Emma Rios is one of the most talented creators out there that has proven her worth at both the writing (Mirror) and illustrating (Pretty Deadly) side of the comic book world. In I.D., Rios handles both the words and art, confidently presenting a story that is thought provoking and emotional with a respectable amount of research put into it; due in additional thanks to Medical Doctor Miguel Alberte Woodward whom writes a back essay to add more into the reality of the topic at hand. I.D. is about three individuals, Noa, Charlotte and Mike, whom apply for an experimental procedure in which your brain, mental capacity and self are maintained as you are placed within a different body. Through the five chapters, originally printed in Island Magazine, the three characters discuss and question their own motives towards making this process a reality.
What immediately jumps out in terms of the visual style of the comic is Rios’s use of a contrasting palette of warm, glowing, hues of red. As much as the story digs a little bit into questions regarding the binaries of gender, whether it is intentional or not, using red instead of playing with black and white, creates a sort of neutral space for the words and images to breath out from. Rios consistently does a great job at creating a tone and atmosphere that is melancholic but also slightly unnerving and tense at the same time. Whether it’s the rain dropping outside the coffee shop where Noa, Charlotte and Mike discuss their reasons into wanting a new body or inside the apartment of Charlotte, Rios puts purpose behind the easy flow of pages. She sketches out wider, detailed frames to settle in on the three characters, utilizing the space to capture their unified journey, and closer, sometimes round panels to focus in on particular sections of dialogue or pointing at the various body parts (eyes, mouths, ears, noses, etc.) as if these are partly what makes each of them insecure.
“Well, it’s obvious none of us feel very proud of who we are.”
“I disagree. Hating your body, or your life, doesn’t mean you hate yourself.”
These quotes are taken from a statement made by Mike, commented back by Charlotte. Questions of having pride in yourself can change on a day to day basis. When the pride of realizing that your true self is inside you but not reflective of your physical self cannot possibly be put into the proper amount of words unless someone identifies directly with wanting to or having gone through a physical transition or an acceptance of ones true self. And, what Charlotte responds with is something that she appears to take on as an attribute to her reasoning into wanting to make this body transplant. She is a writer and is the most cryptic into her reasoning. She continues to make remarks that appear to reveal her own insecurities regarding the nature of the transformation: “Being unhappy with what we are, or have, may sound frivolous but is inherently human. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s our restlessness.” Restlessness may be the wrong way (or perhaps right way) to describe feeling trapped in a false vessel but what these statements made by Charlotte reinforce is the strength in which Rios writes these characters as three-dimensional human beings who are far from perfect, and that is totally okay.
The fact that all three are, for the most part, sure that their true selves are not reflected on the outside is perhaps the most truly felt from Noa. She plain and simply admits that she is a man. She is upset at being weak and how her metabolism won’t allow her to be the man she really wants to be. After storming off from a heated discussion within the coffee shop, she barges into the women’s bathroom; Rios leaves a single panel to focus on the symbol on the bathroom door. These signs and symbols for gender pervade society and tend to ignore other identities that aren’t considered ‘traditional’ or a ‘patriarchal norm’. Rios doesn’t dig too deep into this conversation but her imagery and dialogue does point towards this consistently relevant topic of how and where identity can be influenced.
Another moment that shares Noa’s confidence in making the transition is when her and Mike begin questioning Charlotte’s motives towards the body transplant. The conversation goes like this:
Mike: “I wonder if just being bored, or lonely, is enough to do this…”
Noa: “It’s better than suicide.”
Mike: “Perhaps…didn’t think of it that way.”
Noa: “I did.”
This establishes not only the unfortunate conclusion that many come to when it comes to people questioning their identities (as a mental illness) and Noa having gone through a potential slew of mental battles, but most importantly that Mike didn’t think of the alternative as being suicide. It is a sad realization that this thought carries over to our own reality. It’s this thought, or lack of, that doesn’t get through to people. Sometimes the mental battles become too much; whether it is the shame imposed by others, the mere costs to transition, or the hypnotizing by various institutions, these are but a few of a fair list that many individuals can come up against. What Rios really captures here is the sense of unity and togetherness from three albeit different personalities with three different reasons that confide in each other to solidify what matters most: the confidence in accepting who they really are.
This wonderfully well-crafted story by Emma Rios is also notable for its taking place during a demonstration that takes place outside one of the comic’s settings. Its presence is felt through a select few frames showing outside the coffee shop but at one moment (minor spoilers) the physical fight that takes place between a few of the demonstrators and police gets brought inside. The police threaten Noa, Mike and Charlotte, physically assaulting the three. However, instead of cowering away or witnessing one of the characters run away, the three, together, fight back and manage to escape to live another day. This moment really encapsulates a strong theme in I.D. in that what may appear as a mental, individual battle on the inside, is something that can be shared and understood to strengthen ones identity. Many battles are lost but the war is won as a collective. Just look at the support that went on behind the LGBTQ community recently through the hashtag #QueerSelfLove that trended on Twitter. As much as I.D. provides more of a futuristic setting to body transitions, there is also a comfort being addressed in finding a way to love yourself just the way you are. Judging by the phenomenal response to #QueerSelfLove, love will reign over hate.
Written and Illustrated: Emma Rios
Technical Assistance and Back Essay: Alberte Woodward MD
Flat Assists: Roque Romero
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.