There’s a new teenage heroine protecting the city streets, and her name is Ajala Storm. She is part of an organization known as the C.S.C., and if she can adhere to their rules and learn from her mentor, then she just might save a few people. However, when we first meet Ajala, series writer Robert Garrett chooses a very humbling moment in the life of the Junior Agent for the introduction. She decided to stop a robbery all by herself and without the consent of her Senior Agent. Let’s just say things didn’t go well, and all she was left with was a black eye and hurt pride to show for it. Garrett uses this moment to also introduce Ajala’s mother and her father. The sequence establishes a bit of their family dynamic, and even touches on the fact her mother is a former C.S.C. Agent. So hopefully this is expanded on later in the series, and maybe at some point a mother and daughter team up. As much as Garrett focuses on Ajala’s night time activities, he also does well at making sure we know who she is behind the mask, most of which takes place the next day at school. This is where her Senior Agent, Mr. Dennis, is introduced, who just so happens to be a teacher there. He’s also not pleased with the events of the previous night.
In Book 2, Garrett chooses to give a bit of a history lesson about the C.S.C. and one of its founding members, Cecil Storm, taking the story to 1920s Harlem, New York. We’re also introduced to the antagonist who is a member (or leader) of The Quo, an organization determined to dismantle and end the C.S.C., and one way is going after their children. Not much time is spent on him other than to give the two newest students at Ajala’s school a reason for being there. This is probably the only part of the character building that fell a bit short. It’s great to know who the hero is, but they’re only as good as the enemy they face. So it will be nice to see if The Quo can be the motivation that brings out the hero in Ajala.
By the time we get to the third issue, the action is cranked up a bit as Ajala and her mentor are out making the neighborhood a safe place to be. Immediately noticeable is that they not only operate in the daytime, but also operate openly. Their presence is known and feared by those that are breaking the law, and they are very much in the public eye. This was a much needed look into how they are viewed by the community, though the look on some of their faces may indicate that not everyone is okay with them. We also get to see Ajala make another mistake, but it’s great how Garrett fleshes the character out and makes her relatable in those moments. Then things slow down with another problem for the C.S.C. to deal with, as it seems as if a group has been causing trouble for a local eatery run by a friend. These illegal tactics being used point strongly to the gentrification of Harlem, and the C.S.C. won’t let anyone else be harmed by these criminals.
In only three issues, Garrett firmly establishes that this isn’t going to be your average vigilante comic. His characters aren’t just dealing with the bad element, but they are also attempting a legitimate change in their neighborhood and surrounding areas. One way Garrett shows this is by having Mr. Dennis turn a confrontation into a teaching moment that doesn’t come off as preachy. A great feat accomplished with his natural dialogue and his grasp on the characters, whether they be background or part of the main cast. The relationships seem very real, and the teacher/student dynamic between Ajala and Mr. Dennis is full of everything you’d expect from an impatient thirteen-year-old girl who wants to save the day. Every day. The only part of the story that seems odd is how at ease Ajala’s parents are with her being in the C.S.C. Sure her mother was an agent, but it’s always different when it’s your child on the front lines, and seeing them not upset or worried makes a tender scene a little too soft to be believed.
N. Steven Harris delivers some very solid artwork in these issues that really flows well from panel to panel. There’s exciting action scenes throughout, and he uses the after image effect to illustrate some of that, which is just something you don’t see too much of anymore. However, he doesn’t just excel during he fights, he’s also able to move the story during the dialogue heavy portions. His characters are expressive without being exaggerated, and imposing when they need to be. He gives Mr. Dennis a very intimidating presence in the book, and Ajala is a little scary at times herself. Harris does manage to throw in a bit of humor at times, like when Ajala’s friends see Mr. Dennis, and hearts appear around their heads. I’ll also add that the costumes worn by the C.S.C. members while out on patrol are excellent in their simplicity, but the real treat is in the masks. Maybe we’ll get a more in depth look at them and how they work at some point.
Robert Garrett and N. Steven Harris are building a deep story here with a lot of moving parts, and make it all work by fleshing out some fascinating characters. They make sure that Ajala is a well written and well drawn story that is worth your time and money. So when you’re asking where is that title with a strong female lead or a positive representation of a woman of color, then you need to look towards Ajala.