Chroma Key tells the story of five teenagers who are chosen to save the world from an imminent invasion by aliens.
Chroma Key, by Brandon Dumas, is a LGBTQ drama. It centers around five childhood friends, Kim Koizumi, April Robinson, Fuchsia Simmns, Parker Flores, and Emily Ivanov, who love a live-action superhero show. They are recruited by an alien refugee named Luna, who tells them to defeat a bloodthirsty monster and work to defend the Earth- all while reconciling their friendship with one another.
As a warning, this review discusses some spoilers for Chroma Key! Also, please note that this review discusses trauma, transphobia, and child abuse.
The story begins with Kim, April, Fuchsia, Parker, and Emily watching a live-action superhero show, Super Fighting Mighty Fighters, as kids. Years later, something brings all of the protagonists (who haven’t seen each other for years) together: a set of rings. The story goes on from there as they try to deal with this newfound responsibility and suit up to fight aliens after meeting a sympathetic alien named Luna.
Chroma Key has compelling characters and storylines. I especially like LGBTQ stories, especially those with characters with superpowers such as Steven Universe, Young Justice, and The Hollow. This story has similar elements, with the characters thrown into having to use their powers, unsure if they even want to use them or not, and a being trying to guide them in using those powers, a bit like Light Hope in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, but also having similarities to the Japanese Tokusatsu tradition.
It’s funny that this guide, Luma, is a fan of the childhood favorite show of the protagonists. She shapes their powers and suits like that, around a substance known as chroma. I liked how she gave them a choice and didn’t force them to become heroes, saying she wouldn’t blame them if they walked away. They all agree, although some obviously agree more willingly than others, later testing their powers.
This is supported by wonderful illustrations and backstory. It makes me think of the royalty who fled Acardian 5 in 3Below, or Ilana, Lance, and Octus who flee their homeworld of Galaluna, or even of the cloud city in Empire Strikes Back. It was interesting to see Luna be inspired by a fictional show to fight back against the invading bloodthirsty monsters, the Uorari. This is not the typical reason that some will fight against villains.
It’s also mysterious she had a dream of the protagonists, although the reason for that dream is not explained. The monsters remind me of the Nemesi in gen:LOCK, although these probably aren’t digital copies of someone like in that show.
We do get a look at the mysterious Black Ranger, also known as Edgelord. We see a being that looks like Luna saying everything is going as planned. If the comic continues it will be interesting to see this revealed in the future. If not, it will remain an intriguing mystery!
There are several diverse characters in the main cast. For instance, 17-year-old Kim is aromantic and asexual, Emily is a deaf person who uses sign language, and April is a lesbian who has a crush on an older woman. Emily has a crush on Adrienne Oladipo from early in the series, who has progressive hearing loss and can also use sign language. Both are bisexual or pansexual and shown in a clearly romantic relationship.
Emily was born with Type II Waardenburg syndrome which is characterized by moderate-to-profound hearing loss. Her hearing loss is moderate. This means that, according to Dumas, “with a hearing aid she can follow conversations reasonably well, though not perfectly, especially when the person speaking is not facing her,” and can engage in verbal speech but prefers sign language.
There is continued tension between Kim and April, as they fight with one another, and she has issues with anger management. Kim, who comes from a family with abusive parents, bonds with her.
There are two trans main characters. Parker describes their gender as the beginning of the Guns & Roses song, “Welcome to the Jungle.” They deal with transphobia and have a snake. Fuchsia is a trans woman with pink hair, who is also affected by transphobia and has an abusive father.
Parker and Fuchsia undoubtedly experience trauma from their near-death experiences, as do the other Mighty Rangers. Even so, they unite over their shared experiences as superheroes of sorts in this sci-fi coming of age story.
While Kim helps bring the group together, she begins to lash out against Fuchsia, who is also non-binary, by using the wrong pronouns for them. The group begins to fall apart. Hopefully, future parts of the comic, will also expand upon the relationship between Emily and Adrienne, with Emily thinking of inviting Adrienne into the group.
Chroma Key, is written by non-binary writer Brandon Dumas and illustrated by Laura Reyes (also known as BioAtomic), a non-binary Mexican-American character artist. The series has over 130 episodes. Reyes also has a young adult LGBTQ sci-fi drama webcomic named Don’t Worry Teri!, while this series is the first published work for Dumas.
Chroma Key began being posted on Line Webtoon in April 2018 and is in a book format. It is not to be confused with the electonica, ambient, and trip hop band of the same name. It references other series, like Transformers, the Power Rangers, the new She-Ra, Steven Universe, and Adventure Time.
The series has been on hiatus since June 2021. Dumas said it will not “return for a while” due to personal circumstances. Dumas discussed the subject at length in a May 2021 interview with Estaban, a lover of queer comics.
You can find Reyes on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, and Dumas on Twitter, Tumblr, and Tapas. You can also check out the official Twitter for the comic and support the comic on Patreon. You can also buy volume 1 of the comic on IndyPlanet or ask BioAtomic for commissions.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Burkely Hermann
Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.
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