Review by Frank Plowright
Tomás is an awkward teenager who’s just moved to Dodge City. Hoping it’ll help his self esteem, he joins a local dodgeball team, and as the Jazz Pandas are the worst team in the league, they’re grateful to have him despite his obvious lack of sporting talent. At the very least it means they won’t have to forfeit games due to not having a full team. However, it doesn’t take long for Tomás to discover the reputation the Jazz Pandas have among the other league teams.
Josh Trujillo’s story touches on a lot of problems around the Jazz Pandas team members without ever treating them in anything other than a superficial manner, introducing them as melodrama and not following up properly. He takes the same approach when it comes to dodgeball itself. While any reader is likely to know it’s a game involving hitting the opposition with balls, the finer points of the rules aren’t going to be familiar, and there are occasions when Trujillo doesn’t take this into account. There are also no concession for anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish as the conversations Tomás has with a woman from another team aren’t translated, and one of them is a moment of heavy drama.
Cara McGee has a nice, character rich cartooning style, but as much of the book concerns playing games, at first glance her pages seem afflicted with random coloured spheres, which isn’t her fault. It’s down to Trujillo concentrating too much on the actual sport, which comics aren’t great at conveying, and not enough on the dynamics between the cast, for which comics would be a natural choice. And it’s not as if McGee’s isn’t giving him the people to work with. Her designs are strong, and she’s good at showing how people are feeling at any given moment.
Dodge City would work better as animation, and perhaps that’s the primary intention, but as comics it disappoints.