HEARTBREAK QUADRANT by Barrett Stanley
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
HEARTBREAK QUADRANT brings together rambunctious intergalactic heroines, vintage art appeal, and riotous sci-fi high jinks. Pull up your favorite gas-station snack and take a wild ride through Barrett Stanley's comics.
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Barrett Stanley describes his comic HEARTBREAK QUADRANT as “a sci-fi adventure comic where Earth is history, the future is bleak, and snacks are always past their expiration date.” The future may be bleak but that is no problem for the fearless heroines in a comic that is truly out of this world.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT features femme-centric interstellar badassery and celestial artwork. Stanley’s work is similar to Tillie Walden’s ON A SUNBEAM but with a breakneck sci-fi plot to rival STAR WARS or Magdalene Visaggio’s KIM AND KIM. The comic will appeal to fans of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ epic SAGA and THELMA AND LOUISE diehards any day.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT
Image courtesy of Barrett Stanley.

Of Femme Heroes and Villains

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT’s heroines are the space-age dynamic duo the world has been waiting for. Ida and Kumi are antique dealers, of sorts. They specialize in long-lost earth materials for high-rolling buyers. Despite their poor eating habits (diets consisting largely of space junk food), they are equal parts brain and brawn. Ida brilliantly pilots the “repurposed Pol-AI-XYS Control Node,” playfully referred to as the “Red Grapefruit.” Kumi, purple-haired and high-spirited, is a “Blank”:  a bonafide human being. Moreover, she is a space-ninja who wields the adorable yet deadly alien “switchbug” sword.

Kumi and Ida are challenged to bring in a “blank” to the unscrupulous dealer, Ben Bases. Because Kumi is the only homo sapiens sapiens on hand, the two hatch a trojan horse type plot. Despite Kumi’s lackadaisical confidence, Ida is reasonably apprehensive. After the deal goes bad, the two must work together to save their ship and face off with their mysterious enemy.

The intergalactic heroines don’t get off the hook easy. Stanley’s heroines have a suitably formidable antagonist. Nim is cold, ambitious, and on the trail of a missing genetic code. What’s more, the cyborg opponent has a deadly taste for vengeance.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT
Image courtesy of Barrett Stanley.

Not only does Nim subvert the authority of Ben Bases’ flight crew, she has no qualms about killing if the ends justify the means. Nim is cutthroat, and her true agenda is as covert as it is dangerous. Nim is a super cyborg that would give any BLADE RUNNER a run for their money.

Whether you stand with Ida and Kumi or Nim, Stanley’s female leads will steal your heart. Ida and Kumi’s homoerotic (if not totally queer) relationship gives HEARTBREAK QUADRANT the potential of being the queer space comic the world needs.

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Escher Girls and Vintage Sci-Fi

Stanley’s line drawing style is captivating. Each character design conveys deep emotion and unique personality. Yet, Stanley’s illustrations come close to falling into the Escher Girls trap, with images of women’s bodies in bizarre or sexualized contortions. Although HEARTBREAK QUADRANT occasionally bears witness to a body that defies anatomical reality, the female leads are powerful and independent. Interestingly, Stanley’s women have uncannily similar faces. Because Stanley is crafting a cyborg future, it is possible that Kumi’s human face is adopted by non-humans such as Nim. However, distinctions other than hair color might strengthen the piece. Ultimately, HEARTBREAK QUADRANT does not otherwise rely on topes seen in typically male-centric sci-fi. Ida, Kumi, and Nim dominate the text, easily passing the Bechdel Test. The women, cyborg and human alike, demonstrate autonomy and superhuman heroics. Ida and Kumi’s capable and confident approach to space adventure would make Princess Leia proud.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT
Image courtesy of Barrett Stanley.

Cardiovascular Exercise

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT’s breakneck story alone will make your heart race and Stanley’s meticulous line-drawing is mind-bending. The starry colors are muted. As a result, the comic has a vintage aesthetic that is appropriate for the narrative in which vintage artifacts are prized trade objects. Similar to past vintage comics, each character has trademark colors. For example, Ida’s is grapefruit pink, Kumi’s pale purple and bright green, and Nim’s blood red. The colors set the tone for each scene and announce the focal character. The disgusting bubblegum pink nanoplasma that threatens to engulf all it touches is particularly evocative of trauma, resembling the “pink slime” that is often a fast-food byproduct.

Although not as visually stimulating as SAGA, HEARTBREAK QUADRANT nevertheless demands full attention. The comic’s frames are erratic. They break into each other, optimizing the effect of the intense fight scenes. Body parts are frequently chopped off both in the context of the story and in between frames. Although violence is part of the story, HEARTBREAK QUADRANT is not gory. Indeed, the comic often includes prankster details (such as Kumi giving Nim an outrageous “wet willy”). 

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The Future Has Slushees?

Stanley hints at mysterious and power-hungry institutions in PHASE ONE and PHASE TWO of the comic. The first two issues consist of whirlwind universe building and fantastic character debuts.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT
Image courtesy of Barrett Stanley.

HEARTBREAK QUADRANT suggests a future filled with service station foods (yes, the future has slushees!) and troubled intergalactic alliances. Readers will find that in Stanley’s future, language has changed. Because Stanley loads HEARTBREAK QUADRANT with strange terms like “skiff,” “rigid,” “blank,” the comic may be confusing at first. Nevertheless, the creative use of language results in lively dialog. Additionally, linguistic tics make for particularly wonderful characterization in PHASE TWO.

Final Thoughts: What’s In Store for HEARTBREAK QUADRANT?

HEARTBREAK QUANDRANT’s meticulous artwork, fast-paced storytelling, and lovable characters create a humor and adventure-filled sci-fi comic. Readers will fall in love with Ida and Kumi and will crave more of Stanley’s fabulous comic.

Luckily, there is still time to support HEARTBREAK QUADRANT. PHASE ONE of HEARTBREAK QUADRANT was successfully published with the help of sharp-eyed and discerning comics fans in 2015. PHASE TWO is now available through Stanley’s Kickstarter, closing December 18th. Patrons can support HEARTBREAK QUADRANT for as little as $3. But, fans will love the bonus rewards for more generous pledges. Movie posters, hand-drawn character sketches, and/or signed prints could all be yours. Start your own collection of Stanley’s art and help ensure that the future is not so bleak by supporting HEARTBREAK QUADRANT. 

Want to see more of this comic? You can support the HEARTBREAK QUADRANT: PHASE TWO Kickstarter here!

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