Review: Joy Operations #1
Writer Brian Michael Bendis bits off way more than he can chew in Joy Operations #1, which was meant to be his big debut for Dark Horse Comics, but it ends up being an incredibly talky, boring, and contained first chapter of a space opera. And it’s a pity because Stephen Byrne’s art is clean, sleek, and perfect for this futuristic world that has been built on the ashes of what is now the United States. The protagonist, Joy, is some kind of skilled bodyguard for Kathryn, who seems to be like the Sheryl Sandberg or Kamala Harris or Hillary Clinton of this new order, but she’s really worst than these girl bosses and could be responsible for the death of humanity. These sentences make it seem like Joy Operations has an intriguing premise, but it really never gets off the ground.
Bendis has written a lot of crime, superhero, and although they’re usually not as compelling, science fiction stories, and he understands that conveying power and movement is one of the strengths of the comics medium. So, he and Byrne kick off Joy Operations #1 with a fight scene between Joy and Kathyrn’s Gerxhart bodyguard, who apparently sees her as a threat. It’s the stereotypical hero vs. hero battle in the first act of a superhero team-up, but with Tron lights and viscosity courtesy of Stephen Byrne’s color palette and design. The fight shows that the relationship between Joy and Kathryn isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it doesn’t serve a purpose beyond setting up that Joy has some cool as shit skills that I’ve seen in the aforementioned Tron and nearly every piece of fiction involving a virtual reality. Byrne’s approach to fight choreography reminds me a lot of the energy of the Overwatch, which is definitely a compliment. However, until the bitter end of the comic, I don’t have anyone to root for or latch onto in the fight.
Speaking of bitter end, Bendis and Byrne mainly craft the world of Joy Operations through Joy talking to herself with the occasional big spread like when we finally get some details about Kathryn and her impact on this world. Brian Michael Bendis’ profanity-tinged, sarcastic sense of humor that made Jessica Jones and Deena Pilgrim is definitely present in Joy’s character voice even when it’s drowned out by half-baked concepts and in-universe jargon. He and Stephen Byrne run into a wall when Joy really only gets to bounce off the voice in her head. In his previous works, Bendis could make conversations as compelling as fight scenes with the help of great facial acting from his artists. However, Joy has conversations with word balloons, which would be okay in prose, but is snore-worthy in a visual medium like comics.
Stephen Byrne’s sleek vision of the future combined with a hubris-filled foe should have been a slam dunk space opera. However, Joy Operations #1 didn’t immerse me in this new world, but beat me over with walls of text and a POV character whose best moments seemed like retreads of better written Brian Michael Bendis female protagonists. Seriously, where is a text page when you need one? Joy Operations showcases Byrne’s gifts at worldbuilding, action blocking, and facial expressions, but Bendis’ script doesn’t rise up to match his energy so this is definitely a comic worth skipping and a poor start for Jinxworld’s first Dark Horse book.
Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Stephen Byrne
Letters: Joshua Reed
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 5.8 Recommendation: Pass
Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review