Friday, October 18, 2019

Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love (LGBTQ comic review)

Two young women pose on a motorcycle
Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love - 6/10

In short, I wanted to love it, but I only sort of liked it. Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love (Seven Seas) despite it's flaws, is also a lesbian graphic novel, and you can never have too many of them. Representation alone makes it valuable. But unfortunately, the story is corny, tropey, and obvious and the artwork is only okay. It's not without its virtues, but it isn't a landmark comic either.

In Roadqueen, we meet highschooler Leo: the hot, bad-ass motorcycle riding senior girl at the Princess Andromeda Academy (which sounds more interesting than it is and which barely features in the story at all). She's too cool for school, and while every girl wants to ask her out, she turns every one down, every time. She's actually a loner other than her friend and her friend's girlfriend. She's emotionally blocked and hides behind a false bravado.


One day, she's challenged by a new girl on campus, Vega. Vega offers to fix up Leo's bike into an even more bad-ass machine, and when she does, Leo can't afford the bill. So Vega takes the bike, and rides off. We flash forward to the end of Leo's senior year. She's still turning girls down, even though she now must walk to school like everyone else. Basically, nothing has changed.

And that's when Vega reappears with a new challenge for Leo. Spend a week together and prove that Leo can be a good girlfriend and Leo can get her bike back. That challenge, each day being a chapter, makes up the rest of the graphic novel.

Leo is self-centered, thoughtless, careless, and self-absorbed (I know, I said it twice basically, but that's her defining characteristic). Yet, with each day's fail to be a decent girlfriend, she takes some steps forward. So you know where it ends up after a week, don't you? There's also a hidden connection between them (because of course).

Fine, so it's a pretty obvious ending, but that's not always a bad thing. The journey is usually the most important part of literature. And with the sub-title: "Eternal Roadtrip to Love" one would expect the journey to be really rewarding. Sadly, it's filled with a lot of very familiar moments. They are used to move Leo's empathy forward, but it isn't super interesting either.

Not every comic has to be deep and emotionally complex. But this isn't exactly funny or sweet or anything else either. It's just sort of average. It does it's job, tells it's story, there is a little character growth, and they (SPOILERS) get together in the end (END SPOILERS). There's just not actually much to it all in the end.

I do want to pause here and situate myself as a reviewer in this review of Roadqueen. I am a trans girl, but not yet out, and nearly 40 years old. I am attracted to women, but I am still learning and growing with applying the term lesbian to describe myself. I presented to the world as a cis straight man for so long, that it's new to think of myself as a gay/lesbian woman. I bring this up, because there may be a lot about the LGBTQ community and culture(s) that I'm not aware of yet, and haven't lived the life of yet (I come out in 2 months!!!!!), so there may be value in this book that I'm simply blind to right now. Other's may find a lot of connections that I'm not making.

But, I do think from a pure plot, characterization, writing ability, and art style standpoint, I can safely say this is a pretty straight-forward, and simple graphic novel. Not bad, just simple. But again, others may make connections, or it may evoke feelings in others it just doesn't for me. That's the joy of there being so many different things out there in the world, we each get to like and be moved by different things based on what we bring to the table. That's diversity, and that's a great thing.

Back to our review. Let's talk art. When I opened it up and saw that the entire first chapter was in full color, I was really excited. I became more excited when most of the main characters had various darker skin tones. Hallelujah for racial/ethnic representation. Add to that, there was a lot of diversity in body size and shape, so we got great body positivity messages. So we get racial/ethnic diversity, body type diversity, and lots of lesbians!!! Woohoo!!!

BUT, only the first chapter was in color, and I don't feel that the black and white chapters did justice to the skin tone diversity. In the black and white chapters, scenes with normal lighting, the characters all have pure white skin. That could just be for simplicity of layout, hoping readers would remember it from the first chapter. But I would have loved to see more use of gray shading to keep this diversity obvious. I found myself forgetting that these were not white characters. This is clearly my implicit bias that I "default" to characters being white if their skin is not explicitly depicted darker. I own that. But I think I'm not alone in needing to work through that bias, and so depicting them with darker shades would be helpful at keeping the representation up as a way to counter my, and others, implicit bias.

As for the art style itself. It might really appeal to some people. It's very indicative of a lot of current American-style graphic novel art right now. Very simple designs, layout, lines, etc... It's not realistic at all. It does borrow some styling from "manga-style" art, but it clearly is it's own thing. It's fine, and I know people like this style of art. But I don't. It's too simple and plain, too cartoony for me. I want something more realistic and detailed, even in comedy comics. It's just not my taste.

In the end, we have lesbian, racial/ethnic, and body positive representation in a graphic novel. That's awesome. But it's also a by-the-numbers, indelicately told, simple story with an equally simple art style. So it was only okay. I liked how Leo grew and changed by the end, you could see the shift each day. But the writing wasn't strong enough for me to reread it or think much about it after this. It's pleasant and has some value for its rep, but it isn't a literary masterpiece either. It gets a serviceable 6/10. But keep the lesbian comics coming, no matter what, we need more!


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2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this review! Before reading this I though I was the only one left cold by this graphic novel. It was bit of a disappointment to me. The graphic novel wasn't bad or anything, just okay.

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    1. Yeah, I felt the same way. I was worried that I "HAD" to like it, but for me it was only so-so. Nothing wrong if people do love it, each to his own. And I'm glad we're getting LGBTQ comics, of course! Thanks for your comment!

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