‘When the fastest woman ever built is dragged outside of reality, she’s got to pull herself together across four parallel worlds before a hive-mind can take over the planet.
That is, assuming it hasn’t already.’
Written/art by: Margaret Trauth
Released: 6 Sept 2017
This is another one that came my way earlier, though I didn’t end up looking at it at the time, but am glad I came back to it. It looks like some good sci-fi, and the layout is pretty interesting (as well as just plain pretty). The description makes me think of someone who’s read a lot of William Gibson and/or Isaac Asimov. Interdimensional hive mind ahoy!
I mentioned how pretty the layout is – outside of the individual storyline focused pages, the comic plays strong to it’s multi-dimensional plot and has multiple storylines running at once, with colour coded strips weaving their way through the pages concurrently. And I mean that in every sense of the word – happening at the same time, in parallel, and converging. Anywhere from two to four stories with their own plot can be happening on the same page. You can see on the example page that cool flat colour style; using a limited palette to create entire scenes, background, characters, and all. The story follows interdimensional iterations leading up to an event, using not just these flat colours but hints of video game imagery and generous computing references, thanks to the linchpin storyline concerning the iteration of main character Rita that is a cyborg. It creates an excellently futuristic feel to have those program instruction style notes annotating the action, especially with those cool blue and white tones (the staple of looking computery) and contrasting the lovely fluid character movement. There’s wonderful glitch style visuals as well where needed, linking the different yet related stories in sharp disruptive events for the characters. The whole is brought together in a landscape format designed to be scrolled through sideways; this is one point where a print version of a webcomic is let down, since the online format allows for uninterrupted travelling along the line of the story, where a print version – even a digital one – requires stopping to turn the pages. The upside of a digital print version (which is what I read) is the ease of zooming in on sections, especially extra long splash pages. It is an excellent example of what webcomics can be in regard to ignoring traditional formats, although I’m glad Trauth still kept an eye for eventual print so it wasn’t impossible to adapt.
The interdimensional iterations are handled well from a storytelling perspective; like I said, each storyline is differentiated by a different colour palette, and while each has its own particular tale it follows the same group of characters with the same sort of overarching plot points, ready to link into each other when required. It involves paying attention – if you just skim through this you’re going to miss a lot! Keeping track of the similarities in the initially disparate seeming stories is interesting but rewarding, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes puzzles. The stories themselves are thrilling and sad and intriguing in turns, dealing with things like loss and relationships, and dealing with mortality being a winding theme threaded through it all (though definitely not an obvious point). One thing I particularly liked is that the characters aren’t the exact same people in each story, with the thoughtful and solid writing reflecting each of them with an aspect of themselves based on their situation and power in that dimension. You wouldn’t be the same person you are right now if you had a cyborg body and not much reason to fear death, after all. But dealing with a network that can force a sync with you if it gets close enough? That’s another matter. The character designs are also nicely linked yet individual, especially when full advantage is taken of the fact that a cyborg body with a mind that can easily switch out ‘shells’ doesn’t have to look human.
You can correctly assume that I’m going to be recommending this one. I’m loving Trauth’s work here, and how she’s handled visuals and storytelling this ambitious. I think my guess at the start about a Gibson/Asimov influence isn’t far off to tell you the truth; examinations of identity, being forced to second guess if your entire world is real or not, speculation as to how we’ll interact with future technology and body augmentation, and an ending that you weren’t expecting which leaves you going “Wait, what was that? I need to reread that bit” sounds like it could be describing a lot of their books. I haven’t even mentioned the almost erratic chapter numbering; I’m going to read through the whole book again in numeric chapter order which I bet tells a coherent story. This is an excellent hard sci-fi read incorporating fantasy and realism as well, not so much seamlessly but with the seams being an integral part of the design. Some of the action and characters can get a touch visually confusing thanks to the limited graphics used in making the panels, but if you’re paying attention (you may remember me specifically recommending that earlier) it’s not much of an issue, and the plot lines make sure you’re not lost for long; not even close to being a deal breaker. Unless you unreasonably hate science fiction like it stole your dog, you should totally get this book; it’s been published in separate books before, but is now available as one complete volume. While it’s currently online in its webcomic form full of side-scrolling glory, it might not stay there so I recommend buying one to keep your own copy and support the creator; as a 200+ page full graphic novel you can’t go wrong.
Thanks to Comixology.com for supplying this copy of ‘Decrypting Rita’ for review.