First, dear readers, a confession: I never read the Batgirl of Burnside comics, more out of a disinterest in Batgirl as a character and DC’s New 52 as a whole than out of any particular feeling for the aesthetic or storytelling. I bring this up because the creative team from that Batgirl comic (comprised of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr) has found a new home in Motor Crush, an indie comic with a cyberpunk feel that focuses on a motorcycle street racer with a strange problem and everything to lose. It’s my first outing with this particular trio of creators, and I’m mostly having a fun ride of it (that’s a pun, folks) so far.
Spoilers after the jump!
Domino Swift is a motorcycle racer slated to compete in the prestigious World Grand Prix. However, she also anonymously competes on a brutal underground circuit called the Cannonball, where racers deal in a mysterious and illegal bike accelerant called Crush. She kind of has to. While the other racers just use the Crush to soup up their bikes, Dom is dependent on it to keep her body going. (This is very strange, as when someone else ingests it they die gruesomely.) While the other racers are riding to win more motorcycle powerups, she’s racing for her life. So when a crooked assistant at her dad’s bike shop steals her hoarded stash of Crush, it’s a matter of life or death for Dom to get it back.
Unfortunately, in doing so, she trashes her bike. She has to go slink off to her ex-girlfriend with her tail between her legs in hopes of getting her to fix it back up again. Her former gf, a mechanic-turned-bar owner named Lola, wants nothing to do with her, but after Dom rescues her from some goons, Lo does get her bike working again. In order to keep Lola out of harm’s way, though, and to clear herself of the trouble she got into trying to steal her Crush back, she makes an ill-advised bet on herself. If she can win the WGP, she and Lola will be out of trouble, but if she can’t, she’ll be stuck doing the dealers’ dirty work.
I’m really excited to see where the story goes from here. I want to know how the Crush works, for one thing, and why Dom is able to ingest it. How did she become dependent on it? Is she entirely human? How did her father figure out she needed it? I’d also like to learn more about the other WGP racers, as we’ve only met a few of them so far, and they seem like interesting people. With the focus back on the Prix as a result of Domino’s bet, I suspect we’ll begin to see more from them in the next few issues.
With a queer Black protagonist, Motor Crush is beating a lot of comics out of the gate in terms of diverse, intersectional representation. However, the quality of that representation was a bit inconsistent when it came to Domino and Lola’s relationship. On one hand, the fact that they’re former girlfriends? Means at least two queer characters, including our protagonist of color, and potential for more if they strike up new relationships. So that’s cool. Lola is a curvaceous, pink-haired femme who resembles no one so much as a slimmer Rose Quartz from Steven Universe, but despite her very feminine aesthetic, the reason Domino comes back to her is for her expertise in fixing and upgrading bikes, which is a cool middle finger to the idea that girls have to look a certain way to like or be good at a certain thing. However, the one thing that was kind of strange was how race affected the dynamic between the two women. Namely, Lola is a very femme, classically beautiful, somewhat damselish white girl, and Dom, a Black woman, is her more butch-presenting savior. Is this, like, going to be a trope in queer indie comics? Can we stop it before it becomes one? While women like Dom and Princess Princess Ever After’s Amora are cool badasses in their own story’s bubble, on a large scale it contributes to the stereotype that Black women are unfeminine and can be Strong Heroines but not Beautiful Princesses.
Art-wise, I clearly have some kind of type when it comes to indie comics. When the guy at my comic shop recommended Motor Crush, I took a look at the cover and figured, yup, I’ll probably like this. It combines a lot of bright neon colors with dark backgrounds during races to really drive home the futuristic sci-fi-ish feel, and they’re set against sketchier lines and warmer, mellower colors during the day to set those scenes apart. The character designs are overall great and really visually appealing, with a wide range of skin colors and body diversity throughout the cast. The series also adds to the high-tech feel by sprinkling the pages with info boxes disguised as Grand Prix “pop-up ads”, alerting us to the time and location of new scenes as well as providing kind of clickbaity headlines for the reader to “click on”.
All in all, I’m interested to see where this comic goes. Given that they’re a team of white creators, I wonder if they’re even aware of the issues they’ve started to create, and I’m hoping that they’ll find some way to reconcile the way Dom’s character is being portrayed with a more nuanced, less tropey one. That said, this comic really has a lot of good things going on, and I do have high hopes for its future. With luck, it will shed its issues and race all the way into my heart.
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!