Depending on what neck of the woods you’re reading this from, Autumn might just be the perfect season for some dystopian, science fiction action! Either way I’m pretty sure it’s October by now, and that can only mean one thing: comics falling from trees, of course! Hallucinogens aside, October is shaping up to be another huge month on the independent circuit, and we are very pleased to bring you this spoiler-free review of the first two chapters of Centralia 2050!
Centralia 2050 was created by Michelle Stanford, who basically does everything. It’s always impressive when we get a book like this where the creator flies solo and handles the responsibilities of an entire team, and Centralia 2050 is so well done that one would assume, as one often does (admit it), that at least three people were behind it. We’ll get more into that later though; for now, let’s see what this book is all about.
Described as a “cyberpunk mystery,” Centralia 2050 takes place in…well…Centralia, a city that has all the cornerstones of a “utopian” (but really dystopian), futuristic society. It’s got the whole “big brother is watching” vibe going on, complete with protesters trying to wake up a distracted, complacent populous while the mysterious Lumico company governs all aspects of Centralian life. Centralia 2050 certainly has an Orwellian feel to it, which is a popular aesthetic for this sort of story, and I personally enjoy that aspect of the book greatly.
The plot involves a girl named Midori who suddenly finds herself displaced in the city of Centralia without explanation. Midori quickly encounters a distressed young girl, and as she follows the girl she is accosted by “seeker bots,” which are nasty, eight legged, spider-looking things that appear to be protecting Lumico’s interests. After Midori lays waste to the seeker bots with a sweet lead pipe she finds in an alley way, she encounters Grey. Grey is your typical, maladjusted young adult who is reluctant in all things, but who also displays moments of empathy when it’s called for. Some of the interactions between Grey and the bubbly-in-comparison Midori are among the best moments Centralia 2050 has to offer. Stanford blends just the right amount of humor throughout to keep the book from feeling too oppressively cold and dismal, which I believe sets it apart from some other dystopian fiction out there.
After finding a letter written by the little girl from earlier (you remember her, right?), Midori and Grey learn that the little girl’s name is Weiss and that she has been missing for two years. To further complicate matters, Weiss’ “missing person” posters are being torn down all over Centralia by what can only be assumed to be agents of Lumico (educated guess by yours truly). This helps to further enrich the plot of Centralia 2050 and introduces another layer of intrigue into the already mystery-heavy story.
Weiss’ letter describes the “Skyline” train station and after a little sleuthing, Midori and Grey (but mostly Grey) surmise an approximate location where Weiss may be hiding, or at the very least, where some more clues to her whereabouts can be found; a train that has been decommissioned for – you guessed it – two years! Now that’s how good mystery fiction is done, friends.
Now in order to keep this review spoiler-free we will refrain from going into any specifics, but I can tell you this: we get a well placed cliff-hanger ending at the close of chapter two, and with all the other mysteries brewing in this book it really creates a great sense of urgency. We need more Centralia 2050, now-ish.
Stanford’s script is very well executed. The aforementioned humorous moments keep the story from being too punishing, and both Midori and Grey are well crafted characters that play well off of each other. All the mysteries surrounding the city of Centralia, Weiss, Midori’s origins and the presumably evil Lumico keep the intrigue train choo-choo-ing along at full steam. All aspects of the story are weaved together effortlessly and nothing ever feels forced or hastily thought through; it all just fits together so well.
Let’s not forget that Stanford also takes on the job of being the artist for Centralia 2050. Not surprisingly, she does a fantastic job in that regard and the artwork is superb. It has an anime-esque feel to it, yet it has its own look that helps to set it apart from many other books that have a similar aesthetic. I think what makes it work is that Stanford doesn’t go full on, over the top on the anime aspect of the art, and that helps to keep Centralia 2050 grounded on some level. You know, despite being a science fiction, cyberpunk mystery comic book. You get the idea.
I can happily recommend Centralia 2050 to most fans of the medium. Of course, if you happen to be a fan of comics and have an unhealthy obsession with all things Orwellian like yours truly, this book is a double whammy. It ticks all the right boxes and does a spectacular job at building interest in the reader. No seriously, when you finish chapter two you’re gonna be all like “but I want more!” You will, just wait.
Centralia 2050 updates every Friday, and can be read here. Of course if you want a print version of the first two chapters, which you do, you’ll have to use your typing skills to dial in the “Internet website address” (I’m a computer wiz, it’s all very complicated) for the official Kickstarter campaign. Or, I could just provide a handy “hyperlink” to the campaign for you. There it is.
What do you think of Centralia 2050? Is it the dystopian future we’ve all been asking for? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!