Perennial Pipedream favourite Ryan K. Lindsay (Eternal, Deer Editor, Beautiful Canvas) is back with a unique new series from a new publisher. Joining his work for Black Mask, Dark Horse and Heavy Metal, Ryan has joined the starting grid over at Mad Cave Studios, along with Emanuele Parascandolo, Michele Monte, Joamette Gill, for the first issue of Speed Republic, a comic about a cross continent race with a difference. But can this new comic find pole position or will it find itself stuck in the pits?
Set in a future where Europe is united under an Autocratic Ruler, Speed Republic tells the story of Sebastian Valencia, a young man who, like many others of the poor masses subjugated under this tyrant, enters a yearly cross continent race where the winner is given the opportunity to change their life entirely. However, with every racer on the road looking for that same reward, and even a few hired by the ‘Autocrat’ to sow chaos and produce excitement for those watching, Sebastian faces some major bumps in the road in his hope to cross the finish line first, if he reaches there at all. However, when a mysterious driver is revealed to be someone from Seb’s past, he begins to wonder what will be the bigger wreck by the end; his car or him?
Ryan K. Lindsay has produced a highly intriguing story, one where the premise bears similarity to Cannonball Run but filtered through dystopian concepts such as Deathrace, the Purge, Rollerball and even Ready Player One (In the sense of Proxies, which resemble the loyalty centres/sixers from that story). Indeed, Lindsay has built a backdrop of a very rich and detailed world behind the world, helping to reinforce Seb’s reasons for entering with implied hints of the society he lives in. Truth be told, Speed Republic seems to barely scratch the surface of what Lindsay hints at in the background, with the whole picture have a very contemporary vibe given some circumstances we find ourselves presently. In fact, besides, the pacing which, while solid and consistent feels too laid back for such an important race, the backstory feels incredibly glossed over. Who exactly is the autocrat? How did he take power? How did Seb get Into the race if he (and everyone else) is so poor? Where did he get his car from? These questions and more make up my personal queries on the world and give me the impression that a whole ‘issue 0’ intro issue could have been created to make the story more immersive.
As for the art, Emanuele Parascandolo and Michele Monte have provided incredible work to this issue as it gives every page a truly beautiful look that bares a real similarity to Parenthood (which, coincidentally, is a prior Lindsay comic that contains a speeding car sequence). That said, while Parascandolo’s pencils are such a great and solid job, what makes this so gorgeous is Monte’s colours. This is because, while the story has such a dystopian vibe behind the scenes, the bright, optimistic colours seems to subvert that cliche. This feels like a unique take as it gives the impression that while the society may be crumbling, the world itself isn’t going with it.
Speed Republic has taken a tentative lead by the end of its first lap as Lindsay, Parascandolo and their pit crew construct an highly interesting and visually striking issue. While it has missed a few gears in places, there is certainly enough pace to let it build up speed and, hopefully, help it cross the finish line in the lead by some distance. Regardless, I’ll certainly be there to see that chequered flag.