It has been over a year since I last reviewed a volume of Supernormal Step, the fantastic webcomic by Michael Lee Lunsford about Fiona, a girl with blue hair who has been sucked into a strange, parallel universe where magic is real and that’s really freaky. Fiona has long been on a search for a way home, and while she doesn’t get much closer in this one, she does learn more about the mysterious Cavan Henderson and makes closer allegiances. The question remains: will Fiona find a way home, and if she does, what price will she pay to get there?
I’m going to spoil lots of plot points here, because I want to talk about them. I’m going to try not to talk too much about developments beyond this volume, but my future knowledge might seep in.
Supernormal Step Vol. 3: Power Struggle collects Chapters 7 to 9 of the comic. We pick up with Fiona somewhat upset with Van and Jim, who prefer to party instead of, you know, helping her. Akela is all too eager to help, of course. I love how Lunsford telegraphs Akela’s crush on Fiona with the “meanwhile in Akela’s brain…” panels. Then later Akela has a conversation with Van about her crush, and I love that for once in his life Van is serious and sensitive and actually gives Akela good advice: “That’s a bad road to go down…. Think about it. she’s on this mission to go home, to another world. Are you prepared to go with her? Is this real or just a crush, Akela?” I know from having read the comic online, of course, that Akela and Fiona will finally have a real conversation about this in the next volume … but that, of course, is for another review.
In this volume, Akela and Fiona go on adventure to snoop around a secret Henderson lab. Surprisingly, they run into Hall, who is himself suspicious of Cavan Henderson and ready to do some snooping of his own. The plot twists Lunsford reveals here are the kind that showcase the power of the graphic novel format. If this were a book, it would be difficult or at least very clunky to communicate, for example, that Inga Jorgenson looks just like the creepy evil twins that Fiona battled previously. Her throwaway comment to one of them, later, “Also, you’re probably a clone or something … so have fun letting that sink in” is perfect and funny.
And if I can digress for a moment, I think we need to talk about how Fiona deals with her status as a “hero” in this story. Fiona is a hero in the legal sense of this world—she has a “hero license” and costume, etc. But she is definitely not heroic. She is the protagonist of our story, but she isn’t really a hero in the traditional sense. She reminds me, both in situation and in character, quite a bit of John Crichton from Farscape. Whereas Crichton was an explorer suddenly stranded on the other side of the galaxy, Fiona by no means asked to be pulled into this world. Nevertheless, she finds herself wrapped up in the politics and society of this world, much like Crichton was—but she does not feel bound to honour or abide by its various conventions. That scene where she refuses to engage a fight is powerful, because it reminds us that she is not here for heroics. She fights and stands up for people when it’s the last option on the table, but really she just wants to get home.
Back to the Henderson lab and its second revelation, that of the “imperfect” Hall and Eva. Essentially this seems to imply that the Hall and Eva we have previously met are clones, perhaps second, third, or even later iterations on the process. Through flashbacks, Lunsford hints at an even weirder past, one where “Halland” and “Evangeline” live in the mid-1800s, and Halland is courting a shyer woman named “Lexia.” Why has Henderson been cloning these people? Why does he clone Lexia as a blind super-scary fighter chick?
Tune in next time…
Fiona, much to Akela’s delight, also cements her relationship with the Nameless in this volume. Through some interesting scenes happening without Fiona or Akela’s knowledge, Lunsford reminds us that most of the characters in this story are out for themselves rather than a single, higher ideal. This is one of my favourite things about Supernormal Step. For all that its sprawling cast of minor characters can make a headache when trying to read the comic one page at a time on the web, when you go back and read it at a chapter at a time like this, you really get to see how everyone’s actions come together. I loved the little spread mid-way through the volume, where we see people with whom Fiona has previously interacted getting interrogated by Hendersons (THOCK!).
Supernormal Step remains one of my favourite webcomics. It has magic, a rich, multi-layered storyline, awesome art, and very unique and well-realized characters. You should check it out.