Comic Review: MOTOR CRUSH – Bikes, Drugs & Cricket Bats

Team Batgirl’s take on cyberpunk.

Regardless of where Motor Crush ends up in due time, the Batgirl of Burnside team of Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher will have achieved something few comics outside the Marvel and DC labels manage to pre-release: instantly iconic imagery. Most including myself were sold on the preview picture alone (seen above), and as far as living up to creating a character and world that people would want be invested in, Motor Crush #1 succeeds.

Domino Swift, the white-leather-clad second generation bike racer, decked out with metallic piercings and armed with a cricket bat that is equally so, drifts her “Hondai” motorcycle under her father’s observation, prepping for the World Grand Prix by day while spending her nights embroiled in illegal race-battles with other weapon-wielding speed demons, each of whom feel like they could have their own spin-off. She’s “Competitor Oh-One-One” to the public, constantly observed and interviewed by a floating, round cat-bot that broadcasts her every move, but to her fellow Cannonball street racers she’s simply “Cricket,” hiding behind the neon pink visor of her retro-futuristic helmet that may as well be protecting her space dust. Her objective? Winning illegal street races to procure more Crush, an illicit, shining-pink liquid “accelerant”, in order to win legal races in sold-out stadiums.

Also, Crush kills when taken in large enough doses. Pretty violently, in fact. As personable as Swift may be, she’s the living embodiment of ruthless completion.

That’s the basic premise of the series’ first issue, which hits physical and digital shelves this Wednesday, featuring a cast of vibrant characters with intriguing design (The hammer-wielding Hannibal Holocaust and his Magic Monsters – a gang of unnerving Muppet-thugs!) and a locale dripping with urban cyberpunk despite its distinctly tropical setting. A unique future told through the lens of racing sport, displaying the cult-like inner workings of this world and its sportspeople as well as its casual (or rather, casually obsessive) WGP viewers, as if the comic itself were a digital interface, boasting tidbits and “Click Here”s as it eulogizes and commercializes dead racers in the same breath. It constantly peers in on these adrenaline obsessives, never making it wholly clear whether we’re seeing things through our own eyes, or through those of viewers poking around the corners of this constructed reality.

Its cyberpunk feel isn’t just a superficial aesthetic, though it’s a pretty neat aesthetic to boot, infusing details, surfaces and light sources with a distinct neon-pink that’s as alluring as it is unnerving. By contextualizing itself in the vein of a multimedia reality show (without feeling the need to really comment on its specific construction), this fun, momentous romp is turned into a product of our surveillance anxiety. Swift is a character constantly being watched – even when the cameras aren’t on, she’s hiding her intentions from her father and her friends – and her helmet feels as much a coping mechanism for this bizarre landscape as it does your new favourite cosplay item. Where the details end and the characters begin may as well be a blur, and yet it looks like a comic that ought to be viewed through 3D lenses, with an almost Akira-esque approach to light, as moving bikes leave trails of luminescence in their wake, and static surfaces littered with screens beam the harsh, washed-out waves of an overpoweringly digital landscape.

Motor Crush is undoubtedly young-adult teen pop, but it’s also a mood piece with a distinct understanding of tone and devilishly fun portrayal of violence in motion. It’s “light” on character in that it’s withheld when it comes to its cast’s inner lives, having to hide interpersonal dynamics from us, the intrusive viewers, while revealing them slowly yet surely at pivotal moments revolving around the Crush itself. A simple plot with a complex central device that hasn’t quite yet revealed itself – I’m almost certain we’ll see a heightened palette as the drug’s actual effects are explored next issue – and it’s yet another Image title that lets its creators experiment their way into brand new territory.

Motor Crush #1 arrives December 7th from Image Comics.