Void Trip #1
Ryan O’Sullivan (Writer), Plaid Klaus (Artist), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)
November 22, 2017
The first issue of Void Trip, a comic, releases on November 22nd, the same week (Probably? The full schedule remains unannounced) season twelve of Red Dwarf finishes its first airing. Why’s that a relevant matter? I will tell you. It’s because they are the same.
Aaaah, the last humans are stuck, fucked, alone in space. They have some shitty vehicle. They have some dream of paradise. Someone’s probably gonna kill ’em. They love to get trollied, and they annoy each other. It’s good. It’s relatable. I am into it.
Ana and Gabe of Void Trip “are the last two humans left alive in the galaxy.” All they do in this premiere issue is bum around and get high; that’s not all that’s established, but it’s all they do. Their narrative stakes no lofty claims to opera or principle–it’s overt and ironically, hoffhoffhoff down to earth: this is a story about people getting through, in the words of royalty, this thing called life. Ana is the last human woman, and she only wants to eat psychedelics and travel casually. Literally, she chooses travel over arrival, nixing Gabe’s suggestion of a shortcut that would get them to their fabled (or, I suppose, non-fabled, if they know with surety how to arrive) paradise destination. Though they are in greater danger the longer they meander it’s important to her that they go, rather than be. See, my comparison to Red Dwarf isn’t just a shallow game of premise spot-the-same.
The established, well-trodden Dwarf reason for Rimmer’s appointment as post-mortem holographic companion for Last Human Lister is that Lister finds Rimmer irritating. He needs to be peeved to get through the present without starting to scream into the yawning days of the rest of his life. Having distractions and problems that grate (“drama”) is vital to the human subject as well as the human viewer. Ana and Gabe disagree right through this whole issue, and they’ll keep disagreeing as long as they travel, which they agree to do. You can’t just arrive at peace and be satisfied–you have to get through. Humans are perverse! We like to know we’re happening. We don’t feel we deserve the nicest things…yet. Light misery is a kind of fun, it gives us stories to tell, if only to ourselves, and we need those stories because later we will still be just “being.” We only want to go to heaven once we’re dead.
I appreciate this attitude, this embrace of slack and friction, from both Void Trip and Red Dwarf because I find it honest and self-reflective. Why are you watching or reading something? Why has someone made this thing? Because we all want something to do. From my non-enlightened perspective, it’s more fun to be present and aware than to be enlightened. I like it when my entertainment agrees with me as to why I am engaging it. It creates a pleasant camaraderie.
Instead of Craig Charles in a trapper hat and leathers, Void Trip offers Cara Delevingne in a DRUGS hat and leathers. I mean, that’s who I see. Right? (“Froot,” FYI, is the space psychedelic of choice, weird-shaped fruits that give you intense hallucinations. There’s a cutesy bit with some Giants of Comics froot name puns, if you like that sort of thing.) So if you didn’t enjoy Besson’s Valerian and Laureline, but liked the idea of SpaceCara, this is your lucky year. Her character design seemed brittle and pretentious to me for one second but I pushed through the membrane of disaffection and realised that it’s actually exactly what I want, for women to be in comics like this. As scuzzy ballers with manicures who treat men like their equal buddies. Like “real people” or whatever. Like the sort of women who exist in other sections of the media (in fashion, even!). I’d recognise her immediately, there. Why didn’t I in comics? How wrong have I been done? Lol, very. Though Delevingne is an object of desire for many, an “Official Babe” if you will, Plaid Klaus shows no especial interest in “perfecting” Ana’s face or form (there are better examples of this further into the comic, but I only have the first six pages to pull images from here). She stretches and squashes. She squints. Her jawline is not always 100% firm. The reader in fact is given very little impression about the shapes of her body beyond the basic outline of her legs in jeans. It makes perfect sense and it should go unmentioned, but I’ve seen what I’ve seen, “in comics.” So I need to give this props: it’s good that an artist would draw a woman traveling alone with an older man without any revelatory sexual coding to her illustrated physicality. It allows me to feel comfortable as a reader in a basic way that should be guaranteed but isn’t. Klaus, on his website, says:
“I take the visual narrative medium very seriously. My focus is on story first, because story dictates the visual expression of the narrative. The style, textures and shot choices should all serve the message being told.”
He’s not wrong. And here, they do.
Unlike Saga or Prophet (or even any given Star Wars comic), Gabe and Ana have no apparent purpose. They aren’t fleeing a war for the sake of love, or making one, or making one, but in a morally defensive way. They have no imposed task, no outside responsibilities. They just want to do whatever, until they’re tired of it. They’re Mad Maxin’ it, just chuffing about getting in trubs, which makes the opening desert tanker-siphoning spread pleasingly contextual instead of a weird, maybe-accidental visual reference. I first took it for the latter but upon reading the issue fully and revisiting to review, the shape of the former grew solid. You can read it twice and like it more, which is a good thing to say about a story you can buy.
There’s a trip sequence in this comic that looks exactly like an advert for “radical” sweets from 1997. I think that’s pretty funny.