Every once in awhile, I come across a comic like Zoe Taylor‘s Joyride. An experiment so different and unique that you can’t help but appreciate the medium of comics even more once you’re done. Joyride brought me joy, though it isn’t a happy or light comic. I read it after the longest road trip of my life that took me from Ottawa, Ontario to Lethbridge, Alberta. 38 hours of driving through Northern Ontario and the flat Prairies, countless small towns and large cities. After this, all I wanted to do was to forget everything about driving. You spend so much time in a vehicle that you start feeling constricted and imprisoned. The protagonist in Joyride sees the vehicle differently, a way to work through her anger, to escape, and even to hurt others.
The story is quite basic, our protagonist in Joyride goes to a party where people are mean and rude. She steals a car and goes on a joyride only to crash the vehicle into a tree after missing a turn. The owner of the car wanders through the wood to try and find her missing car. That’s pretty much it, but all of this is simply a framework to explore escapism.
I loved how this comic made me work to untangle its mystery, how I had to read it multiple times to make sense of its ambiguity, its ending and its meaning. It’s like watching a David Lynch film and piecing it’s meanings only to have it crystallized on a second viewing. It’s about escaping, multiple types of escapes, whether from the personal, the social or the emotional. Our protagonist flees from herself, flees the constricting social norms of a party, flees friendship. It’s about finding something through that escape, revenge, love, or a purpose. There’s also an exploration of how time flows in a moving vehicle and how this can be displayed in comic format. There’s a lot to unpack in this comic.
This comic looks gorgeous. Taylor’s art is minimalist, using only a handful of lines are enough to depict a woman, or a car and yet, it’s all you need. It’s enough details to give you all the details you need, a woman’s slight look of disdain, the party guests look of confusion, the tears of a woman after an accident. The paper stock also contributes to this minimalist style. It’s a very lightweight paper, not quite newsprint, but not much heavier either. It gives the whole book a feeling of lightness.
The art is mostly contained on the top half of the page. You can see in the sample pages I’ve put above that there’s a big white gap underneath each drawings. I was worried I had a misprinted copy, but it was in fact intentional. This harkens back to the themes of the comic, mostly about how time flows and also how the reader construct meaning in the gutters of a comic. Taylor posits that escape both in the story and in the format. The half page of art also gives more weight to the splash pages whenever they occur. It’s a very unique way to layout out a comic and it works really well.
UK publisher Breakdown Press continues to release fantastic comics that deserves a wider readership. I encourage you to seek out their releases and Joyride in particular.
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.