In first issue of Ling the titular heroine, a Chinese-American teenager finds herself caught up in interdimensional struggle when a three-legged fox shows up in her washing machine. But after the fox — which no one else can see — downs a bag of chips and guzzles a soda — she reluctantly listens to what he has to say. It’s a fun spin on a typical call to adventure, with a messy, grounded, very real teenage heroine at the center of it.
Ling, the newest comic from Raising Dion creator Dennis Liu and Marie Iida, with illustrations by Mariko Yamashin, has already caught the eye of Temple Hill Entertainment to develop into a television show. Much like Raising Dion, which debuted with a short film that caught the attention of eventual producer Michael B. Jordan, Ling comes with a brief video teasing the character’s powers and the smart-talking fox (voiced by Randall Park) to promote the comic.
Lie and Iida created Ling to defy the usual expectations of an Asian American heroine: Ling is messy, insecure, and may be totally in over her head. She’s not good at pre-calc (in fact, she’s failing). She’s a skateboarder, who’s kinda lazy and likes to sleep and eat. Most importantly, she’s a blogger, whose latest exposé on a schoolwide cheating scandal led by class president Sera just cost her some valuable high school social capital.
It’s not just refreshing to see an Asian-American heroine with specific interests and personality, but Ling isn’t generic looking either. She was born with very distinct facial birthmarks, which is why her parents named her after a famous giant panda. The “spots” on her face, so to speak, are a big cause of her insecurity, and though her birthmarks are not the reason she finds herself ostracized by her peers — that lies in the aforementioned exposé on the cheating scandal — they become a quick and easy target on social media, with Sera leading the charge.
It would be easy to fall into a trap of pitting Ling against the popular girl Sera and thus fall into girl versus girl trope. But thankfully, Sera isn’t the only female character Ling interacts with. Ling has a best friend named Julia, but the strongest relationship in this first issue comes from Ling’s older sister Elaine. Elaine is everything Ling is not — confident, popular, and not afraid to stand up for herself — which means Ling looks up to her, but is also slightly envious of Emily’s ability to “grow out of her spots.” It’s her concern for Elaine that drives most of Ling’s story, which adds more depth to her motivations.
Ling wishes she could be anyone else in the world — a wish that basically comes true when Kitsy tells her that she’s a “which.” Not a witch, but a “which,” which means that she has the power to be any girl she wants.
We only see a glimpse of what that means — the full extent of Ling’s powers only hinted at, in a page illustrated with multiple versions of herself. In the end, Ling is transformed from a regular high school student into witchy ensemble and finds herself in a totally different dimension. Kitsy tells Ling she’s the only one who can stop a mysterious being called “the Angel.” It’s a standard call to adventure, but Ling — and Kitsy and her powers and the comic’s gorgeous art — is anything but.
Ling is available for purchase now.