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‘Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations’ (review)

Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Bilquis Evely, Ivan Plascencia
Published by DC Comics

 

“Who do you call when yesterday’s questionable decision threatens to become today’s humiliating headline?”

Writer Keith Giffen answers that question with the offbeat humor and charm that has become his trademark at DC Comics through titles like Justice League International and Legion of Super-Heroes and notable character creations Ambush Bug and Lobo.

His answer is Sugar and Spike.

Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations collects stories originally published in Legends of Tomorrow #1-6.

The titular characters are private investigators working for DC’s most famous heroes to clean up embarrassing messes.

As Superman awkwardly confesses when asked why he would want to hide kryptonite on an island he had carved in his own image: “I was young.”

Feeling young is the point of these stories.

Giffen and artist Bilquis Evely, collaborating with colorist Ivan Plascencia and letterers Tom Napolitano and Sal Cipriano, breathe fresh life into characters and ideas from DC’s Silver Age. The creative team manages to capture the spirit of their source material to recreate something like the experience of reading comics made in a time with a lighter touch than today.

Sugar & Spike originally appeared in their own title as precocious toddlers who could speak to each other in a language unintelligible to adults. The series ran continuously from 1956 to 1971, then was revived periodically until the early 1990s. Considered a classic of children’s comics for its lighthearted humor and charm, it has since mostly faded from memory along with so many of the classic “funny book” genres like romance and mystery which were pushed out of the market decisively by super-heroes in the 1980s and the more serious tone that followed as the core audience aged upwards in the 1990s and beyond.

The childhood friends are all grown up in GIffen’s tale, but he pays respect to their past by imbuing their relationship with the familiarity and tension woven by a close, lifelong friendship.

In each story, the pair take on a client from DC’s classic Silver Age lineup: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Each case, meanwhile, springboards off of a classic Silver Age story from each of the characters. This sort of nostalgia mining can be dangerous. Done poorly, the practice comes off as fan service or continuity porn. With Sugar & Spike, the creative team instead draw inspiration from the charm and mild absurdity of the Silver Age to inject their tales with a humor and an offbeat sensibility missing from many contemporary comics.

The artistic team channels the pace and tone of the Silver Age in each of these six self-contained stories. Bilquis Evely’s crisp panel art and straightforward layouts propel the action forward briskly and clearly. Ivan Plascencia injects life into each page with a bright palette which teases the tone of Sugar & Spike’s four-color inspirations while breathing fresh air into these contemporary stories.

Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations is an enjoyable reminder that oddball ideas and lighthearted diversion still have a place on the proverbial spinner rack.

 

 

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