Comics are so damn good these days. It seems wherever you look, you can find something interesting and unique and continually surprising. Far from the depressing miasma of dull DC crossovers and endlessly repeated superhero tropes (and right next door to them at your LCS, if your LCS is decent) are books like the thoroughly wonderful ApocalyptiGirl.
Andrew MacLean is hailed on the back cover of this slim, lovely book as an “indie comics sensation”, and it’s easy to see why he’s given such an impressive nickname. This book is a delight.
The book begins with our central character, named Aria. She gives a quick intro to herself, explains her name on a page that introduces readers to a setting that appears to be bucolic and peaceful. As we look at the next page we see Aria in a dramatic up-shot and she immediately captures the reader’s imagination as she strides, all confidence and happiness, across a well-placed log, with a waterfall behind her, as she sings an aria. Depicted against a lovely pastel background, we’re intrigued by this figure. She seems strong and confident, at home in this world. On the next page we see Aria goofing around with her cat, and we’re immediately drawn to this character.
It’s a bold beginning, an audacious piece of character-building that also acts as a bit of misdirection. Everything seems to be all right (nevermind the apocalypse) for Aria and her kitty, named Jelly Beans, and as she moves to explore something that looks like a moss-overgrown giant robot similar to the Iron Giant, this looks like it might be a whimsical, gentle sci-fi fantasy story. That feeling is accentuated by MacLean’s unique art-style, which is a fascinating mix of Miyazaki and Moebius full of world-building detail and a comfort with technology as part of ordinary life.
It’s not till page 13 of this 94-page book that the conflict actually begins, another sign of MacLean’s confidence and another signal that the focus of this book isn’t on its core conflicts as much as it’s on its core character. Indeed, even as the story becomes more intense and action filled, with defenestration and laser file, battles in abandoned subway stations and with vicious dogs (not to mention some spooky-as-hell sci-fi villains), the story still focuses on Aria.
And as the story develops we begin to understand that there’s something different about Aria. My first time through this book, I imagined her as a kind of Mad Max-style character, a survivor of an apocalypse forced to fight for her life. Instead we find out that she has a much more complicated backstory than that, which I won’t spoil for you but which offers delicious potential for future volumes in this series. I’ll just say that there’s a specific reason for her to be on this planet and there are very good reasons why she’s such an amazing fighter.
I was thoroughly captivated by this book, but then I’m often captivated by original works by unique, emerging creators. There are so many elements of ApocalyptiGirl that were fascinating, from the wonderfully unique art style to the lovely pastel coloring to the way that MacLean builds world and character in a confident and very personal manner that gives this book a unique feel.
ApocalyptiGirl is an audacious and thrilling new graphic novel by a creator who has tremendous promise. Pick this book up now, because you’ll want to have bragging rights at your LCS so you can say “I read Andrew McLean before he started winning Eisner Awards.”