By Ben Boruff
Kudos to Emilio and James Rodriguez. For the first time since I read a couple of volumes of Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens several months ago, I laughed out loud—really out loud, an earnest laugh that came from my gut—while reading a comic. Sara Rising #2 is a fast-paced tour de force filled with clever social commentary and timely humor.
Sara Rising #2 offers a well-balanced blend of socially conscious humor and alien-filled action, which is important. Though various authors and directors have worked to elevate science fiction to a place of respect, the genre is still plagued by a stigma that portrays it as little more than a collection of robots, phasers, and dystopian clichés. Directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Alex Garland have created cerebral sci-fi movies like Children of Men and Ex Machina, and authors like Issac Asimov and Margaret Atwood have constructed complex worlds in which characters ask pressing questions about life, love, and human nature—but many consumers only notice the neurotic, comic-loving protagonists of The Big Bang Theory. Sara Rising #2 uses aliens and explosions—which hold their own as sci-fi entertainment—as foundations for more nuanced discussions about misogyny, masculinity, and xenophobia.
Most of the women in Sara Rising are tough, and the comic often mocks the fictional patriarchies of Sara’s universe. One such patriarchy belongs to General Benjamin Ulysses Overr, a militaristic, hyper-masculine chauvinist who regrets that his equally militaristic father—“mah daddy”—was anally probed by aliens (“and by God, he took it in an orderly proficient, military manner”). In the first several pages of this issue, a few female characters assert their autonomy. Though both are interrogated by suit-wearing government officials, Sara's mother and Jess, Sara’s best friend, are not intimidated. Jess even condemns the accusatory, victim-blaming nature of male-dominated institutions: “I have a bad attitude because you guys had already made up your minds that Sara was up to no good before you asked me any questions.” Neither character betrays Sara.
Even Bobarrak, Sara’s alien companion, is almost silent for the first half of the comic, which highlights the idea that this is Sara's story, not his. In serial comics, panel space is a zero-sum game: more space dedicated to one character means less space for other characters. Bobarrak is not absent from the second issue of Sara Rising, but he spends much of his time lounging in the background of Sara's narrative. Bobarrak is patient, and he seems to understand that Sara’s story is more important than his.
In Sara Rising #2, Sara begins to rise, literally and figuratively, toward an elevated state of self-awareness and power. Sara Rising has hit its stride.
Sara Rising #2
Writer: Emilio Rodriguez
Artist: James Rodriguez
Publisher: Tres Calaveras Studios