By Justin Wood
Here's a high concept for you. Motorcycles on drugs. Pricks the old ears up, don't it? However, that seems to be the Image publishing model right now, not so much selling us stories as much as idea fragments that are as abstract as they are catchy. Image adverts don't have to sell you a compelling story, rather relying on the cover copy that comes off like free association word salad. “A comic about beatnik elves, a time-traveling ocelot, and Lyndon Baines Johnson with a chainsaw.” I blame Manhattan Projects for this.
And how does Motor Crush fare with its nonsense premise? Well, it doesn't take nearly as much bizarro advantage of that idea as you'd think (or hoped), but the upside is this comic didn't feel the need to lean on that idea as a crutch. Motor Crush is a decent little Fast and the Furious meets Speed Racer comic, both decently grounded and pleasantly creative, resulting in an experience not entirely impressive but engaging throughout.
Domino Swift is a world-class motorcycle racer, in a future where that is one of the most popular sports in the world. Her talent is taking her far, but her father's garage is on the verge of bankruptcy meaning any mistake could mean disaster. The solution? Crush, an illegal “accelerant,” a purple liquid that makes bikes operate better and faster but also somehow creates an addiction in the machine, requiring regular doses to keep functioning normally. How this works isn't elaborated here, but ignoring how nonsensical it immediately comes off as the book is well written enough to forgive the absent explanation for now. Domino needs Crush and so she participates in underground street races to get it, but it's a dangerous game to play with her and her father's future riding on the outcome.
Motor Crush rides a nice line between saying too little and saying too much, occasionally straying on either side of the line but never excessively. Helpfully, Domino's motivations are pretty straightforward, the sports angle making the stakes and goals easy to understand while cluttered with occasionally unnecessary expository detail. I have questions, but I didn't immediately get the impression that they were left out by authorial laziness but rather that the book had time to delve into those issues later, once the hooks were in. Domino is likable, not overly smug, chatty, or desperate to be quoted, just a tough, confident heroine trying to survive a dangerous game she's involved herself in. The book pulled me along on their story, and the final page hook successfully left me with intriguing questions I wanted answers to.
The art also did its job strongly, expressive and energetic, clean feeling despite having thick sketchy lines. The action is good and comprehensible, but at times the choreography felt dense and specific enough that I felt it was slowing my reading down to understand what was being communicated rather than bringing the pulse up. The colors are vibrant but not oversaturated, giving the world a fantasy brightness and disco glo but leveled out with enough muted, carefully balanced tones to not overpower the eye. Ultimately, the art was the perfect match for the story being told; a futuristic fantasy in harmony with grounded elements.
High concept only takes you as far as the first sale, after that you have to prove you've got a story. As with most comics this year not written by 50 something-year-old Brits, I reserve judgment on how successful I predict the second issue will be at following this up. I like everything so far, but it's also thin ground to be building on, reminding me a bit of Arcana's Rocket Salvage; entertaining but not memorably distinctive from the slew of stories it drew its inspiration from. Frankly, I think it's also that popcorn is just a hard sell for me this year, not getting enough 4-color nutrition as it is to be dropping hard won cash on amusing shooty-bang-bangs. Still, I will be back, because this is the best new Image property I've read this year I think, keeping my interest and leaving me looking forward to expanding the world and characters further. At the very least the authors knew they had actually made a book to go with their elevator pitch, which is more than I can say for some.
Motor Crush #1
Story: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr
Artists: Babs Tarr, Cammeron Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics