Review - Backtrack #1 (@OniPress)

"So...productive day?"

Everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are regret-inducing and in Backtrack #1 from Oni Press, some people are given the chance to correct those mistakes. The issue is written by Brian Joines, illustrated by Jake Elphick, colored by Doug Garbark and lettered by Jim Campbell.

Guilt weighs heavy on former criminal "wheelman," Alyson, who led an illicit life that left her shattered into pieces. But when she hears about a massive cross-history car race that grants the winner a chance to correct a single mistake in their life, Alyson will drive from the Big Bang to the death knell of the universe for the grand prize.

Joines explores an interesting premise in the first issue that capitalizes on the concept that to fix the past you have to understand the past. To that end, Joines channels the narrative through Alyson, a former wheelman struggling with a mistake in her past and desperate for a chance to fix it--even if she won't readily admit she's willing to do what it takes to do so. And Joines does a great job of setting up the overall plot, main players and direction of the series to achieve this goal. The one minor complaint is that the issue feels very rushed, in that Joines crams so many plot points in the first issue that the reader doesn't really have time to fully digest what exactly is going on. The characters and dialogue feel pretty enjoyable otherwise, although the issue might have been better off being split a bit just to allow some of the interactions to breathe a little; as it stands, it's really difficult to discern who's who.

Elphick's illustrative style adds a sense of nostalgic flair to the story, in that the character styles feel somewhat old-timey and appropriate for the book's setting. Elphick is very loose with the panel layouts as well, relying heavily on floating panels overlapping one another and accentuated by very bold, black outlines. There's fluidity to how Elphick renders the characters with a combination of soft curves and hard angles; Casper Quellex in particular feels like a perverse ringmaster. There are some panels where Elphick's looser style makes things a little difficult to discern what's happening in those panels though, but for the most part the reader can infer from context. Garbark's colors are very dark as well, infusing the book with an appropriate sense of gloom considering the race the contenders find themselves in.

Backtrack #1 has a good idea at its center that will lead to more and more interesting scenarios for the characters. Alyson is one of many contenders seeking to change something about their past, even if they have to venture farther back into the past to do so. Joines' script is about as fast-paced as the race it's depicting, leaving little time for the reader to catch up and fully appreciate what's happening. Elphick's art style is frenetic and gives the book a lot of edginess. Backtrack #1 is an intriguing first issue that sets up a lot of moving parts for what could be a fascinating series.

Backtrack #1 is available February 5.