It comes at you fast in “Motor Crush.” And by “it,” I mean pretty much everything. After a trip to the past dealing with Sullivan “Sully” Swift and the development of Crush and Domino, the series returns to the present . . . err future(?) after Domino discovers she’s somehow skipped forward two years.
Plotted by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart Babs Tarr
Scripted by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart,
Illustrated by Babs Tarr
Breakdowns by Jake Wyatt
Colored by Babs tarr Heather Danforth
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
Two years have passed in Nova Honda, and everything has changed. Where does Domino Swift fit into a world without Crush?
Considering “Motor Crush” as a queer Speed Racer makes a certain amount of sense on aesthetic and generic levels. The pace at which writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart along artists by Babs Tarr and Jake Wyatt, throw things at the audience, however, creates a kinship of sensibility beyond the visual. Speed Racer was similarly breakneck with its multi part racers that always ended on shocking cliffhangers and maximum DRAMA. Except, Speed Racer for the most part acted episodically with little serialization. Everything could happen, did happen, and happened again. This episodic quality and interacting with the English dub helped expose/create a kind of camp distance to the product. Tarr’s art, while, highly aestheticized and Fletcher and Stewart’s writing maybe frantic, the end product isn’t mad camp like the Speed Racer anime. There’s too much knowing care and legitimate emotional work being done with the cast.
The speed at which “Motor Crush” moves acts as a potential test to critic Maureen Ryan’s theory of storytelling in the era Peak-TV. With Marvel’s ever-expanding line, creator owned titles, growing webcomics, and imports, comics seems to be in a similar peak moment. Ryan’s theory goes that it isn’t a matter of if something happens, but when it happens that is the dramatic multiplier. Audiences are too well read at this point, with a minimum 20 years of high level examples of generic archetypes and their continued popularity, the only option for storytellers to create dramatic shock is by setting the familiar melodies to a different tempo. “Motor Crush” has taken the surface level generic similarities and up-tempo approach, perhaps, to its limits. The ground it covers is enough to create whiplash, and seems to undermine the theory because of its lack of a generic center. Decentered, my reaction to “Motor Crush” should be similar to Speed Racer, treat it like camp, with how wild the swings are. And, yet, I don’t.
The series maybe generically decentered, but at the core of the series is the trio of Domino, Lola, and Sully. Their relationships with one another cohere the ever-shifting ground of the series plots. Everything around them might be crazy, but it’s how they react to one another that matters most. The connection between them has been created in no small part by Babs Tarr’s artwork. Her expressive faces show the weight of a history even with the glam, almost kawaii, quality to everything. Everybody blushes like their senpai noticed them finally. Calax Gothard blushes at the revelation that Cricket is Domino Swift. Lola and Domino trade off with diminutive versions as they awkwardly talk and act around one another. These are extreme reactions, but it makes clear the amount of feeling everyone has for one another. Even when specific segments of the history that hangs over them isn’t known to the reader.
In the context of sequences and pages this comes together in the fantastic one-page scene as Domino sleeps on Lola and her girlfriend Beatriz’s couch. It’s awkward for everyone involved, to say the least. Jake Wyatt’s breakdown and the colorists turn the page into a visual sandwich. Domino bookends the lonely, darker, top and bottom while Lola and Beatriz pink bedroom taking the middle. Domino ease drops/tries to sleep as the latter get ready for bed together and discuss the recent arrival. Domino’s panels are mirrored top and bottom, which give the page a nice symmetry. Also by keeping, if not the point of view, the close perspective it creates a smooth transition back to Domino with the heartbreaking phrase “I love you” ringing in her ears. Her singular eye is shocked and saddened with the next panel showing her having buried herself in the pillow.Continued below
Domino’s isolation is contrasted with Lola and Beatriz who are constantly shown together. It’s a little moment (4 panels), but their conversation and Lola holding Beatriz when coupled with her outing with Domino in the next several pages go a long way in doing something most stories rarely do: explain why two people find/want companionship with one another. Tarr’s art makes it clear that Lola feels bad about everything that’s happened between her and Domino. But at the same time, she is sincere in her desire to finish working off the debt, Domino incurred, and “move out of Nova … somewhere life can be happy and uncomplicated.”
It’s not entirely clear what structure “Motor Crush” is getting at for this arc. All signs point to this being an exercise in dark futurism, Nova may look pretty much the same, but all the characters have been darkened by Domino’s actions and absence. But if this is an exercise in that, won’t this be “fixed” like these stories tend to be? “Motor Crush” finds itself in the predicament of time travel stories, if the timeline is mutable how to make dramatic stakes. Issue 7 shows that maybe the creative team is on the right track with that one. The Bad Future stuff is all timey wimey plot stuff, as the series has shown it will change. What gives that change weight, are scenes like the ones between Lola. Beatriz, and Domino. These little character moments that put a little soul in a world that may not exist by issue 13. How will that soul affect Domino going forward? She was really reckless in the first volume, and now she is seeing the reverberations of her go it alone style.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – “Motor Crush” returns to Domino trying to pick up the pieces as the series begins to rev its engines for the new arc, but maybe that speed is a bit more of a killer this time around.