Comics are for everyone – or at least, comics should be for everyone. Traditionally, though, mainstream comics mostly cater to the white, straight male demographic. And while industry heavyweights DC and Marvel have started to introduce diversity into their superhero universes, the indie comics scene remains the best place for fans outside this demographic to find stories that speak to them. Such a story can be found in Flutter – Volume 1 by Jennie Wood and Jeff McComsey: an entertaining if somewhat flawed coming of age comic which – thanks to its its transgender subtext – is one of the most important books on the stands today.
What is Flutter – Volume 1 about?
Flutter – Volume 1 introduces us to Lily, a girl who isn’t like other girls, as she can’t get sick and recovers rapidly from virtually any injury.
Pursued by a shadowy covert organisation, Lily and her enigmatic “father” move to a new town, where Lily tries to fit in at her new school. Along the way, she develops a crush on a girl named Saffron, who soon starts dating a boy named Jesse. The kicker? Lily is Jesse – her superhuman powers also allow her to shift genders.
As you’d expect, the unconventional love triangle between Lily, Saffron and Jesse quickly grows more complicated, just as the sinister forces hunting Lily begin to make their presence known…
A convincing (if not always convincingly executed) coming of age tale
The first thing I noticed when reading Flutter – Volume 1 is how well writer/creator Jennie Wood nails what it feels like to be a teenager. Every young adult character in this book feels like either someone you used to know or even once were (or possibly still are). Jeff McComsey’s rough, sketchy art further reinforces Flutter‘s raw, angsty vibe, and while his work here verges on crude at times, it also boasts some great colour work.
That said, while Flutter – Volume 1 gets full marks for its “school yard” vibe, the underling narrative isn’t quite so successful. Sure, the plot is gripping for the most part, however, it also gets a bit murky at times, and it’s occasionally hard to follow what’s going on, which is frustrating even for a story with conspiracy elements. McComsey’s art doesn’t help in this regard, either; several characters look very similar to each other, which makes it hard to work out who is doing what and why.
Challenging outdated labels
Yet these are minor gripes, and pale in comparison to how Wood effectively wood tackles sexual identity and fluid sexuality. Indeed, I suspect that these aspects of Flutter – Volume 1 will really speak to anyone struggling with both these concepts, regardless of their age.
What’s more, by having Lily morph into Jesse, and by presenting her attraction to Saffron (and later, Penelope) – both as Lily and as Jesse – as normal and essentially unremarkable, Wood challenges blanket labels like “straight” or “gay”. In doing so, she gives transgender readers arguably the first comic book romance that they can directly relate to, in a way that’s far less coded than has traditionally been the norm.
So, while Flutter – Volume 1 isn’t the greatest comic ever made (or even released this year), it nevertheless deserves props for telling an engaging story targeted at an audience sorely underrepresented on the comic book scene.