Motor Girl #10
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studios
Price: $3.99 US
Any week that brings a new Terry Moore comic book into my life is a good one. I’d usually say Moore never disappoints with anything he offers up to his readers, but when I scanned of the cover of this issue of Motor Girl, I encountered disappointment. A small blurb, right under the issue number, cast a pall over me: “Final Issue!” Final issue? Final issue?!? Damn. Fortunately, that’s the only let-down about this concluding chapter of a weird but ultimately grounded and even important work. On the surface, Motor Girl seems like one of the goofier titles Moore has crafted, all on his own, but as we’ve seen in previous issues and as is proven with this conclusion, Motor Girl really isn’t about an imaginary ape pal, cute alien invasions or the cartoonish villainy of a megalomaniacal millionaire. Instead, it’s about the scars inflicted all too often on people who serve, and fortunately, also about the resilience of the human mind and spirit.
A full-scale alien invasion appears to be underway, as the skies over Libby’s junkyard, and a defiant Lewis Walden dares the otherworldly ships to come at him — which they do. It’s all too much to believe… which may be the reality of the situation. As Sam watches the impossible unfold with a bemused detachment, Mike, her primate pal whom nobody else can see, tells her something that truly frightens her: that their time must come to an end so that she can live.
Moore is a skilled cartoonist, and he knows when to exaggerate figures to achieve key effects, especially when it comes to more comical, ludicrous moments. There’s also a cuteness to some of his figures – notably the aliens here and the elderly Libby. Ultimately, what’s always impressed me about Moore’s artwork has been the soft realism of his main characters. Sam looks and moves like a real person, always, and while she’s certainly an attractive character, Moore never sexualizes her. Clothing drapes on the figures’ forms realistically. The creator uses black-and-white, two-dimensional lines to bring his story to life, but it’s always genuine and real and convincing. This issue is no exception. The desert setting makes Moore’s job easier, as backgrounds aren’t in big demand, but the nature of the story lends itself logically to the sparse backdrop.
It might have been Moore’s intention to leave the notion of Mike, the aliens and the other more incredible aspects of the story open to interpretation. Were they real? Was it all a part of Sam’s combat injury? Is it all something her mind concocted to enable her to survive psychologically and emotionally? The way things are presented in this final chapter make it pretty clear the former notion isn’t a possibility. However, the latter two options may both be “true” in the context of this fiction.
It really doesn’t matter what’s ultimately “true” from Moore’s perspective. The real “ultimate truth” is how this entertaining collective of unlikely and unusual characters was assembled to delve into post-traumatic stress and other operational stress injuries that are so common among servicemen, servicewomen and first responders. Sam was so frequently defined by how badass she is, how skilled she is, how quirky she is, but as is so often the case, what’s really defining her and driving her throughout this series is her determination to hide her vulnerability. The unseen Mike enables her to do so, but to survive and thrive in the long term, she needs to let him go. It’s interesting how Mike ends up representing both some of her strength but also her own fears. Mike protects her from pain, but he’s also a manifestation of a threat to her life. He’s been an impressive and amusing figure throughout the series, but it should come as no surprise, as he’s an extension of the most impressive and interesting player in the drama that’s unfolded in Motor Girl from the start.
The main reason I was so shocked to discover this was the final issue was because Moore’s previous works have all been much longer and larger in scope. Strangers in Paradise, ran for 124 or so issues. Echo saw 36 issues, while Rachel Rising clocked in at 42. A 10-issue run is minuscule in comparison, but one could argue Moore has been paring down his approach to storytelling since he “completed” SiP. Of course, he doesn’t appear to be finished with the project that established him as an industry icon of self-publishing, as a return to Strangers in Paradise is promised for January in the back of this comic book. I’ll definitely check it out, but at the same time, I’m a little disappointed he won’t be crafting a new cast of characters and exploring a new genre. 8/10