Writer & Artist: David Lapham
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: December 31, 2013
If you were to hear that hard-boiled comics veteran David Lapham (Stray Bullets, Crossed) had come out with a new comic series that shares some strong similarities to Starship Troopers, you probably wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that it is an all-ages work. Nonetheless, it is. Juice Squeezers stars a cast of tweens who fight giant
bugs that live in a tunnel system under their town.
The resemblances to Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 adaptation of the Robert Heinlein novel are superficial so far (big bugs; young folks in charge of fighting them; charismatic leader with a slight disability), and chances are good they’ll remain so. There’s nothing of Verhoeven’s commentary on fascism here. This intro isn’t even as rough as the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan’s teens vs. supervillain parent dramedy Runaways, which appealed to a slightly older audience. Lapham includes peril and injury, as well as a touch of romance (the scene in which a boy falteringly asks a fellow squeezer on a date while they fight underground is pretty adorable), but the book seems solidly geared toward the elementary ages.
So far, the first issue delivers a good premise, and there’s definite promise in the interactions among its characters. Lapham has created a cast of seven kids and a few adults, with some mild nods toward diversity, which is big enough to allow for a variety of plots to play out. Some of this scene setting is a little heavy handed even as it attempts to be subtle, such as the numerous attempts to show, rather than tell, one character’s engineering genius. The plotting is also transparent in its need to establish certain frameworks, as with the introduction of a new family kept in the dark about the town’s secret only because they wouldn’t have moved there otherwise. That’s also a hallmark of what is, essentially, a pilot, so there’s room to improve.
Lapham’s art is fairly pleasing, simply and flatly colored by Lee Loughridge who provides a thoughtful palate. The visuals look especially attractive framed in night scenes; the shadows are sharp and blocky, and the California landscape is rendered with care and appreciation. The nuts and bolts of the action (how the squashing takes place, how bug poison is injected) aren’t clearly laid out, but there’s time for that too in future issues. With its competent execution and all ages gross-out appeal, Juice Squeezers has a good chance of finding a diverse audience.