From the stack: Kimmie66

Most of the books DC’s Minx imprint has published to date have felt like drafts to me, one or two serious edits away from seeming really finished. The notable exception is Re-Gifters, one of my favorite books of this year. Now it’s been joined by Aaron Alexovich’s Kimmie66. I’m not saying that it’s a great book, but it at least feels like a completed graphic novel.

First of all, it’s got a proper story, with a beginning, middle and end, and enough sidelines and flourishes to keep it from feeling too mechanical. It never goes off the narrative rails, and it executes its premise with welcome coherence and diligence.

It follows Telly, a 23rd Century, 14-year-old girl who spends most of her time in virtual reality. Lest you think she’s too much of a geek, this is a common, even pervasive pastime in the future. There are niche environments for just about every taste, and Telly favors the goth pastures of Elysium. The pleasures of online escapism are tainted when one of her closest virtual friends, the titular Kimmie, sends Telly a suicide note. So why does Kimmie keep popping up in various virtual neighborhoods?

Alexovich takes good advantage of the vagaries of online friendships as the mystery unfolds. Is Kimmie really dead? Should Telly violate her privacy by trying to match a real person to the avatar? Telly’s investigation is constructed well, and she doesn’t demonstrate any skills or insights that tax credibility.

Not all of it works perfectly. There’s apparently a ban of some sort on frequenting more than one niche community, though I’m never really sure why. Kimmie is never really a vivid presence, so the revelations about her on- and offline lives don’t have as much weight as they seem like they should. The characters generally have distinct voices, but some of the invented future slang is a little clumsy. And there are some weird little things that stand out. (Anyone can sink into an immersive VR environment but they still wash dishes by hand? “Homo” is still a slur 200 years in the future? The work of Patrick Swayze has survived the test of time?)

But it does hang together when all is said and done, and Alexovich is a very talented illustrator. His character designs are particularly appealing, and the virtual landscapes are interesting.

It sounds like I’m damning the book with faint praise, and I have to admit that’s partly true. Noting that a book seems ready for publication isn’t that big of a compliment, and it might not seem particularly noteworthy from another publisher or imprint. But it does seem to buck the trend of the current roster of Minx books, and it’s perfectly competent work on its merits.

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