Comic Review: The Joyners in 3D

The Joyners in 3D
Story by R.J. Ryan
Art by David Marquez
Archaia Entertainment
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Cover Price: $29.95

To his colleagues and devoted followers, George Joyner is a brilliant inventor with bold, innovative ideas that could revolutionize the way we travel and change the world as we know it. But to his long-suffering family he is a mercurial figure, an aloof father figure and distant husband unable to establish any genuine emotional bond with the loved ones once crucial to his public relations-friendly image as a wonderful family man.

As his billionaire employer Quattrone prepares to launch his latest top secret invention – a creation that the company’s rivals would pay handsomely and break every law in the book to get their grimy hands on – George finds his family slowly breaking away from him. His estranged wife Sonya wants to take her terminally ill father David to see a renowned (and expensive) Indian medicine man at Yellowstone National Park in the hope that his life can be saved, while his son Rochester maintains a brave and calm front in the face of his family’s complete disentegration. The only person who has not given up on George yet is his autistic daughter Michelle. When Sonya and Rochester leave to take David on what could be his final trip George begins a relationship with Michelle’s longtime behavior counselor Jamie. His attempts to salvage what remains of his personal life will result in greater consequences than he could have ever imagined.

The interesting part of this story is that it all takes place in the optimistic world of the year 2062, where most of America’s land has been declared uninhabitable and its citizens have deserted the surface to find their destiny in the pristine, infinite beauty of the skies and stars humanity once took for granted. R.J. Ryan (Syndrome) and David Marquez‘s (Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man) epic creator-owned graphic novel The Joyners in 3D posits a possible future dominated by sleek imagery and magnificent scientific advancements, but the people at the center of this fantastic universe are as haunted and screwed-up as most of us are considered to be in the now. Ryan’s complex characterizations work hand-in-hand with Marquez’s stylish artwork reminiscent of the great Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) and Scott Pilgrim‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley. The flawed, emotional characters and dazzling futuristic landscapes are brought to life in red and blue anaglyph 3D that adds immeasurable depth to a story already rife with fully-rounded individuals populating an unlimited realm of possibilities (two pairs of 3D glasses are included with each copy of the book).

There isn’t much action in The Joyners; most of the scenes are intimate conversations drawn in very bold cinematic visuals to bring out every nuance and emotion in the characters. Sometimes they speak exactly what is on their minds, but occasionally you have to read between the lines to scope out a character’s potential hidden agenda. George Joyner is a particularly fascinating man who gets the lion’s share of the story to develop into someone we want to empathize with even as he takes desperate measures to protect his legacy and the financial security of his family. He claims several times during the story to have killed a man for that very reason, but is he telling the truth or concocting a damnable falsehood designed to instill fear in those he believes are capable of betraying him? Without spoiling the later developments in the plot I can say that by the time The Joyners in 3D we discover just how far George is willing to go in retaliation against the traitors in his life. His actions may seem reprehensible to the righteous, but they also cause us to question whether or not he did the right thing in the end. The answer depends on the perspective of the reader.

George’s wife Sonya is a person who doesn’t inspire much sympathy from the reader until later in the story. As The Joyners begins, she comes across as a cold, loveless woman interested in little more than living a life of material privilege and draining her seemingly faithful husband of his money and livelihood. But she soon develops into an independent woman who regrets that she wasted the best years of her life on a man who made it clear long before they married that he would never prioritize his family over his work with Quattrone and now only wants to use what she has gained from her marriage to George Joyner to help save her beloved father from a slow, agonizing demise. The children, Rochester and Michelle, are given less time than their parents to be fleshed out into three-dimensional human beings, but even with their limited exposure the younger Joyners manage to make an impact as the members of the family with the most to lose when all is said and done. Sonya’s father David, a dying old man with a robotic arm that replaced his real arm following a near-fatal auto accident and is now slowly poisoning his body, is also revealed through honest dialogue to be more cognizant of his dilemma than one might think.

The book is packed with eye-teasing images that are small wonders for the mind and heart through the subtle use of anaglyph 3D. In the future of The Joyners, humanity works in sprawling skyscrapers and lives in lavish apartment complexes that all float magically above the ruins of the old America. Flying cars crowd the skies in aerial traffic jams. A trip to Yellowstone has Sonya, David, and Rochester being lead on a rapturous adventure by a trained guide who rides atop a giant cloned white tiger. Characters play intense games of one-on-one basketball using belts that grant them the ability to defy gravity. Despite its family-friendly artwork Ryan’s story features mature themes of corporate intrigue, marital infidelity, the careful encroachment of death, and struggling with feelings of alienation and self-loathing within your own family. There are also some vulgar language and implied sexual encounters, in case you were wondering.

Is The Joyners in 3D worth reading? Only if you look for more in your comics than the standard tableaux of superheroes causing massive destruction and civilian casualties in the name of defending justice and democracy. Ryan and Marquez have crafted a unique narrative of the perfect family of the future in soul-shattering disarray, with some marvelous 3D artwork supplying the illustrations. This is one of the darkest character pieces to see publication in comic form and it makes a compelling argument for the medium’s continuing viability as a flawless form of textured storytelling. Nearly four months into the year and without hyperbole, I highly recommend this as one of the best books of 2014.

Trailer: The Joyners in 3D

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