Webcomics Weekly’s new era continues with a look at Mars Heyward’s “Ride or Die.” How far did they go channeling one of Dominic Toretto’s many aphorisms or perhaps the lyrics to 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa’s “We Own It”
ride or die
Chapter 1 page 000 – ‘Cornu’ page 5
Updates: 13 and 27 of the month
By Mars Heyward
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
America’s obsession with cars is fascinating, at least to me. We practically revere the mode of transportation and have geared our society and cultural genres entirely around it. In the popular imagination, the car is associated with freedom, mobility, vitality – especially in a white bourgeois imagination – but paradoxically represents our vices in the same breath. The car is never static either, modifiable according to the context.
Take the sports car. In the hands of Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious, it is a symbol of power and vitality. In the hands of a father in his forties, it is an inversion, an attempt to project this symbolic meaning but which instead becomes revealing of a lack. In the hands of a hedge fund manager, it’s a meaningless status symbol, a perversion of the car’s promises: to be liberated by the limits of your feet and go far, go fast, and go anytime. .
No matter the price.
Nominated for an Ignatz Award, “Ride or Die” describes itself as “Christina meets ghost rider meets Fast and Furious but more cheerful. We follow Lucky, a 24-year-old self-proclaimed loser who is introduced to us by losing a running race to his friend Kerry’s 2014 Volkswagen Jetta on the way to work. From there, he finds himself embroiled in the world of underground street racing after a fateful encounter with his mother’s broken down secret car and with his former childhood friend – and crush – Vick. Lucky, being a card-carrying member of the Ironic Names Club, also encounters a bunny cult that attempts to kill him. Oh and his car is possessed.
There’s a lot going on there, and “Ride or Die” seems intent on unpacking every featured thread as it goes. At this point in the narrative though – two full chapters of 50 pages each – things are still in the setup phase and we haven’t quite figured out much of the aforementioned underground street racing or haunted car yet. I appreciate a multi-layered story that is candid about the outline of its ongoing narrative complications. You know what you’re getting into, and it gives the creator room to explore them at their leisure. However, I think “Ride or Die” took too much of an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach in its first chapter and we’ve only begun to grow out of the mess it created.
Part of my problem is that when you only post a few pages a week – “Ride or Die” tends to update to 5 pages twice a month – the story can only progress so far, so fast. If there is too much going on initially, there is not enough space to explore them all adequately and impatience sets in on the part of the audience. This can lead to any number of things from the creator, but usually manifests itself in dropped storylines or an extended journey to the real meat of the story.
Heywood decided to focus on the latter. While I appreciate the slow build of one, paying for the opening scene, and two, laying the groundwork for Lucky’s decision to enter the tournament to have an impact, his will-they-don’t-go relationship they not with Vick is complex, and us to understand the dangers of this mysterious infernal vehicle, I would be lying if I said that I did not start to get angry. Now that the pieces are starting to fall into place, however, I’m newly excited, especially about the questions raised by and the comedic potential of the events at the end of Chapter 2.
With all that grunt out of the way, I want to talk about positives. Chapter 2 is definitely an improvement on what was a good but error-filled first chapter. The first few pages alone are worth the price of admission. I love how it depicts Lucky’s last memory of his mother: distorted and repeated like a deteriorating VHS tape, the lettering blurry at first before becoming clear for the most devastating part of the memory. People feel softer, more rounded than the usual very angular and pointed models used by Heywood. The same is true for bubbles. The whole scene is bathed in purple shadows with harsh red outlines that radiate the figures as dissociated embodiments of their anger, grief, and worry.
While this is the most extravagant of colors, the rest of the chapter is no slouch when it comes to the intensity of oranges or reds that accent the mundane colors of the world or the soft lighting it adds when things are calm. . When things get intense, the darkness sinks in, with the other colors appearing like firelight on a dark street, mostly because it’s real, literal fire being the source of these scenes. It works well for angular character designs, emphasizing the sharpness of Heywood’s world.
That’s a good thing, and it’s perfect for a haunted car racing comic.
It’s easy to see why “Ride or Die” is nominated for an Ignatz this year. The characters are well-defined, with recognizable designs and memorable personalities, and the intricacies of the narrative are well-balanced, promising enough development down the road to keep things interesting while revealing what it needs to keep audiences guessing. not feel deceived by the mystery. in the name of mystery. Who or what is the Hellcharger doesn’t matter right now. Same with what’s left of its history and how it all ties into the titular Ride or Die tournament. What matters is that the questions are enticing and propel the narrative forward rather than bogging it down by being explained too soon or letting them fester too long.
Lucky’s dilemma of wanting to strike out on his own, rebel against who his grandfather thinks he is, and follow in his mother’s footsteps without making the same mistakes is a compelling central conflict that Heywood supports, in small and big ways, in the story. He has his own agenda here, and Heywood seemed interested in asking questions about what he’ll give up to fulfill that agenda, as well as what he’ll lose along the way. He’s already made a pact with the shady car that was last seen with his mother before she left Lucky, after all. A car that launched a newly rekindled romance, potential answers to a big loss, and the power and confidence he once lacked to do what he could never do on his own: win a race against the guy from Send Nudes.
The car is the promise of the open road, the freedom to go fast, to go far and to go there anytime.