Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #210: Rocket Girl Vol. 1: Times Squared by Montclare & Reeder

DaYoung Johansson is a good cop, the latest in a long line of fictional cops driven to seek out the truth, no matter what. But she's coming from somewhere more interesting than most of those predecessors, and going somewhere more mundane, inverting the usual pattern.

DaYoung is a detective in the New York Teen Police Department -- she's fifteen, in mid-career -- in a utopian 2013 that bears very little resemblance to our world. She's got what looks like a spacesuit, complete with full-face helmet and rocket pack, but it seems like her department is pretty small, and their work more public-relations than tough policing. But DaYoung has a cop's tenacity, and what she thinks is the biggest case possible: that Quintum Mechanics, the megacorporation that invented time travel and turned NYC into a utopia, is dirty at its core.

So she jumps into that time machine, to send herself back to 1986 and Quintum's first successful experiment with their Q-Engine, to stop that experiment. To keep her supposedly utopian world from ever existing.

That could be a relatively straightforward story -- despite the time travel, and the oddity of teen cops (which, coupled with the utopian alternative world, make me think of Scott McCloud's Zot!, though that's probably not intended) -- but not in this telling. Writer Brandon Montclare does the usual adventure-comics thing of throwing us into the middle and only explaining afterwards, and the other usual thing of having shadowy figures sitting in a room discussing how they're secretly manipulating the plot of the book and possibly the entire world. (It all works -- it's zippy and smart about time travel and avoids being too obvious about itself -- but it's nothing you haven't seen before.) Artist Amy Reeder, though, takes that story and draws it into unusually-shaped panels, crammed full of detail and incident, fused with a strong sense of page design. She sells this story, with body language and faces and the background signs and grime to show this really is 1986. Without her, this would be a decent adventure story. With her, it's something much more kinetic and exciting.

It's Rocket Girl Vol. 1: Times Squared. The series is ongoing in floppy-comics form; this first book is mostly introductory, to show us DaYoung and her two worlds -- the one she came from, and the one she's stuck in. This time out, we meet DaYoung and her supporting cast, start to get a sense of just how sneaky and creepy Quintum is, and understand the world. There will be much more -- and, as long as Reeder stays this inspired and thrilling, it will be utterly worth reading.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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