While I’m not exactly a big fan of superhero comics these days (I blame Marvel and DC for that; back in the ’90s I first got into comics… but with the advent of Image, focus shifted from effective storytelling to pretty art, and I got burned out on them during that time), there are a couple of good superhero webcomics out there. Of them, Magellan is probably my favorite, due in part to two factors that help it stand out from its peers. First, Magellan tends to focus more on character interactions and relations than fighting, which gives readers a better chance to know (and feel for) the characters. Second would be the comic’s setting, in a massive island school for training superheroes.
To be honest, the concept of a superhero school does boggle the mind. I’ve admittedly never played any of the superhero MMORPGs (such as City of Heros or Champions Online), but it does seem odd that there’d be so much crime in the world that you’d need tens of thousands of heroes to deal with it all (assuming of course that the heroes aren’t just killed off in the line of duty), but despite such minor quibbles, it does provide for an interesting setting for disparate characters to interact. What’s more, Stephen Crowley has even created a sense of history with Magellan with older heroes retiring and training their younger brethren.
While the comic is nominally about Kaycee, a young “normal” human who managed to get into Magellan Academy through physical prowness (in essence being a “Batgirl”), many of the other characters get their chance to shine in the sun. One of the more interesting side stories focuses on Gola Beh, who after having many of her memories lost to her (due to a story which prominently featured Kaycee) and being de-aged, reentered Magellan Academy as her “niece” Olga Beh. This has presented cartoonist Stephen Crowley with an interesting means of bringing the older characters more fully into the existing story, while also examining the problems Olga is facing as she tries to cope with her new lease on life… including decades of lost memories and coping with her former teammates while keeping the truth of her identity a secret.
It also presents an interesting take on some of the downsides of the whole “Fountain of Youth” scenario (though Olga’s de-aging was due to an attack, and can’t be replicated). Her friends and comrades are now old people. She’s lost many memories of working with them, and in essence half her life was stolen from her. And she undoubtedly still has enemies out there who’d gleefully try to kill her now that she’s more vulnerable, if they knew who she was. While it might be nice to no longer suffer the aches and pains of old age, she’s going to watch everyone she knows die of old age. Undoubtedly in the back of her head she must also wonder if something could reverse the process as well, resulting in her losing her new lease on life after she’s grown to adjust to it.
The one thing that hasn’t happened yet is for Olga to be more integrated into the school as a whole. While Olga is a year behind Kaycee and her teammates, the friendship she’s starting to form with Brelvis (who never did manage to get run over by a car – no, I never did get over my initial annoyance with him) should provide the necessary catalyst for her introduction to Kayce and her own classmates, and provide Crowley with the opportunity to more fully integrate the varied aspects of his comic.