I should kick off our review of "Retrograde Orbit" by Kristyna Baczinski by issuing an "Upper Middle Grade / YA" advisory on it, just so parents read this through before letting younger kids loose on it. But C and I both read it (she's 10) and think this is one of the most poignant and heartfelt comics we've read this year so far.
As a kid, I was always drawn to sci fi comics that didn't feature shiny sleek rockets, or men and women gadding about in bubble-headed spacesuits - but stuff that felt like it was set in our own near future, mirroring the sort of daily grind most of us have to put up with.
The story opens with a little girl named Flint.
She dreams about her home planet - but the reality of life in a remote mining colony feels like a zillion light-years away from Doma - the place she's inexplicably drawn to, despite never having lived there.
|Flint's "Show and Tell" about Doma, the home planet she's never known yet is irresistibly drawn to|
Doma was the scene of a colossal nuclear war which devastated the surface. Flint's family escaped with their lives but there's still a strong urge in Flint to return, to answer questions she has that just won't seem to go away.
As she grows older, and takes up an apprenticeship at the industrial complex her mother also works at, she reluctantly settles into a life of drudgery but always with a hope that somehow she'll scrape together enough money to use the 'stepping stones' (the solar system's planets are only in alignment for a short space of time) that will take her back to Doma. But should she go? What about her mother and grandmother, and what about her absentee father and her other friends? Should she leave them behind?
|Flint and her bestie watch the rockets leave their planet every day with a daydreamy longing..|
Kristyna has perfectly captured the wanderlust a lot of us feel at a young age, and for me it mirrored feelings I had myself - that weird drive to get as far away from home as possible, to see where the world could take you - no real reflection on home life itself but just that urge to answer questions about yourself that can only be answered in a certain way.
What we liked most about Flint was that she wasn't overtly 'gritty' or tough, just a girl with a specific dream and ambition that became her muse and the driver of all her actions to a point where she had to make a decision to go or stay. What follows once she makes that decision is so beautifully described.
|Flint, always with an eye on Doma|
The art in Retrograde Orbit is crisp, clean and uses a fairly limited colour palette to really draw out the stories - even in scenes with no dialogue the sense of longing in Flint is palpable, relatable.
This really is fantastic - and we've championed Avery Hills' ability to pick the most incredibly talented comic creators to publish. Kristyna is getting a lot of attention for her work and deservedly so at that.
"Retrograde Orbit" by Kristyna Baczinski is out now, published by Avery Hill (kindly supplied as a digital ARC).