Saturday Webcomic: A girl and her mecha fight cyborgs and furries in Kiwi Blitz

There are superheroes who are born out of tragedy, and others whose superpowers give them a sense of heroic obligation. And then there are heroes who wake up one day and decide to fight crime. Steffi, the kiwi bot-driving heroine of Mary Cagle's Kiwi Blitz, definitely falls into the latter category. After getting a hold of her shiny new mecha, Steffi takes to the streets, battling psychotic cyborgs, raccoon-costumed cat burglars, and any other absurdities ready to tear through her city.

Kiwi Blitz is set in a not-too-distant future in which hobbyist and artisan technology has advanced far beyond government-issued police equipment. While teenagers engage in hi-tech battles between sophisticated animal-shaped mechas, the police are thwarted by a juvenile thief who announces their targets in advance. Steffi Frohlich is the daughter of a famous mecha designer, but she's gotten bored competing in the Robot Battle League. When her father gives her a mech of her own, the giant green Kiwibot, she decides to lend the police a helping hand as a mecha-driving vigilante.

Since Cagle doesn't drop us in medias res, Kiwi Blitz takes a while to get into. But soon we get to know the Kiwi Blitz team: the irrepressible Steffi; Ben, the Q to her junior James Bond; Heinrich, her largely absent father who bizarrely approves of his daughter's crimefighting hobby; 42, a somewhat creepy gynoid illegally created by one of Heinrich's associates; and Reed Bahia, a cop who quickly becomes Steffi's ally.

The initial chapters (or "tracks") of Kiwi Blitz emphasize the more childish aspect of Steffi's quest. Steffi is acting largely out of boredom, and while she's plucky, she's also a bit thoughtless. Tracking down the thief known as the Raccoon is great fun for her (and it's great fun for the boredom-driven Raccoon as well), and she drags Ben into her shenanigans with little regard for how he feels about her late-night crimefighting. But then a bona fide villain appears on the scene: Gear, a psychotic teenaged cyborg with a propensity for sawing into people. And just as Steffi's world starts to get a little darker, she realizes that she can't always take Ben for granted—and that she may need to turn to some unlikely sources for help. Now that this darker arc has come to a close, Cagle has started to expand the world of her story a bit, giving us new clues about 42 and the people who employ the Raccoon.

I'd also say that, for anyone who is initially put off by Cagle's artwork, give it time. Cagle's artwork becomes far less manic and her action scenes much richer as the story goes on. And, for those who know Cagle primarily as the sometimes colorist for Scott Kurtz's PvP, it should come as no surprise that her more recent colors and shadings are quite gorgeous.

[Kiwi Blitz]