Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brenden Fletcher
Writing and Storyboards: Cameron Stewart
Writer and Finished Art: Babs Tarr
Colors: Heather Danforth
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Review by PeteR
An article written by Rich Johnson on November 17, 2016 for the Bleeding Cool website proclaimed Retailers Admit To Not Ordering Any Motor Crush #1 Because It has A Black Female Lead! Just reading the headline fascinated me. The creative team of the revitalized Batgirl of Burnside series releases a new series, the first three issues are returnable, and retailers weren’t jumping on it? That’s crazy! Let me repeat that, the first three issues of Motor Crush were returnable. Whatever did not sell, your local comic store retailer could return the extra copies and receive a full refund. There was zero risk ordering Motor Crush but retailers stayed away.
I admit that prior to seeing this article I had not heard of Motor Crush. There are hundreds of new comic books every month and try as I might, some don’t make it on my radar. However, once I read the article about the comic not being supported by many retailers, in spite of its pedigree, I was interested. I called Christian and Phoebe, the owners of my LCS and inquired if they had ordered any issues of Motor Crush and did they have any left. Because Phoebe and Christian are terrific people, with hearts of gold, as well as being consummate professionals, they had indeed ordered Motor Crush and still had copies of the first three issues. They tossed them in my pull for me to pick up on my next visit.
Motor Crush is set in a future where gambling is a major part of the culture and everyone is waiting for their “lucky day”. The main protagonist, Domino Swift is a motorcycle racer who by day competes in the organized, corporate world of WGP (World Grand Prix) racing for fame and money. At night Domino engages in illegal races where the local gangs combine racing with gladiator like battle, utilizing various weapons, while careening madly though the streets of Nova Honda. These lawless racers don’t compete for money. They are trying to win the illegal drug, Crush.
Crush is a luminous pink machine narcotic. It’s a performance enhancing drug for machines that works like speed. It is not for human consumption. It is so toxic that people who are forced to ingest Crush actually explode. Contestants in the WGP circuit submit to having their motorcycles drug tested to ensure they are not using Crush to gain an unfair advantage in the competitions. One of the mysteries of Motor Crush is, if Crush is deadly for people, why is Domino’s life depending on her personal consumption of Crush via an inhaler? What happens if she drinks doses pure Crush, not diluted as an aerosol?
As the Bleeding Cool Article highlighted, Domino Swift is a black, queer woman. The writers portray her race as simply being her race. Domino’s sexual preference is relevant only to who she loves romantically. Neither orientation nor race are manipulated or exploited for prurient reasons. The sensationalism of Motor Crush is found in the racing, not in the interpersonal relationships. Domino Swift, her father, Sullivan Swift and Domino’s ex-girlfriend and mechanic, Lola are complex and fully realized characters. They are not defined by their gender or preference. They are people trying to survive in an insanely competitive environment that is presided over by corporate overlords on one side and a brutal mafia on the other. A midst this, Domino and her family have to figure out the identity of the mysterious motorcyclist who knows more about Domino’s past than she does. Additionally, what is the floating, pink upside-down pyramid that pursuing her.
The art by Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart for Motor Crush, looks like a merging of Kyle Baker’s style and Anime mixed in with an unhealthy dose of Deathrace 2000 and Mad Max. the illustration is able to convey the characters’ drama, emotions and humor with equal skill as it does the relentless propulsion of the motorcycle racing.
The vials of the Drug, Crush as mentioned earlier, are bright pink. Its radiance threatens to overwhelm the visual palate as much as the narcotic itself does Domino. For her, Crush is not an addiction, it’s a necessity. Since Crush is illegal, Domino and her father are pressured to lead a dual life. Domino is forced into the public spotlight of celebrity as a World Grand Prix motorcyclist while trying to hide her identity in the ultra-violent street racing scene. The pinkness is constantly used in the background as a subtle reminder of what is really the accelerating force behind the events in Motor Crush.
The lettering of Motor Crush is unique. Aditya Bidikar’s dialogue and sound effects combine with Tom Muller’s internet-like caption alerts from the corporation ruling Nova Honda. These alerts are “Infopops”. They serve to remind the reader that the information age has completely permeated both the society and culture of this world. The “Touch Here” boxes, provided to update and inform, frame the narrative as if one were an observer of events from their laptop or mobile device.
Why you should buy this book? Image was founded twenty-five years ago an act of defiance against the corporate influences and limitations of Marvel Comics. Motor Crush continues the Image tradition as a ‘poke in the eye’ to comics’ establishment style of storytelling. The largest, current demographic of comic readers are challenged to embrace conceptual characters that they may not be familiar with. Since many retailors did not bother to stock Motor Crush, the trade paperback is the easiest way for new readers to access and appreciate the series. Motor Crush is a great example of why creators go to Image to weave tales that are too fantastic or dangerous for conventional publishers
Motor Crush, the Trade Paperback is scheduled for release on June 20, 2017.