What kind of comics do I like? Well, like most people, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to read a sweeping spacefaring odyssey, while other times I’d rather read about fantastical politics and secrets or darkly humorous supernatural dramas. But sometimes?
Sometimes I just want to have some fun.
Not everything has to be serious and cerebral. Not everything even has to make sense! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see some girls with pretty outfits and cool weapons fight monsters and make friends. And that’s why Agents of the Realm is great.
Agents of the Realm is about a hapless college student named Norah and her struggles to get through the day and pass her classes. Oh, and the mysterious artifact that she finds that transforms her into a superpowered swordfighter to combat the giant spectral monsters that have begun to attack her campus. You know. College stuff.
I’ll admit, I had a hard time getting into this comic the first time I read it, and it was because I thought Norah was sort of a boring hero. She’s cranky, awkward, and constantly exasperated by her own bad luck, which I find a little hard to read without anything to cut it. In the early pages (okay, “early” here being relative, I know this is a fairly young comic), it seems like Norah is intended to carry the entire story – not something her archetype is suited to. But before long, we’re introduced to more characters, and having an ensemble of foils lets Norah truly start to flourish.
Norah’s roommate, the bubbly, volatile Adele, brings out her compassionate and thoughtful side, while the stern and studious Paige makes her seem laid back and diplomatic by contrast. And the recent encounter with the misled Agent, Jordan, is (I’m hoping) about to reveal Norah’s loyalty and desire to help others – the makings of a true hero. Through her interactions with her new friends, Norah is becoming a vastly more complex and interesting character than her introduction made her out to be.
And of course, they all turn out to be Agents of the Realm, chosen by the five lost amulets to protect Earth from monsters. “Isn’t that a pretty big coincidence?” you say. Who cares! Shut up! Go away! “How do they leap into the fray against savage beasts without any hesitation moments after discovering their powers? Shouldn’t they be a little weirded out?” No! That’s so boring! Get to the action! “Why does their town’s museum have a serious exhibit about a portal between realms and its legendary protectors as if that’s totally real and normal?” La la la, I can’t hear these questions over all the fun I’m having!
You might call these things “plot holes” or “inconsistencies” but I call them “cutting out the boring stuff”. If you relax a little and don’t think about these things too hard, Agents of the Realm is a blast, with a feel much like an old Saturday morning cartoon, only with more gayness.
Oh right did I forget to mention that it’s gay? We’re still very early in the story, so no romantic plots have yet emerged amongst the main cast, but two of the Agents of the Other Realm (the one on the other side of the portal) have been shown to be romantically involved. And at one point Kendall speculates that Norah and Adele’s “secret thing” is that they’re dating, which makes it seem to me like future queer girl romance is something the story wants to build up to.
Yes, it’s corny. No, the dialogue doesn’t always make perfect sense. Yes, the plot is a bit silly. I couldn’t care less. What’s important to me is that it’s an action story with a heart, starring all girls, almost all of whom are people of color, with a large portion of the screentime dedicated to developing complex and heartfelt relationships between those girls. And that it’s fun. Did I mention that it’s fun? I think I might have. We need more stories like this one, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Final verdict: All in all a great comic, and one that I’m glad I gave a second chance. It’s close enough to a magical girl story to make fans of the genre happy, and different enough that even if you don’t like magical girls, you’ll find something to like here.