Setting the Stage
The action opens with a stunning spread of Soaribhan Academy’s campus. It’s a superhero high school, essentially, set in a universe that is already well-established by the independent publisher SoveReign Comics. Damian, the main character, is the homeroom leader of a new class of first-years at the Academy. Damian is a “Temple Baby,” meaning he’s grown up within the confines of the Academy and has already received some training in using his powers. In this world, most young people have not yet.
As the students under Damian’s wing — or, well, electro-charge — introduce themselves, they quickly forge bonds and sow the seeds of conflict that will surely lead to some fascinating storylines. After all, what happens when you throw a young women whose powers are the result of a toxic waste dump, a young man whose sister died in a lab accident, and the daughter of the CEO of the company responsible for both?
The group is abruptly called to the school auditorium as two mysterious figures look on. At the assembly, Noemie, head of the Student Council, informs the first-years that Damian is top-ranked in the class — and that he’s the one to beat in the Echelon. Similar to Revolutionary Girl Utena, academics take a backseat at Soaribhan. What really matters are the duels, which determine class rank. Those who sit on the Student Council are at the top of their respective classes, and now Noemie, a senior, has painted a target on Damian’s back. Noemie challenges Damian to a fight, and the issue ends before it’s resolved.
A Strong Start
This universe feels really rich — as it should, given that Temple High is the sixth in a rapidly-expanding SoveReign stable. Writer Tyrone Jackson pulls off a neat trick in Temple High: while this issue was heavy on exposition, it made me want to jump into SoveReign’s other titles. Jackson has clearly put thought into how this universe works: the taxonomy of powers is video-game like in its intricacy which, frankly, lost me, but is sure to absorb others.
However, the array of powers these soon-to-be heroes share are really fascinating. It may feel like the superhero well has run dry — how many variations of the same origin stories can there be? — but Jackson shows that’s not the case at all. Now I wish each of the newbies had their own titles so I can learn about them.
Though Jackson made me want to learn more about the SoveReign universe, the student self-introductions did drag on a bit. I would’ve preferred that we learned more about each students through showing, rather than telling. However, introducing all of these characters efficiently is an unenviable task. Jackson shows he’s got an ear for dialogue, though, and like any good YA dialogue, there are a lot of snappy comebacks that I genuinely LOL’d at. And anyway, once we got to the fight scenes I was more fully engrossed.
Mark Marvida’s artwork went a long way towards piquing that curiosity for me. Each character is as identifiable by their dialogue as by Marvida’s linework, which shows each student filling their space differently — much like a room full of awkward, confused teens. (I should know; I teach high school.) The world feels fully-realized, with nice little background details that show just how live-in the school is. I wish I could see this as a print piece, rather than letting it sit on my screen. The good news is you can get a book by contributing to their Kickstarter, which is ending in just a few hours!
Overall, Temple High gets 4 sodas – there’s some rough edges, but I’m sure they’ll be smoothed out as the series progresses!