The GeeksverseREVIEW | Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times (Dark Horse)

REVIEW | Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times (Dark Horse)
Published on Friday, July 10, 2015 by
Indie comics sensation Andrew Maclean (Head Lopper, Meatspace) weaves together various influences to create an endearing tale about a woman at the end of the world.

  • agaaetPaperback/full color/$9.99 (US)
  • Available now
  • Story & art: Andrew MacLean
  • Publisher’s description: “Alone at the end of the world, Aria is a woman with a mission! As she traipses through an overgrown city with a cat named Jelly Beans, Aria is on a fruitless search for an ancient relic with immeasurable power. But when a creepy savage sets her on a path to complete her quest, she’ll face death in the hopes of claiming her prize.”

Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times is the premiere full-length graphic novel from acclaimed cartoonist Andrew MacLean. Set in a future earth abandoned in the wake of war, the overgrown urban ruins serve as an excellent, atmospheric backdrop for MacLean’s rendering—a distinctly stylized aesthetic that hints at the influence of European ligne-claire comics, woodblock printing, contemporary animation design, and if you squint hard enough, some traces of Gilbert Hernandez and Richard Sala.

There’s a mild manga flavor to the art as well—an extended fight scene in an underground railway and multiple motorcycle sequences evoke specific portions of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and the landscapes recall the surreal future of Taiyo Matsumoto’s No. 5.

MacLean’s art is more than just the sum of his influences, of course. Especially worth noting is his work in giving visual life and personality to Aria, the book’s eponymous “apocalytigirl.” From the moment we first see her—singing and marching on her way towards a decrepit war mech, playfully teasing her pet cat, amusing herself with solo conversation—Aria’s emotions, actions, and intent scan clearly off the page. There is no unintentional ambiguity to the character’s “acting,” but neither does MacLean swing too hard towards the opposite end of the sequential art spectrum and rely on excessive animation-style antics or hyper-exaggerated perspective shifts. What we see here is an economy to the storytelling that supports the narrative above any other concerns.

There’s a story here, too, about Aria on a years-long survey of the planet and encountering indigenous hostiles. I’ve read some reviewers compare the work to Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but I think thematically, it may have more in common with Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend(explaining why I think this is so will spoil the story, so just trust me on this, guys). Whatever the case, as with the art, the plotting and dialogue are on point.

Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the End Times is an excellent long-form single volume debut from one of comics’ rising talents.

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