Review by Frank Plowright
An animated show that ran for five seasons between 2013 and 2019, then spawned a movie is a success by any terms, so a comic series accompanying it is no surprise. The basics are that Steven Universe lives in Beach City with three Crystal companions, the almost indestructible Amethyst, Garnet and Pearl who protect him from others of their kind, and take him along on missions to train him. However, while there are SF elements, it’s the appeal of Steven as a well-meaning and enthusiastic kid in his early teens that holds the series together, and it’s generally his desires holding the stories together.
Primary writer Jeremy Sorese sticks closely to the feel of the TV series, mixing Steven under threat from assorted strange menaces with day to day adventures like wanting to enter a cycle race that may be too dangerous for him. The primary supporting cast from the animation are used, and the purpose of protecting people from the alien gem creatures is applied.
However, these comics aren’t the creative success they ought to be due to Coleman Engle’s art. There’s no reason a comic adaptation of a TV show ought to look exactly like the animation, but surely some attempt to connect with the general style is desirable. It’s absent from Engle’s pages, which have a street art aesthetic. Individual panels have an illustrative appeal, although that’s certainly not applicable throughout, and there’s a lively energy, but the storytelling is lacking. It can be difficult figuring out what’s happening in single panels, never mind following them through a story, with the wrong moments emphasised. Despite this, Engle also illustrates Volume Two.
Assorted members of the animation team supply brief back-up strips, and almost all of them look better than Engle’s pages, although not all the writing matches Sorese’s deft tough, including a strip from series creator Rebecca Sugar. Josceline Fenton’s work stands out for clarity, simplicity and character appeal.
While the ethos of Steven Universe is present, digging through the art to get at it is difficult.