Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/Artist: Andrew MacLean
Release Date: 20th May, 2015
ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times is an upcoming original graphic novel from creator Andrew MacLean, whose previous offerings include the self-published Head Lopper, a wonderfully offbeat swords-and-sorcery series starring Norgal, a nomadic warrior and his unlikely companion – Agatha the Blue Witch (well, her severed head, at least) – who travel the land relieving monsters of their heads. Yeah.
Providing a distinctly unique take on dystopian fiction, this book introduces us to Aria, a young girl in a post-apocalyptic world locked into a fruitless search for a powerful ancient relic. Her only companion amidst the tribes of savages is a cat named Jelly Beans, and she finds herself passing her time by singing to herself and trying to repair a giant robot she found – a robot who she has decided to name ‘Gus’.
The book runs a whole gamut of emotions throughout its 96 pages, from light-hearted humour to powerful human drama before ending with an impressively poignant finale. In Aria, MacLean has created a truly fascinating protagonist; a smart, silly young girl who – in spite of her outwardly upbeat appearance – is clearly struggling with the loneliness and isolation of her mission. Her often one-sided relationship with Jelly Beans is likely to be more than familiar to any cat owners out there, as is the powerful bond she has formed with her feline best friend.
MacLean’s artwork is truly impressive throughout, with a relatively straightforward style that still manages to be packed full of emotion and expression. In a lot of ways his style is reminiscent of INJ Culbard, which – if you’ve read any of my previous reviews of his work – is something of a compliment. Managing to build a living, breathing world around Aria, MacLean introduces new characters and creatures gradually, letting the strong characterisation of his lead carry the story forward.
From outward appearances at least, ApocalyptiGirl looks like an all-ages comic, with a light and breezy, almost manga-esque style throughout. That is, until the swords come out, the limbs start being removed and the blood starts flowing. The intriguing transformations that Aria undergoes throughout the course of the book, switching from a smiling, singing girl playing ‘got your nose’ with her pet cat to a fierce, snarling warrior defending herself in brutal fashion from the world around her adds an extra layer of nuance to the story, and it’s this apparent contradiction that provides the real heart of MacLean’s creation.
Honestly, I just can’t find anything to fault about ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times. The narrative is tight, the characterisation is spot-on, and the artwork – while occasionally unconventional in its approach – is truly a feast for the eyes. MacLean has managed to weave a tale filled with humour and emotion with a powerful message at its core, and I simply can’t recommend this book highly enough.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]