Review: Ignited volume 1 (H1/Humanoids)

Whether he’s re-imagining characters for the Big Two, rebooting an all American icon or creating his own digital publishing imprint, writer Mark Waid is one of the most prolific and polished writers in comics. For his new book for Humanoids’ H1 imprint he and co-writer Kwanza Osajefo brings their own super-power themed look at the emotive subject of high school shootings in Ignited.

Publisher: H1/Humanoids
Writer: Kwanza Osajefo, Mark Waid
Artist: Phil Briones
Price: £2.49 from ComiXology

It’s the first day back at school for the kids of Phoenix high, but this is no ordinary return to school. They are coming back after a high school shooting, amid talks of armed teachers and increased security. This is too much for some of the students and they take on the role of masked pranksters @viral and @wave who take over the school emergency system and give the staff food poisoning as a protest against arming their educators. However they get more than they bargained for when a militia of armed parents turn up at the door, which in turn reveals what happened to one of their missing classmates

Waid has teamed up with co-writer Kwanza Osajefo to bring this powerful story of disaffected high schoolers and post-traumatic stress to life. However the writing is split, you could not ask for a better senior partner than Waid to breath life into this story. As we saw on his work on Archie he has that amazing ‘everyman’ voice to his writing that makes his high school kids feel both contemporary but also accessible. And also makes the very obvious anti gun sentiments more palatable and less preachy than they might otherwise have been. His style is also steeped in modern comics shorthand and so when some the more fantastical elements are introduced they feel completely at home and not forced or shoe horned in. For Humanoids first step into the world of superhero comics you could not ask for a better name to be associated with it.

With a writer of Waid’s pedigree onboard, getting an artist who can do the work justice is imperative and artist Phil Briones does a fantastic job. His slick style would not feel out place in a big two book and reminded us Mark Bagley’s work on Ultimate Spider-Man in places, as he mixes classic high school scenes with slick super powered debuts, but also emotive flashbacks to the shooting – which told using a red colour wash and  gunfire lettering which almost covers up the panels to emphasis the trauma of what was happening.

At times his work can be a bit too slick (especially the scene involving Luther and his gun-toting parents which felt a bit Rob Liefeld-esque  with armed and shiny parents and bare chested teen), however this is very much an attempt at a genre piece and the use of hyper-stylised characters is meant to evoke classic superhero cliches and so we are willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

With a fascinating final twist which poses plenty of questions about the nature of the shooting and what happened to those involved, Ignited is a really interesting and exciting take on a superhero high school story – but with a very relevant and contemporary angle. While the politics may be more palatable on this side of the Atlantic, it is a book with bags of potential that could really catch fire for Humaoids new imprint.