[Variant cover by Dan Mora]
Crush is a new character in the DC Universe. Even though she was part of the Teen Titans for a bit, she still needs a writer with a vision to reach her full potential. Crush & Lobo shows that’s what Mariko Tamaki can and hopefully will be for her. The solo series fully embraces the DC Pride initiative and gives us a few more sides of Crush on a very entertaining journey.
Tamaki mentioned in one interview that working with letterer Ariana Maher and illustrators Amancay and Tamra has reminded her how ridiculously fun comics can be, which is easy to feel when reading Crush & Lobo. Every element is there to make it a pleasant read, from the vibrant colors to the narration and the characters. When narrating, Crush is a self-aware character; she constantly talks about the type of character she is, how ridiculous these situations are, and even thanks us for reading. But she doesn’t do that like Deadpool; it’s not a resource to make it seem like knows she’s in a comic book, it’s only a way to make her speak to the reader and turn the story into something even more enjoyable.
Tamaki also brings randomness to the comic, making everything funnier. You can find little details like Crush’s ringtone being her favorite scream, but there’s much more. Since the story is mostly set in space, Tamaki can be as weird as she wants and still make everything easily blend in. Chapter 3 starts with an alien mantis in a therapy group talking about feeling lonely after his mom ate his dad’s head. To me, this scene represents the peak of what “fun” is in this story, only maybe losing to Crush searching for Lobo and finding many people that strangely resemble him. It represents the potential you have in this kind of setting. Of course, you don’t need to be in space to create great jokes, but if you have that, use it. That really makes me excited for a sequel. I want to see the weirdness of space being used to the fullest. Be it with space lizards, fake Lobos, animals that should never have human emotions and strange daddy issues, Tamaki shows she can be creative and implement tons of elements to make a story more entertaining.
Like many coming-of-age stories, Crush is an edgy teenager that doesn’t fit in and is in self-destruct mode. She just quit the Titans, doesn’t talk to any of them, and keeps beating aliens up for her whole day. Her only meaningful connection is with Katie, her girlfriend. The first chapter is the cutest thing ever; Katie seems like a really easy-going person that loves Crush. And both of them can be themselves around each other. Saying the dance scene (in the picture above) is beautiful is an understatement. That’s why I wanted to see a lot more of Crush and Katie hanging out and having fun together, but that’s not the point of the book.
By the end of the issue and throughout the whole series, you’ll realize Crush was emotionally unavailable and didn’t get what Katie needed many times. Their relationship is far from perfect. Crush is not prepared to do a lot of the usually necessary things in a relationship, like meeting Katie’s parents; she tries to use her job as an excuse to avoid them, or she simply runs away. Crush has numerous flashbacks in which she somehow hurt Katie. Clearly, Crush needs to grow and understand more about herself, and that’s what the series is about.
Crush knows she needs to deal with her problems, even Katie said they would have a chance if she did that, and her main one is Lobo, so Crush goes to meet him in prison. Even after being tricked and having to capture him to save herself, the only thing on her mind is Katie. It’s obvious how much she cares about her and that she isn’t handling the breakup (or anything else in her life) very well. Crush thinks of herself as if she were exactly like Lobo; someone untrustworthy and violent that can only hurt others, to put it simply, the worst.
When Crush meets Julia, an alien that loves Lobo and apparently only lives to please him, she does her best to convince Julia that Lobo is only going to hurt her. Unfortunately, Julia’s naivety and optimistic view of things don’t let her believe anything Crush says. To Julia, Lobo isn’t bad and she is the only one that truly understands him.
Crush sees herself in Lobo and Katie in Julia. In a way, she’s right. Lobo is Crush if you want blood and testosterone pouring out of your book, and Julia is the sweetest and most naive version of Katie. These adults are who Crush and Katie could be, but not who they are. Crush doesn’t have to be her father; she still has a chance. A chance to apologize to Katie, meet her parents, give her presents, and do everything she didn’t do before. She can be better. Katie knows that and still cares about Crush, that’s why she keeps texting her.
Everything Crush goes through in this comic helps her realize maybe it’s not too late to be better. And Lobo plays a big role in that realization, so let’s focus a bit on the Main Man.
You might have noticed I haven’t talked much about Lobo for a comic called Crush & Lobo, but that’s because he actually doesn’t appear a lot, even though he is relevant. His importance to the comic is what he means for Crush and their father-daughter relationship.
Father-daughter dynamics are pretty popular in media. We have the perfect examples in The Last of Us with Joel and Ellie and in the X-Men comics with Logan and Laura. In both, the detached parent figure with a traumatic past turns into someone better thanks to the daughter. With time, Joel starts dropping a few hints that he’s beginning to really like Ellie and that she’s becoming someone important to him. The story seemed to be only about Joel dropping a girl from one place to another, but it developed into a tale about a father allowing himself to love and be loved again and sacrificing everything – even the rest of the world – to save someone he loves.
Logan and Laura have a very similar relationship; they become so important to one another that Laura assumes the mantle of Wolverine, honoring her father’s legacy. But, in a way, Crush & Lobo exists to break that dynamic. Even though it seemed that Lobo had changed, everything was a ruse. No matter what happens, he will never become someone better or sacrifice anything for his daughter. For Crush, being like him is a curse.
Lobo invites Crush to visit him in prison, promising he has changed. But he implants his monitor chip on her, making all the robot guards think Crush is her father. It works mostly as a joke, but everyone seeing her as Lobo has a deeper meaning. Even though the inmates know she’s not exactly her dad, they still act like she kinda is and call her things like “New Lobo” or “Other Lobo,” showing how she sees herself. To herself and to others, Crush is only a projection of Lobo. She can’t be better than him because she is him. His enemies are her enemies. His flaws are her flaws. That’s why when talking to Julia, the sole thing she thinks about is the time she hurt Katie; Lobo abuses and uses other people without batting an eye, he’s scum, so – in her eyes – that’s what she is too.
After capturing her father, Crush is tricked again, but now by the prison’s warden. In the last issue, Crush finally teams up with her dad and realizes the only thing they can accomplish together is annihilation. He suggests they should keep working together, but quickly changes his mind and points a gun at Crush. She almost accepts his offer, but refuses it and points a gun at him too, so they go their separate ways. It may feel anticlimactic, but by not accepting to go with her dad, she refuses the idea that she’s just like him and that it’s too late for her.
One thing I didn’t like much about this comic is that throughout basically the entire series, we saw Crush comparing herself to her dad and how awful they are, but we didn’t see many moments in which she changes her opinion and realizes that she might still have a chance to be better – only in the last issue. But she also knows that she can’t lie her way into being a better person, she actually needs to put in the effort. So I’m hopeful we will see more of that in a sequel.
At the end of the last chapter, we have been presented with some elements that will be part of Crush’s next story. She finally texts Katie, but isn’t given a definitive answer about their relationship; the new warden of the prison hires her to find and arrest escaped prisoners; also, the weird pink alien she fought a few times in the series calls someone and tells them to deal with Crush.
Crush is kind of like an empty canvas; her “world” is still small. Mariko Tamaki can, for example, develop what Crush will want to do in the future, her love life, and friends (connect more with Emiko or other characters). There’s a lot more that can be done and I want to be here to read it. To me, Crush & Lobo represents a good start to something that can be great.