Making their second debut, Matt Mair Lowery and Cassie Anderson continue to impress with Lifeformed: Hearts and Minds. The duo have once again proved that putting a twist on a classic story is not only entertaining, but downright delightful.
In this installation, Cleo and her “dad” make waves once more in Pacific Northwest, but that’s just the beginning of their adventure. Battling gooey aliens may be routine, but when confronted with an old foe hell-bent on Cleo’s demise, things take a more dangerous turn than before. Forget whatever you think this story will be — it’s an unpredictable ride that will keep you aching for more!
Lowery has continued his intricate work that combines the innocence of a child and the subsequent forced maturity into adulthood — a feat that is not easy to master. While Cleo clings to her childhood, she is forced to understand and work around the realization that she cannot fix everything, despite her continuous efforts. In fact, the heart she wears on her sleeve seems to only make things worse until she comes to terms with her destiny.
Ever the tween, Cleo is headstrong, fearless and possesses a heart of gold only the strongest of people can maintain given the hostile environment around her. Alex may be her caregiver, but it is clear that Cleo possesses a level of independence that is beyond her years. Cleo is truly the courageous female hero we all deserve, but none more so than young girls she represents.
But Cleo is not the only female character who gains merit in this installment of her story.
While aliens taking the form of humans and waging war among themselves as well as on Earth is a fascinating concept, I think the diversity shown in this work deserves acknowledgement. Lowery flawlessly incorporates a woman of color into the story with emphasis on her culture, but writes in no ulterior agenda behind this character trait. It is easy for an author to create a POC character for the sake of diversity, but Lowery collaborated with fellow writer Sabeeha Rehman (Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim) to create a powerful woman whose religion and culture only strengthens her resolve and heroism. For this influence he says he is grateful, and I must say so am I.
Lifeformed is a graphic novel series that is an excellent starting point for kids getting into comics. But the story also brings back waves of nostalgia to older readers — remember getting scolded for taking your bike, and body, for too rough a ride at the park? — that pulls us into the plot more than we imagined it would. If you look at this cover and think it may not be for you, you are exactly the audience Lowery and Anderson are hoping to snare with this coming-of-age adventure. Combining Cleo’s story with Anderson’s animated, expressive artwork will keep you hooked until the very end.