Writer/Artist: Andrew MacLean
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 20th May, 2015
ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times, is a soon to be released graphic novel focusing on a lone woman (and her cat) struggling to complete her assigned mission in a ruined city on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Combining a lighthearted artistic style with a darker set of themes, MacLean does an excellent job in creating an immersive environment and story while exploring the nature of humanity, friendship, and the definition of home.
What I Liked:
I really enjoyed ApocalyptiGirl for a variety of reasons. Personally, a main one was that I am producing my own post-apocalyptic graphic novel, so I always enjoy reading up on the genre 🙂 Specifically, ApocalyptiGirl features compelling characters and an interesting art style that I really enjoyed.
Our protagonist is Aria, who has been on assignment for six years to recover an artifact so powerful it lead to the apocalyptic destruction of the Earth. It’s been long enough that she has not only made friends with a cat she named Jelly Beans, but has also developed an internal narrator with whom she argues. Aria is a fascinating character, singing operas to Jelly Beans and “stealing his nose”, and naming a broken down robot she’s trying fix (grumpy Grampa Gus) one moment, then viciously and efficiently taking down hunting dogs and savage enemies with gun and sword the next. Followed shortly by remorse and nausea at the necessary violence. There are layers to her character that feel very real, speaking greatly to MacLean’s authorial talent.
Artistically, ApocalyptiGirl has a simplistic, but beautiful style. It reminds me almost of the old cartoon show Samurai Jack, with its exaggerated features and elongated limbs. The pages feature excellent levels of detail with the inks, beautiful composition of colors, excellent use of expressions to show emotions, and interesting sci-fi designs. MacLean also manages to use powerful symbolic imagery to convey deeper meaning to those who search for it.
What I Didn’t:
Overall I enjoyed ApocalyptiGirl greatly, but there were a few things I did not like as much. The internal narrator that Aria has developed from her years of isolation confused me on my first read through, as sometimes it switches from a more normal 3rd-person omniscient narrator to Aria talking to herself and then back. While this provides some useful background information to the reader, it felt a little clunky and forced to me, out of character with the Aria we were presented with. This information wasn’t always necessary and I feel could have been presented in a less confusing manner.
Similarly, I was confused by the difference between the story as it is presented/marketed and how it ended up being. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let me just say that on based on the description on the back and how it is presented as a novel in the apocalyptic genre, I assumed that Aria was a survivor of an apocalypse just trying to make it. But it turns out to be completely different, being more of a snapshot of a larger epic sci-fi story spanning worlds. This is not a bad thing, as it is good to subvert expectations and expand the genre. But it was confusing, as I reached the end and realized I was reading an entirely different story than I thought I was. Upon re-reading, it was much clearer and I saw how MacLean was hinting at the larger story all along, but on first read, I was left feeling kind of frustrated as a reader, like I’d been misled on the nature of the story I would be reading.
ApocalyptiGirl is beautifully drawn with compelling characters and an interesting setting. While it suffers from a little bit of confusing narration and plot at times, overall it is a powerful story that I greatly enjoyed reading, especially given my background in creating a similar type of sci-fi/apocalyptic story. I heartily recommend that you check it out once it is published. I know I’ll be looking for MacLean’s name in the future.