Featuring a memorable heroine as capable of brandishing a katana as she is to sing, “beans, beans, the musical fruit” to her cat, Apocalyptigirl: An Aria For The End Times is a wonderful original graphic novel, written and beautifully illustrated by Andrew MacLean. Indebted to the world-building and strong female protagonists of Studio Ghibli films like Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind and Castle In The Sky, MacLean injects more than enough personality and twists to allow An Aria For The End Times to distinguish itself from its forebears.
On a post-apocalyptic earth blighted by the greed of a prior generation, Aria and her cat Jelly Beans search for a mysterious power source while avoiding the ongoing clan warfare between The Blue Stripes and The Grey Beards, rival tribes trapped in an endless fight for supremacy. Left on her own for six years by her superiors, Aria has only Jelly Beans and her inner monologue for company. Her relationships with both drive the book’s quieter character-based moments, slices of life that add shading to the main narrative and which are reminiscent of great series from Dark Horse’s past, Mike Allred’s Madman Comics.
But as charming as Aria is, MacLean’s art is the real star of Apocalyptigirl. With a style that recalls the expressive simplicity of Paul Grist and the fluid action of Becky Cloonan, every page of An Aria For The End Times is a delight, guiding the eye effortlessly while featuring expressive character work between Aria and Jelly Beans. MacLean’s sense of pacing is similar to manga, with some panels acting to underline a mood or echo an emotional beat rather than acting as pure plot delivery. He’s a true one-man band here, not only providing the script and illustrations but also the stunningly vibrant colors that make this world he’s created come alive.
Apocalyptigirl: An Aria For The End Times is an ambitious, gorgeous addition to any comic reader’s bookshelf. While a wider universe is hinted at throughout, if MacLean’s story begins and ends here it’s a satisfying trip to a strange new world, and a welcome introduction to a promising creative talent.
Apocalyptigirl: An Aria For The End Times goes on sale May 20th.