Retrograde Orbit is the graphic novel debut from Kristyna Baczynski, and tells the story of Flint, a young girl living in a remote solar system with dreams of someday returning to the planet her people originally came from. Unfortunately, the planet has been reduced to a radioactive husk many years ago, leaving Flint struggling to work out just where she fits in the universe.
We get to see Flint growing up over the course of the book’s various chapters, transforming from a wide-eyed astronomy geek to a surly, frustrated teenager as her feelings of isolation and misplacement gradually grow. In spite of the extra-terrestrial setting, Baczynski has written a story here that I’m sure a lot of readers will be able to fully relate to, and anyone who has ever been a misfit teenager or whose ancestors or family originally came from another country will definitely find a lot of parallels to be drawn here.
Flint’s characterisation is strong throughout, and watching her outlook and motivations gradually evolve over the course of the book helps us to develop a deep level of investment in her life. The supporting cast is kept intentionally small, with only her friend Zed, her mother and her grandmother commanding much of the page count, and it’s this stripped-down approach which really helps to underscore the deeply personal, almost autobiographical nature of the story.
Baczynski’s artwork also suits her story perfectly with a sweet, measured style and a wonderful sense of visual pacing throughout. There’s some light-hearted humour here and plenty of weird-looking aliens, both of which help to keep the book from devolving into something too dour or overly serious. The palette is also intentionally restrained, with each chapter being given its own distinctive colour, an approach which helps to clearly differentiate the different periods of Flint’s life, as well as to succinctly show the passage of time.
For a first-time graphic novelist Baczynski shows an impressive grasp of narrative flow, delivering what is a relatively slow-paced story in such a way as to have the reader utterly hooked pretty much by the end of the first chapter. It’s a gentle, character-focused affair with only a few significant dramatic beats along the way, but the charm and relatability of Baczynski’s writing is more than enough to hold the reader’s attention all the way to the emotional and beautifully poignant conclusion.
Another incredibly strong offering from Avery Hill Publishing then, and a book that will resonate with anyone who ever felt like they didn’t belong. Oh, and for the record, Kristyna Baczynski is now officially one to watch.
Retrograde Orbit launches on September 22nd at Thought Bubble in Leeds. You can find the Kristyna at Table 47 in the Originals Marquee, and Avery Hill Publishing at Table 38 in the Victoria Hall.
However, if you can’t make it to Leeds, have no fear because you can order yourself a physical copy of the book from the Avery Hill Online Store (CLICK HERE).