March 21, 2014

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Rocket Girl Flies High, Recommended


Rocket Girl #4
Written by Brandon Montclare
Illustrated by Amy Reeder
Image Comics

Here's how I know I'm getting old. In Back to the Future, the first movie I ever truly loved (I was 9 when it came out and somehow I convinced my parents to let me see it 4 times in the theater), Marty McFly travels back in time from 1985 all the way back to 1955, which feels to him (and felt to me, as a kid) like another planet. In Rocket Girl, a fun new science fiction series from Image, a teenage cop (?!) travels back in time from an alternate 2013 all the way back to 1986, which is for her like a completely different world.  For those of us who remember the 1980's, the idea that it is now the weird foreign place will seem unsettling. Once you get over that realization, take a look at Rocket Girl, as its ambitious plot and gorgeous art will likely win you over.

Dayoung Johansson is a teenage NYC cop from the year 2013, where there are flying cars and robots everywhere, and everything shiny and bright, and Quintum Mechanics is the largest, most powerful company in the world. So that's not the world we live in, and that's the point for Dayoung, who has reason to believe that Quintum is corrupt and has abused the time stream to get to their position of dominance (so powerful that the makeup of the Board of Directors is a government-protected trade secret). Even though changing the past will erase her and her world, she heads back to "our" 1986 to set things right. In the first three issues of the series, she goes up against incompetent 1986 cops, is taken in by Quintum researchers of the past, does some superheroic life-saving, and tangles with some other mysterious visitors from the future.

In the current issue, she is under pursuit all over Manhattan by two Quintum security personnel (who we've seen previously, and have reason to want to go after Dayoung) who've also traveled back to 1986. She knows she's outmatched, but she uses her considerable skills and wit to handle herself as best she can. At the same time, the Quintum personnel in 1986 are trying to make things right and undo whatever damage they believe they've caused.  We also get to see what's going on in 2013, as Quintum is moving against the Police, and things are not looking good for Dayoung's allies or (as the issue ends) for her.

This is a strong series so far. It has fun (and appropriately brain-twisting) time travel elements, a compelling, relatable, teenaged female protagonist, and stunningly detailed, beautiful art. Reeder and Montclare have created something pretty special here. Dayoung is a great character - headstrong, selfless, determined, committed, ethical, and the book's creators have given her a fun world in which to operate. It's a treat watching her, a future teenage police officer with a rocket pack, interact with the strange and foreign world of New York City in 1986. There's also some mystery and potential time travel paradoxes that are hinted at. One of the big draws for the story will be the art.

The art here is beautiful and effective visual storytelling. The series is called "Rocket Girl", and so any artist drawing this story should be able to effectively convey motion. Thankfully, Reeder does that as well as anyone you'll see. The fight and flight sequences (and the current issue is mostly a chase sequence) convey a feeling of weight and substance and drama (particularly in the tight quarters where much of the chase takes place), as well as fluidity and motion.

There are some pretty creative use of panels and of double-page spreads throughout the series. The level of detail is stunning in this book; as Dayoung is being chased through the subway tunnels, the grime and the graffiti on the subway cars gives this book a real sense of place and time. Reeder also has a real knack for facial acting, particularly that of Dayoung who is drawn expressively, and portrayed as beautiful in an age-appropriate way. The comic has a nice amount of diversity generally in a number of ways, which is nice to see.

Apart from making me feel really old, this is an entertaining, visually ambitious, fun series, well worth a look.