Review: Backtrack Vol. 1
Allow me to start this advance review off with an original poem: Backtrack is about a death race through time. A life-changing prize awaits, for the first to cross the finish line. When a stranger offers her the chance to change her past, Alyson vows to drive fast, and beat the rest of the comic’s cast. That sums up the plot for this action/adventure series, written by Brian Joines. Backtrack Vol. 1 collects the series into a trade paperback and published by Oni Press, is due for release on November 18th in book stores, and can be found in comic shops now.
I think it’s awesome to see a story about a female get-away driver. It was also refreshing to see that none of the female drivers were sexualized. Regardless of gender, all the drivers look like real people. There’s no exaggeration of body proportion to make them sexier and none of the characters are portrayed as sex objects. Early in the story, I would have liked to see a roster or gotten a little more backstory on the other drivers. They start dropping like flies on the first leg of the race, and although their deaths are pretty cool, seeing the nameless side characters die didn’t make much of an impact. Even once the characters start introducing themselves, they’re little more than just names, as we hardly see the characters’ faces up close for long enough to form a mental connection. By the end of the book, the main characters are pushed to the forefront and the reader gets a clearer idea of some of their motivations for joining the race, but I still would have liked to see more character development early on.
Showing the race map superimposed over black and white images was a clever way to show the passage of time. However, I wish the actual racing had been shown in more detail. The reader is basically shown the start of a leg, a few shots of Alyson and maybe a few other racers, and then a page later we’re at the end of the leg. Honestly, the race becomes less of a vehicle for the story (pun intended) and more of a gimmick that the story must weave around. The story is exciting, but it doesn’t move beyond ‘time travel adventure to fix the past.’ Now, it technically doesn’t have to move past that theme, as the story is still compelling; but if Joines had put more emphasis on the race and the drivers, then this comic would have been something really special. As it stands, Backtrack is a solid action/adventure story that just so happens to include time travel and car racing.
I really liked the dark linework and hard edges of Jake Ephick’s illustrations. This series gives Ephick a chance to showcase his artistic talents. Throughout the course of the first volume, he gets to draw several different points in time, including the Cretaceous Period and the height of the Roman Empire. He also gets to play with scale in a visually interesting way, with each leg of the race providing the opportunity for differences in the size of objects in the same panel or differences in perspective and distant between objects in the same panel. Each character has their own unique design, but unless they’re drawn in a close-up, I found it hard to tell each driver apart from one another. It would have been nice if the same amount of effort that went into the more exciting panels had also been applied toward either visually distinguishing the characters’ cars or their clothing. This would have made it easier to identify one character from another regardless of the perspective from which a single panel was drawn.
Backtrack Vol. 1 collects the first five issues of this action-packed series. This first volume contains a really well-written action/adventure story that doesn’t take full advantage of its hook, concept, or settings. The art team gets to show off their skills in certain scenes, but other scenes lack a level of detail that would have improved the visual clarity. This series is good but is kept from reaching greatness by its own shortcomings. One cool touch I want to mention in closing, included in the back is an unofficial soundtrack to Backtrack. It includes some great song choices, and fans of this series may want to put them on in the background while diving into this trade paperback.
Story and Created by Brian Joines Art: Jake Elphick
Colors: Doug Garbark Letterer: Jim Campbell
Story: 6.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Buy
Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review