In my endless quest to find something different, I stumbled across a rather stark looking cover in a pale yellow depicting a girl and her cat contrasted in blue. The art felt whimsical to me, and definitely stood out against the backdrop of comics and graphic novels these days. So, me being me, and knowing I would need something to write about here for you, I snatched it up.
Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times is the name of the book, written/created by Andrew MacLean and published by Dark Horse Comics.
The interior art reminded me immediately of Samurai Jack. If you’re unfamiliar with that show from the early days of Cartoon Network, I highly recommend you check it out as soon as it’s convenient. Anyway. The art reminded me of that show: exaggerated forms against rich backdrops. Remember, at this point, I haven’t even started reading the book yet. I got caught up in the art. Since it’s not printed on gloss stock paper, much of the colors have an almost pastel feel to them.
I figured I’d better start reading the book or else this would end up being a short post about art.
It’s the end of world, or, what comes after the end. Aria is a girl on a mission, and Jelly Beans is her cat. They have to avoid Bluestripes and Greybeards while Aria searches for the signal, and Jelly Beans hunts squirrels. Aria is both our narrator and point of view character. She often answers her own narration in a “breaking the fourth wall” sort of way, and manages to call herself on the fact she’s doing it, too. The interaction is necessary, however, and I found it very easy to get into the groove once I figured out what was going on (which didn’t take long). Imagine if you were reading a first-person POV novel, and while the main character fed you exposition, she also reacted to that exposition within the dialogue. That’s what you find here.
Aria lives up to her name, often singing arias to her cat and/or boyfriend. Her story arc is an interesting one. There’s much more to her than what we get in the initial pages, and the slow reveal is handled quite well. The dangers of this post-apocalyptic word are real, and she navigates them like a pro. Jelly Beans does as well, though, and as cats are won’t to do, he wanders off from time to time, causing Aria no end of misery worrying over him. Aria is an engaging character you root for whether she’s trying to fix some old mech or running for her life from a pack of hunting dogs.
In a comic book landscape cluttered with densely packed stories filled with angst and superheroes galore, this book sticks out like a sore thumb—in a good way. It feels light and refreshing. I can see it as a Cartoon Network show à la Samurai Jack mentioned above. There’s plenty of action, as well as hidden, deeper subtexts and meaning. Plus, there’s an overall surprising climax.
Easily one of the best comics I’ve read this year.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.