Modern comics icon Brian Michael Bendis (Daredevil, Alias) and artist Stephen Byrne team up for Cyberpunk-action hijinks in Joy Operations #1. This opening chapter for Bendis’s Jinxworld imprint at Dark Horse is impeccably drawn and presents some cool ideas, but it’s so harshly overwritten that it’s a labor to enjoy.
“Fifty-five years from now. Joy is an EN·VOI. A special agent of one of the JONANDO TRUST. Trusts are corporate-owned cities that are the centerpiece of modern society. She rights wrongs for the trust. She is excellent. Perfection. Hard on herself. Driven. Almost legendary in some parts. Until one day a voice pops in her head trying to get her to betray everything she has ever believed.”
Writing & Plot
Bendis has decided to contribute to the current wave of Cyberpunk popularity with Joy Operations #1. Our physically augmented, skyscraper-parkouring, power-hungry executive protecting protagonist, Joy, is proof of that on her own. Bendis’s use of made-up in-story words fits the futuristic, corporation-driven setting being built here on the tentpoles of the genre. I can’t really discuss the plot in any capacity, though. This is because Bendis delivers the core in a two-page spread full of painfully obnoxious expository dialogue. In fact, the entire comic is covered in this ridiculous style. It’s like the Whedon-esque quip-filled dialogue that gets meme’d all the time now, but slapped with an MR rating so Bendis can use the F-word ever third line.
What’s so unfortunate about this last point is that there is so much potential in this idea. Bendis writing a street-level Cyberpunk tale rife with action and corporate corruption is a relatively easy sell. He puts some neat ideas on display here, like representing how hacking someone’s brain could look. He also has several great moments of quiet, wordless bliss where he lets Byrne do the storytelling with stunning visual work. These qualities are overshadowed stamped by the unending juvenile internal dialogue that covers every panel. There’s a twist to this naration that could have been interesting – if it wasn’t so damned annoying. Bendis’s writing execution is just so grating that it ruins any momentum this comic could have had.
Joy Operations #1’s saving grace is Stephen Byrne’s outstanding artwork. His crisp, detailed linework and vivid, atmospheric colors make the rest of the comic’s delivery semi-bearable. Joy’s design is relatively par for the course as far as modern Cyberpunk characters go. However, it’s the fluidity that Byrne gives her that makes the character shine. Her facial expressions and graceful combat movements make her exciting to follow and engaging to interface with where the writing fails to do so. Byrne’s flexible, unconventional panel direction has scenes bleed seamlessly from one moment to the next like a gorgeous techo-tapestry. His choice of color is perfect for the story being told here, with neon city lights reflecting in the night sky and off of character’s faces. I would like to see more of the cityscape itself, but I’m sure there’s more of that forthcoming.
Where the script falls short, the visuals convey the experience of this comic beautifully.
Joy Operations #1 is a gorgeously constructed comic from the visual end with a woefully overwritten and obnoxious script. Bendis has some cool ideas scattered about in here, but it’s all marred by how he conducts the narrative voice. Stephen Byrne’s art does a lot of work fixing what the writing gets wrong, but whether that makes this worth your time is up to you. Joy Operations hits shelves on 11/24.