Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Leila Leiz and Tamra Bonvillain
Published by AfterShock Comics
In the debut issue of Alters, we learn that one in every five million people have special abilities, recognized around the world as Alters, and Chalice is the newest hero to join that statistical anomaly. Chalice can fly and teleport, and although everything seems to be fine, she is dealing with a real identity problem at home: She is transgender, and has no idea how to tell her family.
Chalice’s family is the All-American kind, one that faces financial hardships due to the economy. And one that does everything it can for her brother Teddy who has cerebral palsy. But that’s just the beginning of the story.
As Alters #1 unfolds, we discover that this is a dangerous time to be an Alter. The villain Matter Man is searching for any Alters or anyone who has been in contact with an Alter. He even kills a man on live television to get his point across. Matter Man wants control over the east coast, and when he finds out about Chalice, he is intent on finding her to keep his control.
At this point of Charlie’s life, she’s already made the decision to transition to female, to embody who she truly is. Yet, her biggest worry is how her family will view her once she does come out as transgender. And if that wasn’t hard enough, how will she protect them if a villain ever found out that she’s Chalice?
Even though I knew the premise of Alters before I read the book, two moments in issue #1 stood out for me: when she removes her costume and blonde wig for the first time. And When Chalice says “I’m an Alter. I’m transgender. I’m a middle brother of three.” With just a few words, writer Paul Jenkins is letting the readers know who Chalice/Charlie really is.
I’ve been a fan of Paul Jenkins for years, going way back to his Incredible Hulk days. He also had a very underrated run on Spider-Man several years ago that’s worth checking out. Basically, if you liked his work before, you will enjoy Alters.
Meanwhile, the art by Leila Leïz compliments Jenkins writing perfectly, and her style is fun, quirky, and downright gorgeous. Leiz also adds some nice touches, like when Chalice teleports, she splits in two directions, and when she makes her way to Octavian’s Gateway Army (a group intent on helping Alters) she appears on the radar as two projectiles.
At the end of the day, Alters #1 a smart, funny, honest, and charming book. Jenkins, Leïz, and the rest of the creative team have made a serious subject accessible to all comic book audiences.
Alters #1 opens the door into a subject matter that needs to be addressed in a respectful way, and maybe using superheroes is one way to do so. This book won’t change minds, but maybe it will open someones eyes. Either way, Alters is definitely worth reading.