Story: Brandon Montclare
Art: Amy Reeder
What They Say
The NYTPD sent her to 1986 New York City to investigate the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time. Piecing together the clues, DaYoung Johansson discovers the “future” she calls home—a high-tech alternate reality version of 2013—shouldn’t exist at all!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the distant high-tech future that is 2013, teenagers are the law and anyone older than the age of 30 can’t be trusted. Sounds like the basis of a hokey ‘80s cartoon, and considering part of the series takes place during 1986, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Rocket Girl is one of those series that fully embraces its aesthetic of ‘80s retro and kid-empowerment, and it’s all the better for it.
Traveling back to the year 1986, Detective DaYoung Johansson of the New York Teen Police Department takes it upon herself to put a stop to Quintum Mechanics—an organization that develops into something far more insidious 27 years into the future. Having made a mess of an entrance in front of the then (mostly) innocent and starry-eyed physicists at Quintum, DaYoung is taken in by Quintin worker Annie, serving as her babysitter of sorts as she lets the time-traveler bum around her apartment until the rest figure out what to do with her.
While DaYoung and Annie’s setup of empowered youth versus the adult that doesn’t know any better is clearly defined, I couldn’t help but feel like their relationship could have been better fleshed out. This volume offers a scant few pages of back-and-forth between the two that while entertaining, could have definitely been embellished upon. The same can be said for all the other Quintum workers, who only get a few panels of quirkiness before being set aside, the plot giving more priority to DaYoung, who continually slips under the adults’ radar to take out any and all baddies in the city. For the most part, this works (Giving priority to the titular character? Ingenious!), but there are a decent number of scenes that shift focus to these secondary characters, only to have them fall short because you’ve become so used to not having them around. Suddenly, characters that have been in the background are given responsibilities that heavily affect the plot, and instead of feeling appreciation for their sudden relevance, their acts ultimately feel less impactful than they’re supposed to.
That’s not to say that the plot’s quick pacing and primary focus on DaYoung doesn’t have its benefits. Following DaYoung’s plight as it jumps between her time in 1986 and the moments in 2013 leading up to her time-traveling, you immediately get a feel for what it’s like to live in both time periods. It is in these moments that artist Reeder’s talent truly shines in that the reader need not even take in the dialogue since her layouts and panels already do a spectacular job getting across the essence of each world. 1986 is the perfect blend of a grungy pre-Giuliani New York, while emitting a poppy vibrance you’d expect from a music video at that time. Likewise, the futuristic 2013 feels slick, blending in imagery popularized by Apple computers as well as the equally iconic imagery akin to Blade Runner. In this sense, the immediate feedback through Reeder’s art allows for the plot to continue at a breakneck pace even though some time for a breather would have been appreciated.
As the story continues, DaYoung begins to warm up to the more analog world that is 1986—transforming her from the girl crying wolf on deaf adult ears, to a full-fledged hero in her own right. Seeing her go to every length necessary to take out even the pettiest criminals in a time that isn’t her own is satisfying, and even when trouble from the future follows her to the past, you never feel that she’s at fault for anything because the people of New York are so endearingly quick to accept her as the one ray of hope in their otherwise crime-rampant city. The subway scene near this volume’s end had some vibes nearly identical to a scene in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, which is definitely not a bad thing.
Another highlight of the volume is, as expected, the time-travel shenanigans—in particular the throwbacks (and “throw-forwards?) between the past and present. While DaYoung takes on full responsibility of taking down Quintin Mechanics herself, she does so knowing that in the case of her succeeding, it would completely wipe out the future as she knows it. Dialogue akin to villains spouting “we’ve won because our future is still here” is headache-inducing if you think too much about it, but author Montclare does an efficient job driving away readers from the abstract and delivering more immediately satisfying time-travel fanfare, particularly in the form of police officers Tweed and Dunn. The plot jumping between the officers’ older and younger selves better explains how time travel works within this series, and is honestly considerably more interesting than anything related to Annie and the other Quintin physicists.
All in all, a satisfactory first romp through the world according to DaYoung Johansson.
Volume 1 of Rocket Girl definitely lives up to its name in more ways than one. The story speeds past exposition in favor of better establishing DaYoung’s fish-out-of-water moments as well as the expected time-travel drama. The constantly vibrant and dynamic art pairs well with the series’ initial setup of “kids versus adults,” and while a pause between all the action would have been appreciated, the story as it stands is solid, with its only problem being that its clearly left enough loose threads dangling to leave readers wanting more.
Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Image Comics
Release Date: July 22, 2014