Reeder and Montclare’s fresh faced teen cops and shamelessly seedy ’80s New York City collide and Alex Yarde can’t get enough of it!
Rocket Girl#1—published by Image Comics, written by Brandon Montclare and with art by Amy Reeder—is a first issue that actually delivers, lives up to the hype and hooked me right away. The awesomely impulsive, earnest, intelligent, multi-culti Dayoung Johansson and gritty, glorious New York City Time Square circa 1986 are the great main characters of this story. Both absolutely draw the reader in.
The titular Rocket Girl (the moniker locals in old New York give her) is officer Dayoung Johansson. She’s a detective for the NYTPD (New York Teen Police Department). Dayoung is very intense and serious, “Her world is very black and white,” Monclaire explained at the New York Comic Con in October. He wanted to use a teenagers as cops because, in his view,”teenagers are very idealistic and haven’t yet been corrupted, so they make the perfect police officers.” Montclare gives the background in a few exposition panels before sending Dayoung off to apprehend “time criminals.” These are a hilariously and terrifically ’80s group of Geeky scientist offenders backed by a huge conglomerate back in the year 1986 manipulating time for financial gains. The story is very reminiscent of the syfy female time-cop procedural Continuum in the best way possible.
Montclare claims to be an “artist’s writer” and is conscious of the artist while writing the story. He said “I can write a full page spread of Napoleon fighting the British in five minutes but it might take an artist five days to draw.” So when writing Rocket Girl his sharp writing was taut and gave lots of freedom for his partners economical visual style which dovetails nicely. Rocket Girl is not a “superhero book” but a distinctly New York story of its time.It pre-dates smartphones, the internet and many of the technologies that we take for granted today. It very much makes the 15 year old brash Dayoung a fish out of water even by today’s standards.
Montclare’s wit and Reeder’s clear fluid style are a powerful mix. Montclaire and Reader don’t waste a text bubble or panel to convey Dayoung’s mission, personality or stake. Instead the reader must figure these out as he/she moves through the story. From opening scene to last page the pacing is excellent. Reeder’s layout is inspired by Osama Tesuka’s Old School Manga Style. Dayoung’s acrobatics are feline and kinetic and easy to follow, in a Jim Lee way. Rocket Girl’s movements, including the sensation of forward momentum and defying gravity, are deftly infused throughout our heroines initial skirmishes and setbacks as the script highlights the protagonists ingenuity and gives initial glimpses into her motivations.
Reeder’s art style is clean and has much depth without being too busy or cluttered which is a difficult task in trying to recapture Time Square in the late ’80s. I recall the Times Square of my youth spent seeing it through the windows of the old Playland Arcade (prior to the arrival of Giuliani and Disney) and Reeder (who is arguably half my age) nails the tone and faded neon glitz that punctuated the seething cauldron of ethnicities and socioeconomic strata at the “Crossroad of the World” admirably. The character design of Rocket Girl reminded me of the “Hard Suit” exoskeletal armor of my favorite ’80s Anime series Bubblegum Crisis,which also enjoyed the delightful neon blues and pinks that permeate that book.
Rocket Girl #1 was an absolute pleasure to read, it captured me through its sweeping action, fun tone, ’80s aesthetic and compelling multicultural, female protagonist—many elements missing from today’s mainstream books. I highly recommend it!