Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, April 15, 2010
      ( 4/15/2010 05:08:00 PM ) Bill S.  

“WE’RE STUCK WITH HIM UNLESS AND UNTIL HE DOES SOMETHING STUPID.” Another in Tokyopop’s game-based faux mangas, Keith R.A. DeCandido and Fernando Heinz Furukawa’s StarCraft: Ghost Academy concerns a group of psionically gifted teens as they’re trained to develop their powers and abilities to fight in Earth Dominion’s war against an unseen group of alien invaders. Volume One in the series centers on a quintet of would-be psi warriors: Nova, the seemingly most gifted of the crew, a headstrong girl given to wearing outfits with tops that Dirk Deppey once most memorably described as “boob socks;” Lio, a neurotic drug addict; Kath, a girl with no discernible personality whatsoever, Tosh, the team’s would-be leader; and Aal, the spoiled son of a finance minister. The latter, though he has no significant psionic powers, has been placed in the team for political reasons.

Hovering in the background of the first volume is Colin Phash, a wide-eyed psi who’s been “drafted” into the Academy against his Senator father’s wishes. Unlike (to take the obvious comparison) Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the Academy is not a particularly nurturing environment. Though he vehemently denies the rumors that students are being subjected to inhumane experiments in the Academy, we know that cue-bald school director Kevin Bick is lying simply from the way his sinister eyebrows hover over his eyes. That and the fact that Earth is now describing itself as a “dominion,” as opposed to, say, a Republic.

Volume One is primarily devoted to introducing the characters, letting them show their stuff in training, then providing some character-revealing interactions after class. On the basis of the first volume, at least, there appear to be two basic psionic types -- “teeps,” a.k.a. telepaths, and “teeks,” otherwise known as telekinetics -- though one suspects that the currently imprisoned Colin has a little something extra. Based on her pride of place on the first book’s cover, it looks as if busty Nova is being positioned as the series’ Wolverine: an edgy loner with a propensity for pissing off her teammates. Every team’s gotta have one, right?

Scripter DeCandido and artist Furukawa handle this essentially familiar set-up with the efficiency of a UPN teen drama minus much of the wit. Readers who have grown up with mainstream superhero angst won’t find much to challenge ‘em in the first volume (even in the future, Drugs Are Bad, Mmmkay?) The figures in Furukawa’s panels often have faces that appear to be on the verge of popping off their bodies, which are universally mesomorphic, of course. Perhaps teeping includes the ability to telekinetically move your body fat? That would explain the hefty breasts on every one of the female characters.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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