Writer: Prudence Shen
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Paste has reviewed its fair share of Faith Erin Hicks’ work (The Adventures of Superhero Girl and Friends With Boys). She’s an uncommonly talented visual artist, plus a pretty good writer. But her collaboration Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong with writer Prudence Shen, who debuts with a polished, funny, and unconventional voice, shows some of the best work in the Canadian artist’s oeuvre.
The plot plays with the universal YA themes of warring social groups: robot-club nerds fight evil cheerleaders for student club funding. But calling this charming book conventional would be like saying Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was just another show about high school. Shen’s snark and ability to create well-rounded characters meld perfectly with Hicks’ gift for depicting all forms of slouch. For example, Nate, who heads up the robotics club, is by turns sympathetic and manipulative, hard-headed and idea-driven. The cheerleaders may be the bad guys, but they’re not ditzes by any means; instead, they’re impressively Machiavellian and focused on achieving their own goals. The drama of the key events (an intense student council race, a trip to Atlanta for a robot battle, a rivalry for protagonist Charlie who holds loyalties to both jocks and dweebs) is rendered with just enough upscaling to keep things entertaining. The narrative doesn’t exactly adhere to realism. It’s snappier and funnier, leaving the reader desirous to know what happens next, much like Sean McKeever’s Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.
Some of the side characters could have used a touch more development, but Hicks’ emotive line work not only conveys their physicality, but the details of their personalities. Her commitment — intentional or not — to an array of relatable body types is another particularly endearing aspect of her art, and she has a feel for how bodies move: big ones, small ones, athletic ones, ones that fear the sunlight and the outdoors. Ultimately, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is an utterly charming and readable book for just about every segment of the comics audience.