THE JOYNERS #1
Written by R. J. Ryan
Art by David Marquez, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Jon Adams
Published by Archaia
Release Date: June 15, 2016
Originally distributed as a 3D original graphic novel in 2014, The Joyners #1 hit new comic book racks this past week, serialized and colored. This means that readers who held out for more affordable installments, less-headache-inducing presentation (3D is simply not for everyone), or compartmentalized delivery are in luck. It also gives all of you readers a chance to catch up on a story you missed the first time around.
The prologue opens with an expository bit that sets readers on edge: what they’re about to read is a case of domesticity gone awry. Set in 2062, Ryan and Marquez open the story with an apparently simple attorney-client meeting at a neutral site. That site is an aquarium and the first bit of foreshadowing introduces readers to Sonya Joyner as she stares into an electric eel tank, pondering the familial structure and ferocity of the slippery creatures right in front of her face. Ryan masterfully spins the prologue towards court evidence to provide readers with a gateway into preceding events without bogging down The Joyners #1 in time-hopping “Earlier” and “Later” bits, giving us all a chance to learn of the events in this series with Sonya, but from a different point of view.
Ryan, Marquez, colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, and letterer Jon Adams introduce us to the rest of the Joyners, starting first with George. As we meet Sonya first, it can be argued that George is the antagonist of this story, which he certainly has moments acting like, but George also makes a strong case to be the star of The Joyners, as the majority of The Joyners #1 focuses on recent developments at work and the impact work has on family for George. That impact is not reciprocated, nor is it balanced, which certainly doesn’t incentivize readers to cheer for George. A highly analytical individual, happy with his career, disappointed with his family life, George is flailing through his life, looking for something to latch onto. That results in some choices that readers may not agree with, but Ryan makes those choices clear to the reader, as well as the implications George’s choices have for those around him, all the while Ryan layers up complexities in this comic, compelling readers to continue reading about George Joyner, despite not necessarily giving them any reason to like George.
Throughout the story Marquez provides futuristic imagery that is wonderfully magnified by Adams’ sublime font choices. Using mixed case, slender-faced fonts in rounded-corner rectangular word balloons, Adams transmits future-facing ideals while keeping the characters’ humanity intact. At points where the dialog gets heavier, Adams finds the spots Marquez left for him nicely, giving The Joyners #1 a clean, finished appearance.
David Marquez is nothing short of brilliant. While reading The Joyners for review, I opened Civil War II #2 (also drawn by David Marquez) and asked each of my daughters (18, 15, and 14) to check out the art for both stories. I asked them to tell me what they saw, what they liked, and what might be the same between the comics. They were each stunned to learn the same artist drew both. The oldest paused, started to analyze the works and could only come up with, “That’s so cool.” My wife overheard this conversation, stopped by, looked at the art for each and said, “That’s crazy.”
“Amazing range, huh?”
“Yeah. That’s. . .just. . .wow. He’s good.”
Marquez employs a dynamically different style for The Joyners, using a smaller quantity of detail, but maximizes the detail he does draw in. He streamlines his artwork with a nice array of line thicknesses, giving the art a deceptively modest finish. The lines were undoubtedly kept clean to enable the 3D conversion, but the end result is gorgeous, open forms for Fitzpatrick to color boldly. The colorist doesn’t oversaturate the pages, choosing instead to keep the story vibrant, but real.
The artistic details emerge when the story benefits from their presence, but Marquez refrains from adding noise to the panels just for the sake of making them detailed. When he does pack in the details, the panels become masterworks, inviting study and craving discussion. Marquez has a knack for disguising scope within his panels, giving the story big beats and heavy moments through his choice to employ widescreen shots or cross-page panels. One page in particular dissects George Joyner’s mind in an analytical graph that affords maximum collaboration between Marquez, Fitzpatrick, and Adams.
The Joyners is a realistic future family drama in line with American Beauty or Parenthood, with a dash of the Jetsons. Those concepts might have been springboards for R. J. Ryan’s story, but once it coupled with David Marquez’s art, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s and Jon Adams’ letters, it became something brand new.
The story is the same as the original graphic novel, but the color makes it feel brand new, and a re-read in serialized format changes the pacing and scope of the tale. There are very few comics I would review twice. Fewer still that I would review twice for two different sites. Even fewer than that are the number of comics I would so highly recommend. If you missed The Joyners the first time out and appreciate comics that go beyond superheroes and sci-fi, make up for that oversight now. You can thank me later, right after you thank R.J. Ryan, David Marquez, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Jon Adams.
The Verdict: 10/10