I’m going to be invoking multiple fandoms in this review. Mostly because so many of you are craving stories that should be out there in the wild but, inexplicably, aren’t. This story gives a taste of what it might have been like if #Swanqueen, #Supercorp, #Supercat (also, what’s the ship name for Miranda Priestly/Andrea Sachs?) or others were canon. It goes in its own direction and is its own story, but the fanfic hommage feels present and loving. Imagine being hugged because you’re a member of one of the fandoms above. It’s like that and it’s also more.
"Chasing Stars" by Alex K. Thorne is the story of Ave Eisenberg, the long-suffering assistant of Gwen Knight, superstar, philanthropist and TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year runner-up. Gwen projects an icy, controlled demeanor at all times, not quite a Miranda Priestly from “Devil Wears Prada” but in the same solar system. The Ice Queen trope is a familiar one, but just wait, there’s more. Gwen is a consummate professional in her work and she’s also trying to be the best mom she can to her ten-year-old son. Unfortunately, both of these pull at her energy and time, leaving her ex-husband to wonder if she can truly provide a stable environment. When he petitions for custody of their child, Gwen decides that showing she can be in a committed, long term relationship will help her chances in court. That sound that you hear is the fake relationship trope tap-dancing unto the scene.
Ava is uniquely compassionate. She doesn’t know how to constrain her heart or her sincere desire to help those around her. This leaves her vulnerable in multiple ways. She knows that and accepts it. Gwen, on the other hand, usually relies only on herself. She doesn’t let people close and guards her true feelings fiercely except with her son. Yet when she asks Ava to pretend to be her fiance, she is put in a situation where she must trust Ava, must let her in. Gwen’s navigation of this, especially when she tries to maintain a ‘I am the boss’ barrier, is a constant obstacle between them.
But wait, there’s even more! See, Ava is really an alien from another planet who rescues citizens in distress with her superpowers. Years ago, Ava and the “Andromeda Orphans” crash landed on Earth and since then the people of Earth have been torn between fearing them, ignoring them and wondering how to control them. Good comic books are grounded in the exploration of humanity: a human need or fear, an exploration of us as a group and under it all, a question: can we be better than this? Alex never loses focus on the romance, yet she stays true to these elements, skillfully weaving them into her world and lore. It’s a lot. Yet nothing feels rushed or crammed in. All of it flows.
The one area I wish Alex had explored more is the relationship between “Swiftwing” and Gwen. She suggests that there’s a very different side to her that comes out around Gwen when she is in disguise as her alter ego. While I very much liked the “Just Ava” side, it’s an interesting concept and could have been delved into a little more. Especially since there’s a brief period in the story where using her powers becomes impossible. On the flip side of that, it would have been equally intriguing to see Gwen in these interactions - in situations where she couldn’t use the ‘boss’ card. In fact, overall, I think seeing a little more of Gwen’s vulnerability would have made the romance stronger.
Ava, though, will win your heart from the first page. She is someone to be admired while not being perfect. Someone who tries to be a hero, without being sure she is one. Especially in this day and age, rooting for a hero is underrated.