Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Rocket Girl 1, originally released October 9th, 2013.
Patrick: The first weekend I ever owned an iPhone, my friends I tried to see James Bond: Quantum of Solace at a movie theatre in downtown Chicago. We had driven, which was atypical for us at the time – we were very train-reliant when we lived in Chicago. But on this particular evening we had a car. Much to our dismay, the movie was sold out. That’s when I, armed with my shiny new phone , found another theatre that was playing the flick, bought us tickets and got directions to this new theatre. The night’s revised plans were a rousing success, due in no small part to wicked piece of sorcery in my pocket. I boldly declared then that we were Living In The Future. Of course, this was over five years ago now, and the ability to access that kind of future tech is commonplace — and much of the software and hardware I was using on that night would seems repulsively slow and awkward to me now. But I love this idea that the present is just our past’s future. Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder leverage this idea to present us with an insane alternate future… set in 2013.
For a series like this, I’d usually kick off my summary with something like “Meet [your protagonist]” or “In the year 2013, [the following things are true], but Montclare is decidedly cagey about both of these dimensions of his fiction. We spend most of our time following Dayoung Johannson, a teenage cop from the year 2013 who traveled back in time to 1986 to prevent evil mega-corporation Quintum Mechanics from… traveling back and time and changing the past. Fire with fire, I suppose. Dayoung is easily distracted, possibly by virtue of being 16 years old, so when the opportunity to help some 1986 cops apprehend a bad guy presents itself, she enthusiastically jumps at the opportunity. She’s able to take the guy down… perhaps a little too efficiently…
Probably pretty safe to call Police Brutality on that one. Naturally the cops try to place her under arrest, but her moves are just too slick and she’s about to escape with an assist from her new friends at Quintum Mechanics.
I absolutely adore this issue’s perspective on time travel. We blather on all the time about the “mechanics” or the “rules” of time travel, and most of the time we get frustrated. Fact of the matter is, with a few rare exceptions, time travel narratives are meant to subvert your expectations — so whatever you think you’ve been able to divine about cause and effect should be turned on its head. But what I’m taking about it something so much simpler: when we’re first introduced to our rag-tag QM scientists from the 80s there’s a title card that identifies the time as “1986. The Present.” Then the future stuff is labeled as “2013. The Past.” There’s an immediate disconnect that goes to work disorienting the reader as we recognize both of these labels to be fundamentally false (or at least, intentionally confusing). The labels of “The Present” and “The Past” are only useful when expressing Dayoung’s perspective, so we’re forced to latch on to her and hope for more information about the world we find ourselves in.
And it’s a damn crazy world at that. The world of the future-present looks like Blade Runner by way of the Apple Store.
Maybe there’s a little Fifth Element thrown in there too… But none of the flying cars and trashcan-robots are all that surprising: they’re basic future-y tropes. You take a second to reorient your mind so you can accept this is a more future-y 2013 and then it’s not all so wild. The real kicker is that everyone appears to be super young. Dayoung’s fellow police officer is apparently “turning twenty and didn’t spend seven years building a pension to watch it go up in smoke.” Twenty is old – retirement age, but we can also extropolate and come to the conclusion that O’Patrick has been a cop since he was 12. What happened in this world that wiped out all the adults, but left the world’s infrastructure in tact? Not just in tact, but thriving, bustling ever-forward. It’s an intriguing set of mysteries, none of which are explicitly stated. Montclare weilds this mystery like a pro, and at no point does it seem like he’s overly eager to share his amazing answers with us. His patience is palpable as he drops interesting little nuggets and then fills the rest of the issue with unrelated daring heroics.
Said heroics look outstanding, by the way. I fell in love with Amy Reeder because of her stellar work filling in on Batwoman during the To Drown the World story arc. Her work there was great, but it always had the fingerprints of J.H. William III’s innovative layouts. Freed from Williams’ influence, Reeder proves herself to be one hell of a visual storyteller. There’s a bravura sequence towards the end of the issue where Dayoung escapes the police by flipping around and handcuffing them to each other. It’s so fluid and clear and graceful – but Reeder inserts a tiny bit of levity by printing one of the speech balloons upside-down, while the police officer is on his back. It’s a tiny touch in a canvas of action that’s already awesome, but it caught my eye.
So, Shelby, how did you enjoy the first issue of Rocket Girl? I hadn’t realized this was going to be a time travel adventure, but hey: comics, amirite? Do you have room in your brain for another? Also, I hope we get more of that Commissioner kid – his glasses are the best.
Shelby: I’m intrigued by this title, for sure. I’m love the extra weird approach to time travel, and am super curious to see how it’s going to resolve itself. I find myself firmly in the camp of fearing the repercussions of messing with the time stream, so I feel both frustrated by and interested in the fact that the only reason the commissioner doesn’t want to give Dayoung the job is it’s too big, not because they could break reality. With my real world 2013 experience, it seems fairly obvious to me that Quintim Mechanics is the reason Dayoung’s 2013 looks the way it does; what does she expect will happen when she changes the past?
I think my biggest sticking point with this issue is how flat the characters feel. I get that the commissioner, Dayong, and her “I’m too old for this shit” 20-year-old coworker O’Patrick are playing out tropes. Honestly, I think the attitude of the retiring cop, heartfelt rookie, and politically-minded commissioner coming from these young adults is pretty hilarious. Unfortunately, it also comes off as kind of shallow. There’s a mystery I’m interested in, but I don’t know nearly enough about the world around it to be fully drawn in, and the characters are (so far) little more than cookie cutters. I like Annie, but I always like the Quirky Technician police procedurals. That being said, this is only the first issue, and there’s enough here to keep me reading for a few more issues, but I don’t know how long the cop drama/time travel schtick will be enough for me.
One of the things to keep me reading is Reeder’s art. Since the rocket part of Rocket Girl is very literal, Reeder gets opportunities to do some fun stuff with perspective. Check out this panel of Dayoung “reporting for duty.”
We’ve got an awesome overhead camera view with beautiful lighting of the street below, but the real fun is in the debris Dayoung’s rockets have stirred up. Look in the lower left-hand corner; I guess Annie is a fan of what looks like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I love that attention to detail, and I double-love when characters in comic books read comic books. It’s a gentle little tweak of the fourth wall, and it makes me smile every time I see it. Overall, the concept of this book is interesting and unique enough that I want to learn more about it. I just hope that the characters are fleshed out sooner rather than later; it’s going to take more than just Reeder’s beautiful pencils to keep me reading. For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?