Being a bit behind can sometimes be a helpful thing. If you are a reader/viewer, then it often allows you to enjoy the entirety of a series at once, such as I did recently with reMIND Volume 1 and 2. And if you are a creator, such as Jason Brubaker, being behind means that the long 15 years that you have put into creating a title have allowed you to make something incredibly alive and enjoyable for your audience.
It is a little hard to separate out Volume 1 and 2 because they really read as one large entity. In many ways the premise is preposterous. Sonja, a do it yourself engineer, lives in a small town. Her father, who has passed away, was famous for seeing a “lizard man” in the water off the coast. One ordinary day Sonja’s cat, Victuals, goes missing. Victuals does not stay lost for long, except when Sonja finds him again, he has actually been implanted with the brain of the would-be-prince of the lizard society of Alizarin Crimson, who needs to return to save his princess and hopefully help his people. And from there the drama begins, with a society of underwater lizard people in peril, out-of-control medical science, and a play for power by a corrupt lizard monarchy.
As I said, preposterous.
However crazy the premise of the story is, it is so well crafted that I became sucked into to the narrative, and quickly went sorting through my stacks of books so that I could continue reading Volume 2 right after I finished Volume 1. Sonja is what Disney princesses wish they could be; tough and smart, a seemingly self taught engineer who creates tech that beyond societies grasps or needs. Victuals, the current cat/former lizard, has a tenacity that makes you want him to succeed. When there is a plot twist in Volume 2 that involves his physical transformation, it is easy to make the jump because he is a fully realized character with his own needs and his own arc, independent of his physical form.
Ambitious stories can often falter on pacing, but reMIND for the most part does an excellent job moving the story along at a pace that is engaging as any contemporary sci-fi action story. If there is a small flaw in the way the books progresses, Volume 2 wanes a bit in momentum, but this does not impact the read to the point of becoming a significant problem. Narratives where societies are in peril often find an easy and predictable outcome, however reMIND does not deliver in a way that is as easy or as neatly compartmentalized as I anticipated, which allowed me to be engaged until the very end. Allowing everyone not to survive is not an easy choice for a creator, but often is very necessary.
The art is beautifully rendered, and the liquid of the underground world seems to flow out of every panel. Especially noteworthy are how Brubaker deals with the light and shadow in the watery depths, with many sections becoming silhouetted shadow play against the delicate color gradients of a water filled world.
Finding comic lineage in works like Tank Girl and The Maxx, where alternate realities, strong women and creature companions occupy the same world, reMIND is a bit more wholesome than its predecessors and would be appropriate for a young teen audience, with themes of friendship, respect, family and spirituality.
reMIND is what the contemporary comic world needs. It is a smart, beautiful printed, well-executed multi-volume title. And most importantly, it is fun. Drawing in part from the hero form of traditional comics and also from the often art focused craft of the indie writer/creator, Brubaker fuses these approaches in a work that is playful, engaging, and intelligent while still being about cats, lizards, princesses and amazing tech.
A previous review by Dale Wilson of reMIND Vol 1 and its transition from being a web comic can be found here.