issues. It’s a really great premiere for this team, and embraces many parts of comics and fandom that a lot of Western publishers just don’t seem to understand. Fans of comics like Check, Please! and shows like Yuri!! On Ice should definitely pick this book up.