You’re Playing A Dangerous Game (Summit Volume 1 Trade Review)
Title: Summit: Volume 1
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Jan Duursema
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick and Paul Mounts
Letters: Tom Napolitano, Deron Bennett
Senior Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editorial Assistant: Desiree Rodriguez
NOTE: The plot and story are so engaging and shocking that my summary will be vague and brief. You need to experience this one for yourself.
THE EVENT: (A bit of required reading)
A year ago, 5 astronauts embarked on a privately funded suicide mission, by the Foresight Corporation, to destroy an asteroid named “Icarus” that was (alleged) to collide with Earth.
Something went tragically wrong and Icarus exploded. This caused intense meteor showers to rain down on Earth and the death of the majority of the crew sent to space. There was only one survivor:
Doctor Valentina Resnick-Baker.
Catalyst Prime: The Event is required reading before any Catalyst Prime title (CP). It is included in all CP first volumes for all of their titles.
(If you plan on buying back issues instead of trades here’s the Comixology link for The Event. It’s free.)
Summit opens to a split narrative. The present and a past timeline that moves around to before and after The Event.
During the flashbacks, we discover the Valentina “Val” Resnick-Baker survived the suicide mission and was found naked in a smoldering cater somewhere in Tanzania. She’s recovered by the Foresight Corporation and is checked out by medical doctors. She’s informed that her girlfriend, Kay, was killed during the fallout of The Event and begins to see a vision of dead members of her mission crew. (She keeps these hallucinations to herself.)
A month after The Event she is given a year of paid leave by Foresights eccentric, narcissistic and mysterious CEO Lorena Payan. Val becomes a social recluse and spent the year obsessively reviewing her calculations from the mission in an attempt to figure out what happened and what went wrong.
A year later, in the present timeline, she is tracked down by Foresight and brought back to Lorena who has tricked her into coming to a high society gala. Val makes a quick exit and receives new that two scientist friends (Manish and Ellie) and their daughter (Fiona) were killed in a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle.
She goes to a secluded area and releases a bolt of energy from her chest in anger and sadness.
At the funeral for Manish, Ellie, and Fiona, Val runs into her ex-husband J.B. He expresses his sympathies for Kay’s death and during the funeral Val continues to see the dead members of her team.
Afterward, Val and J.B. go out to lunch and Val tells him everything. The hallucinations, the mysterious new powers, etc. J.B. knows Val well enough to know she’s telling the truth and the two go to his new lab.
They begin to test her powers and Val learns through mysterious text messages that Fiona, Manish and Ellie’s daughter, survived the plane crash.
We see Fiona move around the jungle Predator/Rambo style while Val, J.B., and J.B.’s research team formulate a plan to save her. Val is given the SUMM.I.T. suit to help her harness her powers and is dispatched to find Fiona.
Between Fiona innate badassery, Val’s new powers, and the SUMM.I.T. suit, Fiona is rescued. However, they find themselves back in the hands of Lorena Payan and Foresight.
Val learns the truth behind The Event and leaves Foresight behind, with Fiona.
WHAT MARY HAS TO SAY:
First, I want to say that I’ve reviewed a lot of books and this is only the 2nd Perfect 10 I have ever given out.
By God, this book deserves it.
When I first heard that Catalyst Prime was going to have a queer woman headline a solo title I was thrilled. There are so few out there and I gravitate to them. When I heard it was being written by Amy Chu, I preordered it without question.
Amy had just come off Poison Ivy: Circle of Life and Death, I was a massive fan of that book, so I knew Summit was going to be good. I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. It’s probably one of the best superhero books I have ever read.
Val is a compelling protagonist. She’s a woman who was ready to give up everything to save everyone she loved, but she survived the mission only to lose everything. She spent the last year in isolation trying to piece together where it all went wrong.
We see exactly what toll that has taken on her mentally. She’s tired and broken and driving herself insane. Pair it with the hallucinations that she’s experienced since The Event and it’s through sheer force of will that she’s kept going. (It may have something to do with the fact the Val is basically a Vulcan.) We don’t see her cry, we don’t see her emotionally mourn, we see her throw herself into her calculations time and again trying to make sense of everything. But she can’t and we see it wear on her a little more in each flashback and then compounding to her state in the present setting.
Something that adds another layer to this: Val is smart. Now, I don’t mean “comic book fantasy science smart.” No, I mean “Holy [email protected]#, this woman is collapse under the weight of your own genius smart.”
Now, I will admit I am too stupid to understand half of the science in this book because so much of it is real science. Hand me fantasy Kryptonian science and I can go on for days. Hand me a physics equation and I devolve back to Australopithecus. (I majored in Political Science, please appreciate my failed attempt at a science joke.)
Digs at myself aside, this is incredible because it adds “legitimacy” to Val as a scientist.
Val isn’t smart because the comic tells us she is, she’s smart because this is real science in a “real world” application. (Amy brought this same level of scientific literacy to Poison Ivy.) I think it’s this real-world application help make this book so enjoyable.
At the core of this book is reality. The reality that in an instant you can lose everything, the reality of your best not being good enough, the reality that things are often worse than they appear, the reality no matter how dark the world is, hope is right around the corner.
This all rolls into Val’s mental state. Depression doesn’t even begin to accurately describe what Val is feeling right now. It’s that hallow numbness that only comes from someone who has given up on life. Someone who has lost everything but themselves, but in an instant that numbness turns to determination when it’s revealed Fiona is alive. This is that moment where Val comes back into her life if that makes sense.
This where I have to give extra praise to Amy Chu. All these little factors come together seamlessly and create a highly nuanced and well-rounded story. It takes a high caliber writer to bring these factors together, but it takes a legendary writer to pull it off. Chu is this and then some. (She has degrees from Wellesley, MIT, and Harvard. She’s a smart woman. Plus, she has impeccable taste in coffee.)
Val is an astronaut, a genius, and a scientist who was chosen to help save the world. On the surface, she is the most unrelatable of characters, but her loss is real at that strikes a chord with the reader.
And that’s where Chu’s talent is. Taking these characters who are unrelatable and bringing them into the real world. Bringing them “to our level.” She did it with Wonder Woman, with Poison Ivy, with Red Sonja, and now with Summit.
Now, this book is more than just Chu’s script. Jan Duursema’s art is perfect, and I don’t use that word lightly. She takes every bit of nuance that Chu comes up with and translates it to the panel flawlessly.
Val is basically a Vulcan. She’s stoic and overly logical, but she still feels. She feels deeply. We know this because of Duursema’s art. Every loss, every sleepless night, every tear that wasn’t cried is written all over Val’s face and in her body language.
The messy hair, the slumped shoulders, the heavy eyes. Duursema’s art shows us every emotion Chu’s script omits.
The art is amazing outside of Val as well, Duursema does some of her most nuanced work with Lorena. This woman is an absolute villain, but she’s beautiful and glamorous. Duursema created this charming shark tooth smile that tells us how sinister Lorena is but still makes us want to like her.
Not to mention these killer action shots. These action shots are so damn cool. I mean, what else do you expect from a Jedi?
Yes, Duursema is a Jedi. Look it up.
Lastly, I need to gush about the colors and letters.
Now, I don’t know if this was planned but the colors are rich and deep, but they’re muted. Val is naturally stoic, but she’s in a depressed mental state and has given up her will to live.
In the post-Event flashbacks and the present timeline, the colors are heavily muted. Kelly Fitzpatrick (issue 1) and Paul Mounts (issues 2 through 4) evoke Val’s hopelessness through a lack of vivid color. (I have never seen a muted Hawaiian shirt, but damn does it work.)
Val’s plasma powers are controlled by emotion, more specifically love. So, when she experiences a hallucination or uses her powers the colors become much brighter because they’re linked with her emotions.
Fitzpatrick and Mounts do this so subtly and so seamlessly that I didn’t actively notice the emotional impact until I did deep technical read through.
Now, I am super picky about clunky and crowded lettering, but Tom Napolitano (issue 1) and Deron Bennett (issues 2 through 4) spread it out so cleanly and so evenly, that it perfectly compliments the art and page layout.
Napolitano is a master at V.O. exposition layout and it’s perfect in the first issue and Bennett is amazing at using his letters to help pull you into the page. (He did this flawlessly in Batwoman too.)
This team works together in ways that you just don’t see anymore. Usually, there’s one part of the book or one member of the team that can throw the book of whack, but you just don’t see that here.
This is an all-star team for an all-star book.
Summit is one of the best superhero books I have ever read.
It is absolutely deserving of this Perfect 10.
I look forward to reviewing volumes 2 and 3 and sharing them with you.