“Joyride” #1 is a high-spirited ride of a first issue. Jackson Lanzing, Colin Kelly and Marcus To offer up something rare with their tale of space-age teenage rebellion: a science fiction series that’s happy. There’s a sense of excitement and adventure in everything, from the colors to the dialogue, and the unstoppable protagonists’ joy is contagious. Though there is some unevenness in the character development and I might have liked some more realistic moments, “Joyride” #1 absolutely delivers on its title.
The reader first gets to know Uma and Dewydd, teenage runaways to the stars, by watching them plan their escape from Earth. The planet is ruled by a single, controlling government and covered in a metal shell that blocks any sight of the wider universe, but Lanzing and Kelly don’t spend much time emphasizing the awfulness of the world government; there’s talk of contraband and Dewydd’s mass-murdering day job, but the characters don’t express desperation or fear. Instead, the only necessary justification is that this life is just not enough for them. Riding on this logic is a confident move that mostly works. Readers who dig a little teenage irresponsibility and self-love will fall right into the story. If it occasionally seems crazy for them to risk so much, the creative teams believes in them strongly enough to make it work.
Marcus To and Irma Kniivila put together a cool, colorful aesthetic to reinforce that vibe. The world government might be fascist, but Kniivila doesn’t have them in gray and fatigues. Instead, their uniform epaulets and accents are imperial red, and their space suits are lime green and purple. Even the repressive metal shell over the world is sunset-and-honeycomb shades of yellow. This palette keeps the whole book feeling like a bright adventure with an inevitably happy ending — just as the characters view it.
To’s characters have open, animated faces that often feel a little manga-inspired. This expressiveness made it easy to warm to the third, third-act protagonist, Catrin; her stubborn scowls, huffing and bugged eyes let me see more of her (and feel more for her) than the page count and her dialogue should have allowed. To also has me excited to see his alien creations in future issues. The gross, slobbering design for Kr’Gr’Kash the Mighty in this issue is quite effective and repulsive. I can’t wait to see To experiment more.
As well as the other elements work, Lanzing and Kelly’s dialogue is perhaps the issue’s strongest point. The characters sound distinct and memorable. Dewydd’s earnestness is reflected in both his romantic pledges — “to the end of the galaxy. You know that, right?” — and his deadpan, trying-to-pass-off-my-seriousness-as-chill jokes: “[40,000 bits] is a completely reasonable amount to spend on illegal shoes.” Uma, on the other hand, downplays all worries and concerns by getting defiantly ridiculous, saying “That’s why I got you those rockin’ shades,” “No chance, you weirdo Nazi,” and “You are the hotness. I love your dope spider arms!” Lastly, when Catrin shouts, “Attention, sightseeing teens! You are under so much arrest!” and “Halt, you crazy person!”, I could feel the grumpiness and the dismissiveness. Even the alien slaver gets his own strange words and rhythms.
All told, “Joyride” #1 is a satisfying escape. Its confidence, joy and colorful vision of space all contribute to genuinely fun read.