Quirky small towns hold an endless fascination for viewers. With their charming characters, everyone knowing everyone’s business, the weird rituals, and the strong sense of community, it’s fun to sink into a small town and they often take on a personality of their own in media. For Steven Universe, that town is Beach City, the aptly named home base for the Crystal Gems and where our heroes find a break from the stresses of fighting for freedom. In Welcome To Beach City, the threat from corrupted gems and a rigid society are set aside for a series of shorts that celebrate this sanctuary.
Combining Greg Universe Special #1 and Steven Universe 2016 Special #1, Welcome To Beach City is a rich gathering of gentle stories to take a break with. This soft collection features stories by Rii Abrego, Nicol Andelfinger, Jim Campbell, Queenie Chan, Rachel Dukes, Coleman Engle, Chrytsin Garland, Katie Jones, Grace Kraft, Laura Langston, Cara McGee, Warren Montgomery, Jared Morgan, Kevin Panetta, Liz Prince, Jeremy Sorese, Ayme Sotuyo, Sara Talmadge, Kelly Turnbull and T.Zysk.
Welcome to Beach City immediately grips the reader with Sorese’s dreamily illustrated ‘The Universe And The Moon,’ where Greg and Garnet have a very sweet chat about the differences between humans and gems, and then moves into a couple of Beach City weird adventure type stories that will feel familiar from the show. Kraft’s ‘By Heart’ moves back to the dreamy tenderness with Steven and Greg singing about Rose.
The way the art in these stories mirrors the tone even with their variety of artists is a lovely way to move through the collection. Stronger lines and brighter colors accompany the lighter stories while the stories full of feelings tend to have more muted palettes and sketchier lines. Kraft and Turnbull’s ‘Snapshots’ navigates both spaces beautifully.
While individually most of the stories are strong, the ordering of some of the stories feels odd. There’s a nice balance of silly stories like ‘Clash Of Gluttons’ with stories that hit straight in the feels but the flow doesn’t always work and some stories that feel like they naturally take place in a certain order are reversed.
For example in ‘Big Donut Contest’ the crystal gems are attempting to make donuts for a contest (which goes as well as most wrangling the ageless and powerful crystals into doing mundane activities goes) and later on in the collection ‘How To Make Donuts’ has Sadie teaching them how to make doughnuts at home.
It’s also a little odd that most of the stories center The Big Donut when Beach City has so many other venues to showcase. While Sadie and Lars are featured the most of Beach City’s residents, at least despite the limited locations, plenty of other characters show up to play as well. The title just sets up an expectation for a broader view of the town.
Steven Universe, in general, is very good at reminding viewers that even amongst the most dramatic of times it’s important to take a moment and appreciate the world around you lest you forget what you’re working for and Welcome To Beach City centers those moments beautifully. Whether your fast pace is work or studying or fighting fascists, of the human or gem variety, this collection will help you find a peaceful moment to remember that there’s more to life than working towards a goal.
Rating: 4/5 Cookie Cats