In essence, any superhero comic where the hero has a secret identity, can be seen as a metaphor for identity issues. However, Alters ramps this metaphor up to eleven.
Charlie is chock-full of secrets and until this issue she hasn’t had the courage to share any of them with her friends and family. She is one of the newly revealed alters, a mutant with superpowers and may be one of the strongest of them. She is responsible for one of her fellow alters being tragically injured in battle against Matter Man. And on top of this, she is beginning to transition from male to female.
The issue opens up with the other heroes discussing that Morph is permanently crippled and their anger at Chalice, Charlie’s alter ego, whose recklessness caused the injury. They are struggling because they know they will need her powers if they are going to take on Matter Man and his sometimes unwilling henchmen.
In the meantime, Charlie’s co-worker and best friend knows something is seriously wrong. But he cannot get Charlie to open up about any of the problems that are bothering her. Even when Charlie won’t tell him about any of the problems that are weighing her down emotionally, Darren lets her know that he will be there for him/her.
Finally, Charlie does find someone he can confide in. He chooses to come out to his brother, as an alter, as a woman and as someone who got her friend injured. He opens up to his brother Teddy and we learn that Teddy is also an alter with the power of telekinesis. That’s when Teddy, who is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy sends him the message, “UR A CHICK. IM A CRIPPLE. SUX 2B US.”
This simple message of acceptance is enough to get Chalice back in the game when Matter Man’s henchmen find another new alter in Vancouver and the two sides clash again.
I have been concerned about how Paul Jenkins (Batman, Incredible Hulk) would handle the issues of transgender identity and I started to relax that he isn’t going to make Charlie a one note character last issue. In this issue, Jenkins really starts to round out Charlie and a number of the secondary characters. So far, since Charlie has kept her transitioning a secret to herself, it has been hard to really get to know her. Now that she as had several positive experiences, I am hoping that she can start telling people her true story.
Leila Leiz’s art remains fantastic. This book looks like it could have been published in the bronze age. The art and color work by Tamra Bonvillain (Rat Queen, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) make this a great looking book.
If you are reading books like Ms. Marvel and Faith, you should be adding this to your pull list.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Leila Leiz
Color: Tamra BonVillain
Cover Brian Stelfreeze