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Motor Crush #1 (review)

Motor Crush #1
Image Comics, 2016
Creators: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Strewart, and Babs Tarr

“Motor Crush”# 1 is a debut that showcases high-octane racing. For the colorful participants of these races, glorious victory and fiery death are separated by a very thin line. For readers of this new series by American publisher Image Comics, this first issue has much in common with that do-or-die virtue of racing. As it hurtles toward the final page’s finish line, “Motor Crush” feels like it is veering in a fastlane, poised between succeeding and spinning out entirely. The result is fast-paced debut that stays on track and is undeniably charming in its commitment to world-building.

In the near-future city of Nova, Domino “Dom” Swift is a competitor in the premiere sport of motorcycle racing. Despite being a skilled up-and-comer in the top league, The World Grand Prix, Dom lacks the resources of the wealthier, sponsored racers. On her team, she has only her father, a former WGP racer who runs a struggling bike shop, and Lan, a new mechanic who has gone without pay until the sponsors roll in. Barely able to cover expenses, Dom’s forced to participate in her world’s invasive social media through broadcasts filmed by Catballs, floating robots that continually prod racers for interviews.

Desperate to win and find a place among sponsors, Dom relies on Crush, this world’s performance-enhancing drug that sharpens senses and gives competitors an edge. Outlawed by WGP and hard to come across, Dom competes for Crush in Cannonball, illegal street races put on by the colorful gangs that make up Nova, including the Denim Fangs and Sesame Street-dressed Magic Monsters. Risking both her life on the professional circuit and her dad’s shop by participating in these no-rule races, Dom keeps this part of her life hidden and participates in secret, known only as “Cricket” for her nail-spiked bat. This issue’s Cannonball is the highlight sequence, a multi-paged demolition derby that’s fun, violent, and impeccably drawn. From there, Dom’s reliance on Crush is the driving force of the issue after her stash goes missing, forcing her to infiltrate the “Coliseum,” the central hub of racing in Nova, to retrieve it.

It should be clear by this point in our synopsis that “Motor Crush” #1 attempts to cover a great deal of ground in its first issue. The comic achieves this. The creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr read like a well-oiled machine, having worked together previously on revamping “Batgirl” for DC Comics. In much the same way as their previous collaboration, “Motor Crush” wears its influences on its tattooed sleeve. There’s definite shades of the 1975 film “Rollerball” in the comic’s depiction of corporate-driven violent sports, and the visual influence of director Katushiro Otomo’s anime film “Akira” as neon-soaked headlights weave into the night. These inspirations are so apparent and clear that they feel lovingly evoked.

Indeed, passion radiates through the whole issue. It moves at such a pace that it often feels like reading two issues back-to-back. Many premieres that feel like they are going through the formulaic motions: obligatory flashbacks, tired exposition delivered through character dialogue, and other features are bent on hooking readers for the next release. These hooks exist in “Motor Crush”, to be sure, but the overall experience feels very different from the usual crawl. Reading the issue feels like listening to a kid as they rapidly explain the rules to their favorite game. It is an excitement that is infectious.

So potent is the enthusiasm of this issue that it makes several of the debut’s weaker qualities feel inconsequential. There is a messy clutter of narration boxes, and the plot’s rapid pacing makes Dom’s infiltration of a top-secret facility feel far too easily accomplished. But these elements do not feel intrusive in the process of reading. Much of this is owed to Ms Tarr’s artwork, which is so loose and vibrant that it makes even the more chaotic sections of violence feel clear and readable. Dom, as a character, is another high point. The character’s voice feels authentic and her sardonic swagger never feels manufactured. Between her addictions to both Crush and the speed and violence of Cannonball races, Dom’s complicated baggage leaves much for future issues to potentially explore.

“Motor Crush” #1 is a promising, vibrant start to yet another strong premiere for Image Comics. A fast debut that keeps things loose while maintaining its momentum, the issue is a confident entrance for a book that feels just a little different from other #1’s. More than that, “Motor Crush” balances its violence with well-defined characters and a realized world. If it continues this combination of blood, heart, and nitrous, “Motor Crush” will be a series to watch in the coming year.

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