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Review time! with The Joyners in 3D

by  in Comic News Comment
Review time! with <i>The Joyners in 3D</i>

“Freedom belongs only to those / Without video screens for eyes and mouth”

The fine folk at Boom!/Archaia were nice enough to send me The Joyners in 3D, which comes out tomorrow. It was written by R. J. Ryan and drawn by David Marquez, and it costs $29.95. And yes, it is indeed in 3D.

A few years ago, I reviewed the previous collaboration by Ryan and Marquez, Syndrome, and Marquez, of course, has gone on to Marvel to draw quite a lot for them over the past few years. It’s neat that he’s still doing oddball graphic novels, especially when he changes his style quite a bit in this book. (I added some art samples just to show them, but of course they’re a bit wobbly because of the 3D.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like The Joyners in 3D, and I feel bad about that (because I didn’t pay any money for it, and as always, Archaia’s books are really nice-looking, production-wise). The first thing we have to get out of the way is the actual 3D, because I honestly have no idea why the book is in 3D. This is basically a domestic drama, and even though it takes place in the future (in 2062), there’s nothing that really needs to be in three dimensions. It adds some depth to the art, sure, but artists can do that without resorting to gimmicks, and there’s nothing that justifies making me wear silly glasses and strain my eyes to read this. I’ve never been a huge fan of 3D, but if you’re going to use it, you need to embrace it. I’ve seen one movie in the current trend of 3D movies – TRON: Legacy – and there was no reason for the 3D. Ryan and Marquez give us a 3D comic that doesn’t need to be in 3D, and it’s immediately distracting. I can forgive it, if the comic itself is excellent, but it’s still a strike against it.

So it’s 2062, and in the prologue, we learn that Sonya and George Joyner are getting a divorce. We also learn that George is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s not a bad set-up, especially when we get to the beginning of the story – George is an inventor who, with his boss, has just invented a vest that allows its wearer to fly.

This is a world of flying cars, which is pretty cool, but this will take it one step further. This is proprietary technology, so of course George and his boss swear not to tell anyone, and when they begin working on fabricating the models, they swear everyone else at the company to secrecy. George is already rich, but this will catapult him into the stratosphere. Ryan introduces his home life, which is not very good, although he and Sonya have made it work. She’s dealing with a dying father who lives with them, their son is an older teen who seems to simply exist, and their grade-school daughter has autism. George and his boss talk about divorce, but George thinks he has a good arrangement with Sonya, and he doesn’t want to rock the boat, especially as she’d get half of his vast wealth in a divorce.

The problem with the book is that Ryan doesn’t do a whole lot with this set-up. It’s fairly obvious where the story is going, and Ryan takes us directly into all the clichés of a disintegrating marriage without tweaking them in any way. George’s daughter has a cute therapist, so of course George tries to have sex with her. She has a boyfriend, but it’s not terribly serious, and after George helps him out with a situation at his work (he works for a rival of George’s company), the boyfriend disappears. George claims that Sonya doesn’t care about his extramarital affairs, and even if she did, she wouldn’t have any moral high ground, as she has a boyfriend herself.

Sonya takes her father to Yosemite National Park, trying to find a cure for him, and her son and her boyfriend get to know each other. At home, George finally does have sex with the therapist, but it’s not quite what he expected. Eventually, he ends up in prison. I don’t want to give away anything about the latter half of the plot, but trust me – you can see it coming a mile away.

The strange thing about the comic is that there’s no reason for it to be set in 2062. We get the trappings of the future, with flying cars and vests that help people fly, and houses built high in the sky and the ground somehow not safe to hang out on, but Ryan doesn’t really explore it in any meaningful way. George cheats on his wife in a thoroughly regular way. He takes the therapist on a date at an amusement park. Sonya takes her father to Yosemite, and some noise is made about how only rich people can visit, but that’s all it is – it’s basically a trip to a national park. She consults an Indian spiritual healer, because of course the Indians in this comic are all spiritually attuned to nature. There is, quite literally, nothing in here that makes it essential that it’s set in 2062. So why is it? Ryan, it seems, is trying to make some meanderings toward any number of themes – the isolating effect of technology; the difficulty in breaking away from someone you share a life with, even if the life is fairly lousy; how people gravitate toward younger lovers (both George and Sonya do this) to regain a feeling of vitality – but he doesn’t do anything with them. The book is set in 2062, it seems, simply so there can be flying cars in it. Much like the 3D, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, and that becomes more distracting because the story is so clichéd. Perhaps it’s set in the future to distract us from the standard story.

I can say nice things about the art, though. Marquez’s style is fairly different than his usual work, but it’s quite good. It seems a bit more manga-influenced than his usual stuff, but that helps create a more streamlined and sleek future – most futures in fiction these days are dystopian, but not Ryan and Marquez’s, and we see that nicely in the artwork.

His faces are simple and expressive, which works very well. George’s eyes are often hidden behind opaque glasses, which makes him a bit more aloof, and both Sonya and Jamie, the therapist, have cat’s-eyes that add to their allure. Marquez often draws his characters without mouths, which is an interesting stylistic choice but works pretty well – Marquez does wonders with just drawing a few lines on George’s face without including his mouth and his eyes – and he does a lot of nice work with just body language and slight changes in the characters’ faces. When he wants to, he uses nice deep furrows in faces and shades the figures well, just enough to make it stand out and add urgency to the scenes where he does it. He does some nice stuff with the coloring shading* – the giant albino tiger is really well done, as he uses nice black stripes and the greenish tints to create nice texture to the tiger’s fur. He does this a lot in the nature scenes, which isn’t surprising – there’s more texture to the nature scenes, of course – but he uses the tints quite well throughout. It’s an interesting experiment from Marquez, and I’d be curious to see if he continues with this style going forward.

I’m disappointed in The Joyners in 3D, and I hate when I feel that way. Ryan sets up a fairly stereotypical situation, and once he does that, you can only hope he goes somewhere interesting with it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t, and the book becomes all about the bells and whistles – the 3D, the future setting – while ignoring the fact that there’s not much in the foundation. There’s nothing aggressively terrible about the book, and Marquez shows that he knows what he’s doing even when he’s trying something new, but ultimately, this is a mediocre comic. It’s fancy, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

* R. J. Ryan strongly objected to my use of the word “coloring” because the book is in black and white. I think the tints are greenish, which is why I used “coloring,” but I suppose that’s a bad excuse, so I changed it. According to Ryan, the original tints aren’t green in any way. My bad!

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