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The Image Comics title Rocket Girl by writer Brandon Montclare and artist Amy Reeder has quietly been developing a substantial cult following since its debut in October 2013. The story revolves around Dayoung Johansson, a member of the New York Teen Police Department from a futuristic version of 2013 who gets stuck in the year 1986. The series has been on break for almost a year, since May 2014, after its first 5-issue arc. So I was hoping that Rocket Girl #6 would be an exciting and great issue, one that welcomed back old readers and could also draw in new ones. As it is, Rocket Girl #6 isn’t set up that way, and it instead feels like a regular first issue.
Rather than being an issue that catapults the overall story of Rocket Girl forward extensively, Rocket Girl #6 is set up differently, more as an issue that introduces new characters and develops other ones. We meet Dayoung’s first partner in a flackback to 2011 (though this is the future to 1986-stuck Dayoung, it has still occurred in the past of her life). Tasha Tallchief is the sensible foil the Dayoung’s brash rookie, but Tasha is also resourceful, managing to get Dayoung out of a bad situation when the overeager officer wants to bust a pimp on her first day. Tasha is a good character, and an interesting contrast to O’Patrick, the partner of Dayoung’s who readers met in the first issue of Rocket Girl.
Dayoung is struggling with life in 1986, unable to get back to her own time and feeling unconnected to Annie, one of the scientists who worked at Quintim Mechanics, the company Dayoung came back in time to stop. The pink-haired Annie has been the memorable of the group of Quintim scientists, and she’s become the defacto secondary character in the 1980s timeline. Dayoung, though being much younger than Annie, gets frustrated by her elder’s immaturity. It’s also a cultural differences that is hard for Dayoung – in the 1980s, she has very little freedom and autonomy, especially since she is used to being a police officer in her own time.
The introduction of Tasha and delving into the dynamics between Dayoung and Annie are strong parts of the issue. Likewise, Reeder’s artwork is pretty excellent. Though it features a few more instances of manga-ish cartoony expressions than previous issues, Reeder’s overall fluid designs and strong sense of composition give the panels in Rocket Girl #6 a real energy and distinctive look.
However, Rocket Girl #6 is not without its drawbacks. The issue is rather slow other than the past-future confrontation between Dayoung and Tasha and the pimp. It’s not uncommon for a comic to have a somewhat slow-paced issue at the beginning of a new arc, as the creators set up new story threads that will be explored over the following issues. That works less well when the title has been gone for almost a year. The fact that Rocket Girl #6 isn’t really a plot-centric issue makes it less exciting with so much of a gap between the previous issue. Also, there are some characters and threads that are harder to remember because they were secondary in the first arc. I feel that Rocket Girl #6 could have highlighted those moments more to remind readers why the scene (such as the one with 1980s police officer who is speaking with the future version of himself) are important.
Even though Rocket Girl #6 wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a return issue after a long break, I am still glad to see this series back. I felt that the first five issues were one of the pleasant surprises of late 2013/early 2014 in the comics world. It might be good if the upcoming issues of the series accentuated the important story elements while also serving to explore and define the characters. Additionally, it might be tricky for new readers to follow Rocket Girl #6 right off the bat, but I think it’s well worth picking up the first trade and then continuing with the current issues of the series.