"Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by Andrew MacLean
2015, 98 Pages
Graphic Novel released on May 20th, 2015
If modern day media is to be believed, it's only a matter of time before humanity does something stupid and wipes itself out. While that will be a pretty horrible time to live through, it has opened the door to some pretty awesome science fiction stories showcasing just how someone would survive in a dystopian society. Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times does just that, but it does so with a smile on its face. It's not a comedic graphic novel, but it's far from a doom-and-gloom story.
The book follows a woman named Aria as she searches for something specific and powerful that has been eluding her for some time. Her only companion is her cat named Jelly Beans, which she talks to as if it were a boyfriend. It's tough to tell at first if Aria is eccentric or just plain crazy. She interferes with her own internal monologue, continuing thoughts begun in her mind out loud and sometimes arguing with them, as if they were coming from a different person. Although society has crumbled long ago, Aria has made the best of things. She's able to face this war torn environment with a smile on her face.
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Aria reminded me of Ripley from Lumberjanes, although obviously an older version of the character. She's carefree and able to find the fun in almost everything. Her lanky appendages fly every which way as she leaps into battle. She's strange and awkward, but in a very charming way. Sheer determination sees her through each lonesome day.
Andrew MacLean's art style matches up to the tone of his story very well. That would stand to reason as he's both the writer and the artist. You spend a great amount of time with Aria trudging through an abandoned city with no one but her trusty cat by her side, so when other people show up, it's odd and unsettling, as if they don't belong there. They are immediately a threat. This flips a switch in the book, taking it from this fun version of I Am Legend (at least the first half) to a cartoonish Mad Max. The bloodshed in the second half of Apocalyptigirl is vast. Limbs are hacked off. One guy gets blown up. That's just for starters.
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MacLean often mixes in unique panels or shots that break up the comic. There will be a closeup of Aria's eyes or a spread outlining her available weapons like you'd see with an action figure. These nuances set Apocalyptigirl apart from your average comic, adding a nice touch of detail that you don't usually see.
The specifics as to why the world got to this current state are vague at first. They sound like the kind of stories that have been told again and again over the course of years until they become legends. A war between two tribes of people culminated in the sun shedding tears of fire, which destroyed everything they touched. That's the kind of thing that you'd expect from ancient Greek and Roman myths. The truth is slowly revealed over the course of the comic before MacLean pulls the rug out from under you, totally reframing the story.
Apocalyptigirl is the kind of comic that you finish and immediately want to re-read to look at it with a new set of eyes. Aria is a dynamite lead that steers clear of the typical buxom bombshell seen in most comics. Instead, she's a smart, independent woman, who's not afraid to get her hands dirty. MacLean makes the apocalypse fun. It can't be that bad if people like Aria are running around.