By Ben Boruff
In Sara Rising, worlds collide. One of those worlds belongs to Sara A. Vargas, a 16.5-year-old Star Trek fan who does not like English class. The other belongs to a pragmatic alien bounty hunter named Bobarrak. Sara Rising pairs the social commentary of Freaks and Geeks with the sci-fi elements of Greg Mottola's Paul, resulting in a fast-paced, profanity-laden, intergalactic romp that includes a misogynistic fast food manager and an imagination-dependent alien weapon. Sara Rising does not offer anything new—some of the dialogue is distractingly cliché—but it borrows effectively from other works. Sara's social experiences at school are simplified versions of scenes from Mean Girls, and the conversations she has with her progressive best friend are reminiscent of the banter between Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby in Juno. Bobarrak—or "Bob," as Sara calls him—is a combination of Rocket Raccoon and Green Lantern's Kilowog, and his story so far consists of a crash landing, an awkward encounter, and a gunfight—which is what E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial would look like if the finger-pointing alien was replaced with Garrus from Mass Effect. As individual parts, none of these narrative elements are unique, but Sara Rising weaves them together to create an intriguing extraterrestrial story that is both entertaining and insightful.
As a character, Sara Vargas is endearing, and she has the emotional strength of characters like Hermione Granger and Elizabeth Swann. Sara’s sense of adventure pushes the plot along—“the Hell with it,” she says once before walking toward something new—but the comic’s flavor comes from Sara’s reactions to other characters. Though she faces adversity on nearly every page, Sara does not allow others to belittle her sense of self-worth. When overconfident, wannabe actresses bully her at school, Sara fights back, matching their insults point for point. When her egotistical manager threatens to fire her for mocking his sexist showboating, Sara defends herself, igniting his anger and placing in motion one of the more important narrative threads of the comic.
Given that we learn little about his history in the first issue, Bobarrak’s story seems less important. In fact, though many well-drawn panels feature the alien, Bobarrak, as a character, operates largely as a prop for Sara’s story. We know little of Bobarrak, and one-liners make up much of his dialogue. Sara, who often daydreams of space travel, seems to be waiting for someone like Bobarrak to inject her life with adventure, as if she is a “chosen one” like Harry Potter, Neo, and Frodo. Bobarrak’s existence in the narrative serves as a catalyst for Sara’s rise toward her destiny, which apparently includes high-powered weapons and lots of violence. The relationship between Sara and Bobarrak seems, on the surface, to be an unlikely friendship, much like that of Kay and Jay in Men in Black, but the two Sara Rising characters have a special connection: Sara and Bobarrak are both outcasts, both fighters, which makes their friendship strangely plausible.
If the previews are accurate, the second issue of Sara Rising will offer some intriguing social commentary. I would like to see more narrative risk-taking in the next issues of the comic. Sara is an impressive character, and I want her to exist in a unique universe that offers new challenges. Bobarrak can exist there too, but this is Sara’s story, not his.
Sara Rising #1
Writer: Emilio Rodriguez
Artist: James Rodriguez
Publisher: Tres Calaveras Studios (previously NovaStar Studios)