Olivia Twist #3: Picking Up the Pace, But At What Cost?

olivia twist

Olivia Twist #3

Sal Cipriano (letterer), Adam Dalva (writer), Lee Loughridge (colorist), Darin Strauss (writer), Emma Vieceli (artist)
Berger Books/Dark Horse Comics
November 21, 2018

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

With only four issues in total, Olivia Twist can’t waste too much time world-building. But as we cross the halfway point and dive deeper into the story, should there have been a bit more time to pause and breathe?

Olivia Twist #3 cover

Well. That escalated quickly.

Olivia’s not far off from her training and her orientation to the world of the Esthers when the team executes their first big mission: a trip back into the refugee camp that was her life up until this point—where she was born, where her parents died, where she and Pip escaped. Not her first heist (that was last issue with her break in to the Vertical City) but certainly larger than that one. It’s not immediately clear why she’s going back. Is it for answers to her past? Is it to free the other refugees? Who proposed this mission? There’s hints in the dialogue to answer these questions (something about a necklace? America no longer exists?), but they’re rushed and easily missed if you’re focusing more on art and action than script.

The quick pace of the break-in scenes, akin to an action movie, work well in that setting but not in others. Once in the camp, we meet the focus of the mission: Olivia’s aunt Selda—with her own connection to Charles Leeford, architect of the Vertical City.  There’s no time to explore this family tie. Selda dies at Charles’ hand before the story concludes. We also get hints of Charles’s plans and why he’s after Olivia, but all in fragments; pieces of a whole puzzle at a point where you just start to discern the full picture but there are too many gaps to be sure.

After seeing the new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody a friend remarked to me that a two hour movie didn’t seem enough to explore Freddie Mercury. A Netflix series would have allowed this man’s colorful and complicated life to breathe better. I say the same for the script and pacing of this series. Strauss and Dalva’s world layers mystery upon mystery well. But, four issues isn’t enough to uncover all of these mysteries and provide compelling action.  The script has to sacrifice something, which in this case turned out to be that world-building.  We need more time and space for the themes of this world.

Turning to artwork, Emma Vieceli does continue to provide stellar but safe artwork. She develops rich character design, giving everyone from the Esthers to the Vertical City elite their own look suitable to character tone. A fun touch are the simply drawn avatar-like heads for Olivia and the Esthers as they communicate with each other during the break-in. It lends a fun sense of teamwork to the mission and keeps all characters front and center.

Where Vieceli excels is in scene detail. A bird’s eye view of the refugee camp gives the reader a sense of the task ahead of our girl gang. Even on the ground, that eye to small touches – trash on the ground at the refugee camp, a large computer screen in a Vertical City office—make place its own character. Lee Loughridge’s colors move from bright and rich to washed out depending on scene tone. Like the art, colors are appropriate to what is traditional steampunk or cyberpunk, just with a touch more depth and mystery. The final praise due is in lettering and layout. Panel layouts and sizes add to the cinematic feel of each page, emphasizing key details to the story.

What Olivia Twist #3 provides is eye catching art and action that is just enough to keep readers on board. It wants to construct a complex, nuanced world to support that action, but ultimately doesn’t have the time and space to do so. What we get instead are ideas thrown together here and there to build some form of a theme or thought. Like the Vertical City, it wants to keep building higher, farther, faster, but neglects what’s already in place on the ground.

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski

Librarian by day, comics nerd by day and by night. Also published at Geeks OUT and Multiversity Comics (where she is also the social media manager for the site). Originally from New Jersey, now of Connecticut and New York City. Raging feminist your mother probably warned you about. Body positivity and LGBTQ+ advocate. Lover of good whiskey, Jensen Ackles, Doctor Who, Funko Pops, knitting, Hamilton, and the New York Mets. Will defend the Oxford Comma to her deathbed. Find her on twitter at @librarian_kate