British cartoonist Kristyna Baczynski makes her graphic novel debut with Retrograde Orbit, a sweet little meditation on upending roots and reclaiming them.
Flint’s family comes from the planet Doma, but they fled to Tisa following a disaster there. Living in exile for safety reasons, they survived, largely through Flint’s mom’s work in the mines, which Flint is training to do. But her heart isn’t on Tisa with the mining job and what information she can get out of her grandmother about their home planet is enough to strengthen her bond with it — and her desire to see it for herself.
Baczynski’s world is a meticulously-realized futuristic landscape. Her characters carry a quality of cuteness that might seem out of place in a science fiction context, but actually blend in quite well and even gives the more tragic aspects of the story a less depressing, more hopeful tone.
If it’s an idealized view of digging up your own past, it’s also a potent one that points to the simple reasons people seek out family histories and take DNA tests — the idea that discovery can work in unison with something more comforting. Discovery is usually aligned with encountering the unknown, but in the case of digging into your own family’s past, there’s a familiarity accompanying the surprise. In this scenario, finding an adventure can be like returning home, and that is exactly what calls to Flint as she looks skyward.
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