For me Lifeformed holds a special place in my heart, mostly because of the way I discovered it, but also because it’s a truly wonderful book. I was at Portland Oregon’s comic con, Rose City Comic Con, and my girlfriend Amber was walking the floor while I was at a panel when she stumbled across Cassie Anderson’s booth. As Amber described, “We made eye contact and we smiled at each other and I thought she looked really sweet so I stopped.” I think the fact of how they met is grossly overlooked, and for a few reasons; first, cons are a lot of work and being the type of person to smile all day at strangers is a generally overlooked superpower, second, for a con goer it’s hard to pinpoint the moment to spend money. We had been at the con for hours and had done several laps around before discovering Cassie’s booth, I didn’t even remember seeing her or the booth before Amber took me back there to say hello. After taking the book home and thoroughly enjoying it, we both read it the night we got home, I thought it would just another great book on our shelf, but I was wrong. Shortly after Rose City Con Anderson and writer Matt Mair Lowery did a little tour of comic stores where they set up a booth in store and sold Lifeformed to folks like me picking up their normal pull list. I was able to meet Anderson and Lowery together and tell them about how I bought their book at Rose City Con. I share this story because it’s important to see how much work goes into making comics, it’s not just writing and art, there is actually a lot of draining activities like smiling at strangers for three days straight at a con or traveling to different cities and greeting Wednesday warriors as they pick up their pull lists for the week.
So, about volume two. Lifeformed is a post apocalyptic alien invasion comic that is centered around Cleo and her stand in alien dad. Volume one of Lifeformed is a fairly extensive world building first volume and volume two is a continuation of the framework of world building. Cleo and her alien dad are truly dynamic characters, Lowery has put a lot of love and research into Cleo and has completely nailed down the angsty teenage girl feel with her snark and uber teenage girl behavior. She is layered as a character and her relatability is on a different level, both because Lowery writes her personality so well, but also because she is a human in a world overrun by evil aliens. Lowery really adds to the feel of the book as he continues the relationship between the two characters but he also adds a ton of emotional layering with not just their personal relationship but with other new characters as well. I’m more than thrilled with the new characters and the direction Lowery has taken the writing, it’s a very satisfying second installment of this franchise. Some words that come to mind are; charming, charismatic, sweet, and endearing. At the beginning of the book Lowery writes; “For Addy and Eliza and their indomitable wills. Always fight back. – Dad/Matt” After reading this it clicked why Cleo is such a dynamic character and why Lowery hits all the right notes, he clearly is in tune to what it means to be a girl because he is clearly a loving and caring father. Fatherhood can bring out the best in people and I believe this is the case for Lowery.
Anderson’s art, along with her cheerful personality, is what was the final selling point for Amber when she decided to buy Lifeformed volume one. Anderson has a sophisticated cartoon style of art and an incredible ability to capture the teenage girl snark in a facial expression. I feel like Anderson’s ability to capture Cleo’s personality in facial expressions is what really makes Lifeformed an artistically gifted book. Anderson also has a skillful way of doing the layouts, her fight scenes flow with a beauty like watching a master martial artist practice. It’s truly beautiful to look at and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that she does it all, colors and letters included. I’m amazed and impressed by Anderson’s ability and her final product. I could read anything she illustrated.