Leave it to Chance

25 11 2008


Leave it to Chance was written by James Robinson and illustrated by Paul Smith and ran, intermittently, from 1996 and 1999. A collection the first 4 issues of the series was published in 2002 under the title Leave it to Chance Book One: Shaman’s Rain. Subsequent collections – Trick or Threat and Other Stories (2003) and Monster Madness (2003) – have been published but a number of issues remaining uncollected. The series ended inconclusively and is currently discontinued.

I couldn’t find a concrete statement of the age rating appropriate for Leave it to Chance but I would place it at around 12+ for bloodless but perilous action and noir-ish dystopian view of social and political corruption and narrative complexity. Reading level is probably 9-12.

It was published by Image Comics, an imprint started in 1992 by North American comic industry insiders to free them from the contractual obligation to relinquish character rights to publishers. Image Comics began to redefine the role of writers and creator in the North American comics industry and the result was a number of very successful and unprecedentedly personal and creative works.

Leave it to Chance won a number of prestigious awards in 1997; the Harvey Award for Best New Series, and the Eisner Awards for Best New Series and Best Title for Younger Readers.

Having been published in the late 1990s Leave it to Chance pre-dates the introduction of tankobon format manga to North American bookstores and its subsequent popularity young women, an audience that had, and still remains, elusive to North American comic publishers. LTC, while in many ways a product of established comic book reader nostalgia, was a genuine attempt to write a comic divested of the genre conventions that had failed engage, and in some cases repelled, young women. It is a genre work that has a tendency to sentimentalize the young heroine and most of the dramatic tension comes not from character development but from the invocation of detective and noir conventions. Despite this LTC stands as an intuitively appealing, well written and illustrated work with the potential to transcend genre-niche readership.

The art work has a clear and energetic quality while maintaining a lot of aesthetic notes from the ligne claire and and early Will Eisner works that Paul Smith clearly admires while utilizing a slightly more robust line weight. Smith captures the best potential of the bright, colorful panels balanced with lots of atmospheric black – the panel and page designs have a lot of impact and don’t read as dated.

LTC really succeeds both visually and narratively as a pastiche of adventure and mystery influences. It would be nice to think that this really great example of pure adventure could be taken out of its older aesthetic context and unburdened of some of both its success and perceived shortcomings as a “comic for girls” and just enjoyed as a really fun and attractive adventure. There seems to be teen audience for detective stories with a supernatural element and some darker social themes – Deathnote?

Robinson, James (w), Paul Smith (p), and Jeremy Cox (c). Leave it to Chance Book 1: Shaman’s Rain (2002), Image Comics. ISBN-10:1582402531