Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rocket Girl #1 Review

If Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder know two things, it's Kickstarter and comics. In two years, the pair has successfully managed two Kickstarter campaigns that have both resulted in brand new comics debuting at New York Comic Con. Last year saw their release of the one-shot Halloween Eve, while this time around they're starting an ongoing, the delightfully titled Rocket Girl. They were slinging the book all weekend long at NYCC, but you can get a copy of it for yourself at your local comic shop, as it dropped last week. The question, of course, is how did the whole thing turn out? Hit that jump to find out!

ROCKET GIRL #1
Written by Brandon Montclare
Art by Amy Reeder

We begin in “The Present”, which for the book's purposes translates to 1986 New York. More specifically, within the labs of the curiously named Quintum Mechanics. There, a group of scientists are trying out their time machine for the first time.

Well, it might be more accurate to say that the book opens on Dayoung Johansson, our titular Rocket Girl, hurtling through the timestream “back in time to save the world”, but there's only one panel of that before switching over to the aforementioned Quintum scientists and their maiden time machine activation. Besides, the two scenes are intimately linked, as the time machine overloads explosively, and once the dust settles, Dayoung stands before the baffled researchers. She announces herself as a detective with the New York Teen Police Department from the futuristic year of 2013, declares the scientists to be under arrest for “crimes against time”, and promptly passes out in front of them.

These are the opening moments of Rocket Girl #1. The whole thing takes places over the course of three pages and really sets the tone for the book as a whole. It's full of big, wacky ideas, moves at a rapid clip, has plenty of colourful characters sprinkled throughout, and most of all, is a lot of fun. Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder provide a stunning amount of backstory and information in this opening issue, while setting up an interesting conflict to be played out in coming chapters.

Montclare's dialogue throughout the issue is incredibly tight. He walks the tightrope between organically weaving in exposition without coming off as artificial or forced. He also works in a lots of fun and zany ideas that somehow seem perfectly logical in the context of the story proper. We get only the barest of glimpses into the New York Teen Police Department, but while the concept sounds completely ridiculous, it works. Granted, it does bring a smile to your face to see then teenstached commissioner roll out lines you'd expect from a stereotypical top cop four or five times his age, but that's a big part of Rocket Girl's charm. Neither its 1986 Present or 2013 Past are quite what you would expect, and half the fun is seeing the differences between the comic book versions and our reality. The other half is seeing those two times collide in increasingly humourous ways.

Additionally, Dayoung is far from the fish out of water, lost adolescent that she may at first appear to be. She quickly shows herself to be an incredibly capable officer of the future law, whether teenaged or no, rocketing off to help out when trouble strikes. Not only that, but she resolves the situation far quicker and more efficiently then the present-day cops ever could have. It will be interesting to see what other tricks she has up her sleeve.

As one would expect from an Amy Reeder book, her visuals play an enormous role in getting all of this across and making it look gorgeous. Indeed, this is one of the best looking issues I've seen from her. She brings all her signature calling cards to the table. Her characters all look great, with each one having a unique look and silhouette to them. It's surprising how refreshing it can be to see characters that break the normal comic book mold. Of course, Dayoung is the most unique of them all, with a sleek uniform and rocket pack that sets her apart and implies her temporal provenance. Reeder's settings are equally superb. Whether it's past, present, or future, Reeder puts in a ton of detail and personality to make the world feel like it is truly lived in.

While her artwork is as attractive as ever, what I most enjoyed was Reeder's killer design work and layouts. Few pages are made up of traditional panel grids, preferring instead lots of inset panels, diagonals, and other less common techniques. This gives every page a dynamic feel that fits right in with the frenetic pace of Montclare's script. I'd also like to mention that while I felt Reeder's word balloons were a little off at times in last year's Halloween Eve, they are much better this time around. There's some nice little moments that concisely convey emotion or tonality in subtle ways.

Once the book gets going, the plot for the remainder of the issue is a little light and gets somewhat distracted from Dayoung's stated goal of saving time and the world. I didn't mind the digression too much, as it still made for a playful little sequence that had the added bonus of letting Reeder show off some lovely arting, but hopefully future issues can pay slightly more attention to what is initially presented as the main (and really only) purpose for Dayoung's time travelling adventures.


Verdict – Buy It. Rocket Girl #1 is a really fun piece of comics. It's a semi-lighthearted action-adventure time travel piece with a female, teenaged protagonist, but despite how complex and perhaps even awkward that description may sound here, everything seems to fit in the book itself. Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder past collaborations and familiarity with one another is abundantly clear, as they've produced an opening issue that aims to please, hits the mark on all counts, and promises more to come. Simply put, it works and you should give it a chance if you haven't already.


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17 comments:

Jarmir said...

Grant its actually called New York "Teen" Police Department ? Interesting...
Thanks for the review I might go check it out

Grant McLaughlin said...

Jarmir, yes it is the Teen Police Department. They don't delve too much into the logistics of the whole thing this issue, but there's a line implying that retirement comes at the age of 19 or 20, so it's pretty fun. Would definitely recommend.

Eric van Schaik said...

Like most new stuff I'll buy this in trade.

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