During DC’s New 52, the monthly Batgirl title underwent a soft reboot following a successful run from Gail Simone, and thus under the creatorship of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr made a highly energetic comic that is fun for the YA readership. What seems initially born out of a single issue from that run in which Barbara Gordon is battling villainous motorcycling-riding twins under the stylish influence of anime/manga, Motor Crush seems to be a creator-owned love letter to that particular Japanese medium.
Writer: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr
Artist: Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr
Publisher: Image Comics
Set in the futuristic racing capital of the world, Nova Honda, which is home to both the prestigious World Grand Prix and the illegal street race The Cannonball, Domino Swift is one of the best racers who is caught between both of them as she not only wins for fame and fortune but also for an engine-boosting "machine narcotic" known as Crush.
As much as there was a lot to enjoy about their take on Batgirl–of which there is an element of restriction as they were tackling an established figure that has to appeal to a certain readership–under the publication of Image, Motor Crush gets to push that energy even further with the occasional swearing and a guy being blown into gory bits after being forced to drink a chemical narcotic.
The first issue excellently establishes the future world that is defined by bike racing, whether it is the shallow celebration of the WGP or the brutal bike wars that happens by night. Considering that the book is aimed a teen plus audience, this sci-fi sports tale is reminiscent to 70s exploitation cinema such as Death Race 2000 and Rollerball and although the story unfolds into territory that is familiar to those who know the genre, the creators have fun with the distinctive bike riders and how they compete to win.
As for the central heroine, Domino is both cool and dangerously flawed as despite her best intentions to win in order to support her father’s garage, she does have an addiction and her stubbornness to win races that are as dangerous as The Cannonball isolates her from her tech genius/ex-girlfriend Lola. Although there is a mystery at the heart of the story with which the creators is playing the long game, in terms of who Domino really is as well as her questionable Crush addiction, it just feels typically melodramatic until the final issue when it becomes significant and concludes on a cliffhanger that leans heavily on the sci-fi angle.
The true stars of this book are artist Babs Tarr and letterer Aditya Bidikar, as both provide a unique presentation to the racing sequences and the general world that the creators have described it as “Neon Pink”. A little less cutesy and more adult in tone than what she has done in Batgirl, Tarr’s art still evokes that love of anime–even the strobing lights from the bikes come from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, whilst the action is fluid and exciting. As for Bidikar’s lettering, a lot of his balloons lean on the futuristic social media element that doesn’t feel intrusive and gives insight into how this world ticks.
Although the narrative occasionally falters, Motor Crush expands on some of the ideas the creators explored in their Batgirl run and has fun with this colorful futuristic bike-centric action book.