After a long time in production, “The Joyners in 3D” by writer R.J. Ryan with art from David Marquez has finally found its way to comic book shops and readers’ hands. As with all Archaia original graphic novels, the package itself — which comes with two pair of anaglyph 3D glasses — is a thing of beauty, just like the story inside.
The story of the Joyners is a story of success and excess, failure and frustration, freedom and betrayal, despair and hope. There’s infidelity and insincerity. In short, “The Joyners in 3D” is a story of the human condition, despite being set nearly half a century from now. As with visions of the future from stories of the past, there are promises and teases of technology that seem distant and dreamy. Maybe we’ll see flying cars by 2062, maybe there will be floating cities reminiscent of George Lucas’ vision of Cloud City, maybe the breakthrough George Joyner is celebrating when we meet him will come true — who’s to say? Technology has increased in the past five years at a spectacular rate, eclipsing progress of the previous decade, so in the course of the next forty-eight years, much of what’s presented here could certainly be possible, if not completely likely. For “The Joyners in 3D,” this all works as a fantastic backdrop, giving readers enough to marvel at and paving the way for this story to reveal the history of George and Sonya Joyner.
“The Joyners in 3D” is broken into chapters, with a four-page prologue warming up readers and providing them with an adjustment period before diving in to the story of the Joyners. The first image of that prologue is of Sonya Joyner peering into a tank of electric eels, mesmerized by the creatures, reaching out to touch them. That image, and the gesture from Sonya, summarizes the story nicely as the tale in this book is simply mesmerizing despite the destructive nature.
From there, “The Joyners in 3D” is broken into four chapters all stunningly illustrated by David Marquez. George Joyner, on the precipice of technological revolution, according to his wife, Sonya, hasn’t been right in years and it shows as his home life is a shambles. Before the story plummets to the depths of George’s personal life, it crests at career highs as George and his boss, Jeremy Quattrone, make plans to revolutionize their world.
Through George’s story we meet Erica Baxter, an aspiring thinker in her own right with personal ties to George despite their employment at the same company; Quattrone’s primary competitor Milton Kang, whom George once nearly worked for; and George’s family. We learn that George and wife Sonya are estranged, they have an older son named Rochester, who appears to be on the edge of finding his own life and a daughter named Michelle who is autistic. Sonya’s father, David, also lives with the Joyners and is suffering in ways deeper than appearance. The primary cast rounds out with Michelle’s therapist, Jaime, and her boyfriend, Luke. Each of the characters has a bit to play in the construction and destruction of the Joyners. Another character is added to the cast later in the book, making the destruction more obvious, coincidentally as George experiences a car crash, which serves to be metaphoric for the direction the plot assumes at that point.
George Joyner exudes a similar magnetism to that of Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham in “American Beauty”: you know he’s wrong, you know he’s damaged, but you just keep hoping there is some good that will rise to the top and take over. Unlike Lester, however, George continues to find new ways to disappoint the reader, including halfway through, George elicited an “Oh, no!” from me in the direction of poor judgment.
With over a hundred pages of story, Marquez celebrates the space, packing in panels and opening them up as necessary. There are spreads where panels stretch across the spread over the top, bottom or both, symbolizing the wide open spaces and infinite directions these characters could be headed and then there are pages that are more dense in panel construction, with as many as sixteen panels on the page. Marquez uses a manga-tinged style throughout the story, which gives the characters considerable range of emotion even if nothing is said or no actions are taken.
With the luxury of space, Marquez is able to experiment a little bit, opening up pages to splash pages or letting the sound effects take over the drama. There are more than a couple splash pages throughout “The Joyners in 3D,” including one very imaginative page of analytics, dividing George’s brain into the issues consuming his thoughts. Poetic artwork from Marquez makes this story an impressive character study. The added bonus of flying cars, suspended buildings and scalable albino clone sabre-tooth tigers simply serves as a reminder to readers that this is a comic story where imagination doesn’t have to held in check in any way, shape or form.
Filled with hope and despair, frequently right alongside one another, “The Joyners in 3D” is a game-changer, reawakening 3D comics with a story that is filled with relatable people and rife with metaphors and recurring subtexts. Golf and basketball make their way throughout the story, as do the successes of personal victories and crushing defeats. This might not be the most earth-shattering original graphic novel of 2014, but it is a very fine contestant for consideration and a fun diversion from “everything else.” The story consumed the better half of an afternoon for me, but I won’t hesitate to read it again, especially as the prologue that tips just enough to have the reader wondering and on guard throughout the story while inviting the reader to come back to it and re-experience it as an epilogue as well. The end result is an epic loop of a story that reveals just a little bit more each time the readers enters it and certainly gives the reader more than enough to think about in between. “The Joyners in 3D” is an immersive experience that will, literally, bring readers into the story with the 3D, but stick the story into the readers’ hearts and minds.