Published on March 2nd, 2011 | by Ernie Estrella2
Graphic Novel Review: Takio
Forget that Marvel or the creator-owned Icon imprint is publishing it. Never mind that the team that brought us Powers creates it. If you bring in any of that baggage when reading Takio, you’re selling the title short. The best way to experience Takio is to walk in with no expectations, besides the fun that comes with an “all-ages” book. Takio is the genesis of a new world where two bickering sisters of a multi-cultural family become the least likely of heroes.
Olivia is a seven-year old spitfire and too-smart-for-her-own-good chatterbox; Taki is the adopted big sister, doing what every thirteen-year old is trying to do: fit in. Taki is instructed by their mother to walk her younger sister to and from school, the most dreaded parts of her days. Their mother is a widow so if she’s not busy working, she’s off running chores. Taki is as much a parent as she is a sister. This family is unconventional but not uncommon, as is the familiar economic climate.
On this extraordinary day, Taki’s best friend, Kelly Sue arrives at home to find her father had lost his job as a corporate scientist. He feels he’s been wronged by the system, always being let go before he’s on the verge of a big discovery. Her mother ran out on them when she heard the news. All Kelly Sue’s father has to show for his work is one of his experiments and a vow of vengeance towards his former employer. It’s unclear exactly what it can do–even to him–but he destroys it in a rage, releasing an unknown energy that zaps everyone inside and near the house: a distraught Kelly Sue crying in her room, and her friends who were concerned for her.
What follows is the discovery of extraordinary powers through the wide-open eyes of a seven-year old, and her overly cautious and reluctant older sister. Someone’s obviously been left in charge too often. The experience strengthens the sisters’ bond, and they take it up on themselves to rely on one another and keep their powers secret-even from their mother. For their first mission, find Kelly Sue and avoid her father who is hunting them down so that he may use them and their newfound “Kung Fu Telekinesis” to propel his career.
Think of Takio like Ultimate Spider-Man but with more innocence built-in. Maybe it’s because of the girl factor. It’s fast-paced, a pure adventure that’s not heavy or too light and is stark contrast to most of the books that fill comic shops. I do question its claim of being an all-ages book though. With my parent glasses on, there were a few too many gun shootouts and “Shut-Ups” that caught my eye, but it’s easily acceptable for kids of a “certain age,” let’s say, to be determined by each individual.
The banter between Taki and Olivia is classic Bendis, who captures the persistent banter between siblings on paper. At certain points I was thinking this should be called, “Talkio,” but once the action kicks in, Oeming delivers in a big way. By the end, Takio is just the beginning of what will be an ongoing series of OGNs. I was originally thinking this would be a one and done book, but subsequent stories will be released when breaks in Powers publishing schedule allow it. It’s a solid start with plenty of potential.
In being longtime friends, Takio is the work of a family affair. Oeming’s wife, artist Taki Soma, likely inspired Taki in the comic and Bendis co-wrote the book with his daughter, Olivia. What was evident is that they nailed down the family dynamics first. It felt authentic. Takio is intended for reading with kids, and the Bendis family considered what is a growing population in this country, adopted children from foreign countries, which in turn creates multi-cultural families the same way mixed marriages do.
Oeming’s art is electric but takes some getting used to for those used to his usual ink-filled noir-art. For once, his illustrations are seen bursting with an overload of bright colors and pastels. The experimental style doesn’t take away from Oeming’s ability to tell a story, but it’s like looking at a paint swatch under florescent light as opposed to yellow bulbs. The way that Nick Filardi colors Takio makes each panel look like an old-fashioned animation cel. There are very few hard inked lines in the background art so the foreground art which is inked and has the more vivid colors, pops off the page.
As an Asian-American in his mid-thirties, the list of characters I could identify with in my childhood is a short. I myself have an interracial child; I personally don’t want every book to be crammed with politically correct characters, but it is nice to see characters represent what you see all around you every day. This is America today, and Takio embraces that without making it an issue. Taki and Olivia were treated as a normal family first, with issues that every reader could relate to, regardless of the makeup one’s family. Understand that Takio is not a token effort to appease a group of people, these characters have been taken care of, and they’re real. How their unique backgrounds, upbringing and cultures affect their decisions are what make me want to see where Takio goes.
For those readers who want something with more teeth, there are plenty of excellent titles to choose from. However, if you can still connect to stories aimed at a younger audience, support an extremely rare book in its class. It’s kid friendly, girl-friendly, and most of all, fun-friendly. Share this experience with your own child (inner or otherwise), and put Takio at the top of the pile of your purchases this week.