Coming off the dramatic, down-to-earth horror story of Rachel Rising, Motor Girl is not what I expected from writer/artist Terry Moore. Just looking at the cover of Motor Girl, the tone here couldn’t be more different than Rachel Rising. I initially worried that Moore would dip into the quirky humor of Images, but Motor Girl has a lot more going on than I expected.
Sam lives a simple life working in a junkyard and fixing up busted cars. Her days are unremarkable except for Mike: her anthropomorphic gorilla friend who is a figment of her imagination. When a UFO with cute little aliens crashes in the junkyard, a mysterious group of men in suits appear and offer to buy the junkyard Sam runs.
The story sounds a lot like the kind of inconsequential shenanigans that any comic book writer might dream up, but Moore brings so much life to this concept. It’s a lot of the mundane character interactions and glimpse into the humanity of even the antagonists that is indelibly Moore.
As this first arc develops, Moore shows that those cute elements are covers for truths as horrific and startling as his turn in Rachel Rising. For one, Mike isn’t just some cute imaginary friend, but a coping device Sam develops during her time in the military. And those cute-looking aliens are definitely up to something sinister.
The cute elements are also tempered by Moore’s black and white artistry. The cover is vibrant and poppy, but the book is richly penciled and not colored, avoiding the poppy look that usually goes with this tone. I’m not completely won over by how cartoony the aliens and Mike can look sometimes, but I think there’s a deliberate juxtaposition there of reality against fantasy and our world vs. alien life.
I went into this book skeptical of the core concept but trusting in Moore’s rich character portraits. So far, he’s doing the same for this book that he did for Rachel Rising and as long as that keeps up, I’ll be in this series for the long haul. Sam has more depth and humanity to her than the entire cast of characters in other comics. Once again, Moore uses the fantastical to explore the warmth and tragedy of the human condition.
© James Blake Ewing 2017