Chroma Key: A Queer Love Letter To Tokusatsu

Chroma Key is a Tokusatsu inspired webcomic written by Brandon Dumas with artwork by Laura Reyes. The comic tells the story of five childhood friends who have drifted apart in their early adulthood. As children, the five friends gathered together to watch a show called Mighty Fighters, a Saturday morning superhero show with heroes in spandex and monsters made of rubber suits. When they were little, they dreamed the Mighty Fighters could be real.

                                             

Ten years later, the group discovers a mysterious moth alien named Luna, who makes their childhood dreams a reality. Now Kim Koizumi (Red), April Robinson (Blue), Parker Flores (Green), Emily Ivanov (Yellow) and Fuchsia Simmons must fight back an alien invasion before their dream becomes a nightmare.

 

Chroma Key features a cast of characters from a broad range of race, gender, disability and sexuality. Writer Brandon Dumas pens a story that will appeal to fans of Tokusatsu and non-fans alike. In addition to a cool suit, each character has the power to summon a personalized weapon that takes shape based on the personality and interests. Should the team face a combatant who is too strong to handle individually, they can combine their weapons through the power of friendship. Something reminiscent of media like Steven Universe. There is a tongue in cheek appreciation of the ridiculousness of shows like Power Rangers, that never goes for low hanging fruit. The story never treats itself like it’s above such material. More so, it embraces it head-on while also being able to take itself no too seriously.

                                         

 

The artwork done by Laura Reyes brings life to every page. Their unique designs and fabulous colour palette give Chroma Key it’s own distinct flavour among similar webcomics. You can see the labour of love put into each scene, and from what I’ve seen of Laura’s work on their twitter, only just cracks the surface of what they are capable of putting to page.

As for the characters themselves, Kim is who I ended up connecting with first. As someone with a life long obsession with Tokusatsu, I related to her using it as a lens to understand the world around her. Though I couldn’t relate to her being ace, I could relate to her being on the spectrum. Kim is often headstrong and a little bit reckless, with a tenuous grasp upon reality. She also has a big heart, intuition and imagination that makes her the perfect leader to build the group dynamic around. She’s wonderful and flawed with much to learn, and her knowledge of superheroes comes in handy more than once within the story.

April is a different case. She’s a young Black lesbian who still hasn’t fully come out of her shell. She’s the most likely to go along with Kim’s antics. Usually too polite or shy to deny her. In addition to dealing with realizing aliens are real, April has to deal with the difficulties of being a Black adoptee in a well-meaning, all-white family. Though April lacks self-confidence, she provides the team with a level head and wisdom.

 

Parker is an interesting case in that. Unlike the other team members, they are a bit of a lone wolf. Not so much in the gruff badass way, but more as the socially awkward introvert way. They were the first to grow out of Mighty Fighters and since then has had a pretty tough life that has left them a bit bitter about the world around them. However, where April brings a calm level head to the team, Parker brings logic. They are a skeptic and a realist on a level that would make Agent Scully blush. Someone with a grounded approach to balance out Kim’s idealism.

 

Emily is a bisexual derby girl with a hearing disability with a thirst for thrill and adventure. She’s caught off guard by the sudden events as much as anyone else, but she sees it as an opportunity to have fun. She’s probably the most unruly member of the team next to Kim. She also recently met a mysterious girl named Adrienne, who may or may not be more than she appears.

 

Fuchsia is a young trans woman who is a talented guitarist and a free spirit. She’s currently dealing with having come out to her parents in addition to learning to fight against an alien invasion. Out of all the team members, Fuchsia is the one I’d like to see more from. We don’t know much about her life outside of the group other than her family troubles and love for music. Though there is still a lot of personality fit into what little we have seen so far.

While Chroma Key could easily be described as gay Power Rangers, that would be woefully underselling its real appeal. Underneath the colour, sci-fi is a story that wisely explores the aspects of each of the main cast that makes them unique. There is a level of care and passion put into each chapter that managed to touch me as a 20 something bi woman who grew up obsessed with Power Rangers. There’s a particular part of your life where you begin to wonder if you were foolish because people like you don’t get to be the hero, but Chroma Key gently holds your face in its palms and tells you, Yes, you can.

If you were ever a fan of books like Runaways and Animorphs, Chroma Key might be a perfect fit for you. It’s an excellent young adult comic that is currently in its 3rd chapter. If you’d like to read it, Chroma Key is available on Webtoon, Tapas, Tumblr, Patreon, and as a physical release through Indie Planet.

 

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