Written by: Paul Jenkins (@mypauljenkins)
Art by: Leïla Leïz (@LeilaLeiz)
Colored by: Tamra Bonvillain (@TBonvillain)
Lettering by: Ryane Hill (@ryane_hill)
Review by Hernan Guarderas
One in every five million people have been discovering they have special abilities, recognized as Alters, and Chalice is the newest hero to join that statistical anomaly. She can fly and teleport, but like most superheroes, she is dealing with a real identity problem. One that follows her home and becomes a reality when she removes her costume and blonde wig. She is transgender. She has a family, the All-American kind, that faced financial and familial strife in the form of a poor economy and her brother Teddy having cerebral palsy.
It’s a dangerous time to be an Alter since the villain Matter Man is searching for any Alters or people who’ve been in contact with an Alter. He wants to hold dominion over the east coast, and with Chalice coming out as an Alter to the world, he is intent on finding her to keep his control. He broadcasts himself as a terrorist, even going as far as to kill a man on live television to get his point across. His violence is senseless and random as the person he killed was just a someone plucked from a small town in Milwaukee.
“I’m an Alter. I’m transgender. I’m a middle brother of three.” Jenkins is letting it be known to the readers, just as Chalice did to the rest of the world, who this Charlie really is. At this stage of Charlie/Chalice’s life, she’s already made the decision to transition to female, to embody who she truly is. This character is worried about how her family will view her once she does come out as transgender and their protection if it gets out that she’s Chalice. Tamra Bonvillain’s coloring in scenes with Charlie/Chalice are gorgeous purples/pinks illustrating the lead’s overwhelming need to come out as transgender to her family. Those colors glow in her house and neighborhood until Charlie can fully be herself as Chalice.
The art by Leïz compliments Jenkins writing so well, going as far as showing how Chalice’s powers are very much emblematic of her own duality. When Chalice teleports, she’s seen splitting in two directions, and when she’s racing to Octavian’s Gateway Army (intent on helping Alters and battling Matter Man) she’s on the radar appearing as two projectiles. She crashes through the roof of the Gateway Army’s base and introduces herself as Chalice.
Buy. It isn’t the perfect superhero origin, it’s cracking a door into a subject matter that needs to be addressed and using superheroes to do so. It’s both allegorical and literal in its handling of transgender and identity issues, and does so in a smart, honest, and charming way. Jenkins, Leïz, Bonvillain, and Hill have a very special platform for a wide array of issues and their approach, while heavy handed, can be accessible to comic book audiences.