In the near future, humankind has finally found life in the universe! And we are TERRIFIED. In response, the government creates a dome called SafeSky to protect us from extraterrestrial life and have used this fear as an excuse to create a fascist, controlled society. As you do. Or as humans do, anyway. Shock Doctrine engage! Power up the giant gun on the moon!
The characters of Joyride are relatable namely because they are familiar types without being stereotypes. Namely, in another title, Dewydd would probably be the lead, haplessly following his manic pixie dreamgirl Uma into the great beyond. Instead, within the first volume, all three leads have Goals, Motivation, and Background that make their actions reasonable, if not always wise or expected.
For some it might be hard to relate to Uma’s enthusiastic (to the point of irrationality) embrace of flinging herself into space, intent on never coming back. But when you find out what’s happened to her, it all makes sense. Dewydd is in fact following Uma because he loves her (this is barely a spoiler), but this is complicated by the fact that her character isn’t there to teach him anything, and she has romantic inclinations of her own.
Catrin starts as your standard security guard getting swept up in the hero’s madcap adventures, but turns out to be a whole lot more. She’s also Uma’s enemies to friends to potential love, and it’s done in a slow way that I wholeheartedly approve of.
I have to admit that I’m strongly in favor of slow burns over insta-love, no matter the genre, but especially for LGB characters, everything tends to happen at once, because the writers often lose interest after sweeps to knock one of them off. Boo. In Joyride vol 1, we’re still eeking toward friendship.
The side characters are also worth paying attention to, especially the robot/ship’s pilot/Uma’s text buddy and the alien wanderer they pick up at their first stop who is constantly nonplussed or horrified by the antics of the humans he’s fallen in with.
If I had a criticism to make, it’s that the emotional resolution of the final chapter comes pretty quickly. But I’m willing to excuse it since the story is otherwise well-paced and Uma tends to be mercurial in nature. It feels believable that she would shift her feelings very quickly from one state to another.
I grade comic art on a few specific criteria: Can I tell what’s happening? (Clear lines, distinguishable action, etc.) Are the characters identifiable with recognizable facial expressions? And are there moments to elevate the sequential drawing to art?
Joyride gets high points on clarity of action and emotive characters. The designs for the aliens are neat, too, and it was interesting without being too cutesy, gross, or ridiculous. The panels are well laid out and the artist does an excellent job of directing they eye through the course of action, even when there are floating panels or smaller panels layered on top of a larger scene.
The comic misses out on higher Art points, but that isn’t an aim of this volume, and there are some very well composed scenes of our teens looking up at a huge field of stars and the entire Protex scene with Uma and Catrin has a lot of meaning pressed into a few pages.
Also, space dance party.
Bio-fam Loyalty vs Found Family
Security vs Freedom
Human Expectations vs Alternative Alien Logics
I won’t go into details on these at the end of this volume because it would involve spoilers and I need to see the full arcs to accurately judge. What I will say at this moment is that the fact that these themes are present is a plus for the title. You could easily just have a group of teens run off and have adventures with no deeper connection for any of the characters. I appreciate what’s started here, particularly the dystopian elements, as dystopia literature has been a research interest of mine and I’ve taught dystopia lit. Love it.
You can’t do dystopian Earth without making the human connections and addressing the issues of violence and conflicted loyalties and values, but the story doesn’t get too bogged down in philosophizing either.
Overall, I’m going with a definite recommendation. I picked this volume up as a free review copy for Netgalley, simply based on the LGBT label, but if I’m honest, I would be interested in the story regardless based on the dystopian and sci fi content.
The fact that other reviews keep going on about SPACE GIRLFRIENDS doesn’t hurt. I’ve already secured the second volume, and I’ll be preordering the third.