Creator: Jackarais (@Jackarais)
Publisher: Hiveworks Comics (@Hiveworks)
WHAT IS IT?
Bicycle Boy is the story of an amnesiac cyborg who must traverse a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape via a squeaky bicycle to discover the reason behind his creation. A rough-and-tumble webcomic with a mixture of fast-paced action, sharply written humor, and gasp-worthy moments.
Think The Road meets Borderlands or Fallout.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When a nameless, memoryless cyborg awakens in the desert surrounded by corpses, he steals a bicycle and wanders off into the unknown in search of answers. After he is ambushed and brought to a settlement called Buffalo, he is given the name Poet and introduced to the cruelty of humanity. The less-than-friendly locals send him fleeing back out into the harsh wilderness, which leads to a chance encounter with an escort named Machk, a man whose job is to find wandering strangers and help bring them to safety.
The duo soon discovers that Poet was created for a higher purpose. A stolen vial of unknown contents and a cryptic letter are the only clues eluding to what this purpose might be. Determined to uncover the truth, Poet and Machk head out into the brutal and unforgiving wastelands in search of a long-since-vanished scientist who may hold the key to unlocking Poet’s lost memories. Bandits, nomads, and perilous terrain threaten to halt their progress and those who know the truth are hellbent on ensuring they never reach their destination. With nothing but sheer determination and bicycles, the unlikely heroes set out, unaware of the impact their journey may have on the human race.
Jackarais’ illustrations are downright breathtaking. Everything from the character designs to the settings and color choices are done with care and painstaking detail. Loaded with rich color palettes, the landscapes and buildings are drawn with care and the characters are illustrated with realistic features and expressions. Each page is its own work of art.
The writing is excellent, both in the overarching narrative and the dialogue. With often sarcastic and quick-witted humor, authentic portrayals of human emotions and conversations, and a phenomenally crafted cast, Jackarais balances his relatable and empathetic characters with a plausible narrative of a not-so-distant future with expert care and precision.
The story is expansive and has an air of mystery to it that continues to pull the reader in page after page without becoming stale or losing traction. The “why” behind Poet’s creation as the core plot point allows for a wonderful hero’s journey that offers enough room for the supporting cast to shine as well.
A special note must be made for continuity in minor details. Small things like tattoo placement, jewelry, and bits of tech are always present. As the characters amass wounds, clothes get tattered, and tech gets adjusted, they are consistently shown in the pages that follow. It shows a level of care for the storytelling and progress of the journey that makes a huge impact.
The color schemes are absolutely stunning and one of the most prominent and eye-catching pieces of this webcomic. Many scenes are given a key color to emphasize the emotion of the moments, oftentimes washing everything in a range of similar colors without details getting lost, leading to a captivating experience that enhances the impact of prominent story points.
The lettering is crisp, easy to read, and the dialogue is perfectly sized for the speech bubbles. The variety in font sizes and shapes help portray the emotion behind what the characters are saying; shaky and uneven font for when they’re weary, abrasive and large for arguments, green and digital for Poet’s interface kicking in, etc. Even text outside of bubbles is legible, with proper placement and coloring to allow them to be read without being overwhelming or lost against the art.
The use of colored, slightly transparent bubbles to showcase conversations in the background is effective in portraying the sense of multiple parties speaking at once. This is a widely used design choice in the comic and it breathes life into the world by allowing its occupants to exist alongside the focal characters.
The use of an amnesiac protagonist to help explain the lore feels natural in this series. Poet’s complete lack of knowledge allows for a logical need to give short bits of world-building that is organic in conversations instead of relying on an exposition dump. You get to explore the setting alongside him as pertinent information reveals itself.
The series is action-packed and full of extensive and explosive fight sequences. The movements are fluid, every punch or stab feels powerful and its impact radiates off of the page. Each action taken moves across the panels with a flow that is logical and has a cinematic energy to it.
The well-rounded cast features a variety of body types, gender identities, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Each character is designed with care and respect for their cultures and ethnicities, as well.
A few pages feature artwork/assistance by other talented creators. Artist Lorsenal assisted with some color flatting work in chapter 8, Forrest Storrs would occasionally assist with the story, and Jackarais’ partner, Umbrulla, assisted with drawing animals (such as the dog in chapters 4-5 and the horses in chapter 8). These additions are seamless and helped make the comic possible.
Utilizing its digital nature, some pieces across the webcomic are actually animated (i.e. a blinking power button on Poet’s chest). It’s a small, yet fun, addition that captures the versatility and opportunities available with this storytelling medium.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Strong violence, gore, and bloodshed, some sexual themes, distressing moments, strong language, and use of tobacco and alcohol.
It is a bit of a slow-burn story and some characters/plot points get introduced early on and then don’t resurface for a while. Some readers who are used to a quicker pacing may find the need to re-read the series for a refresher a bit tedious (it's always recommended to read Jack's notes at the bottom of the page, he's good at putting reminders/reference page numbers there when something is re-introduced).
The first few pages of chapter six have alternating panels that showcase two separate moments in time. It can be a bit unclear at first that we’re witnessing a segment of the past intertwined with the present moment, but it’s easy to pick up once you realize what’s happening by page four.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
A gritty, beautifully illustrated webcomic about the little cyborg who could, Bicycle Boy is a stunning tale of life after disaster strikes. With inspiration taken from games such as Jak 3 and the Borderlands series, and films like I-Robot and No Country for Old Men, the dreary wasteland and rough-and-tumble, Wild West atmosphere creates a vast and addicting tale that currently spans over four hundred pages.
Poet’s often violent and perilous journey is littered with moments of raw humanity and honest emotions, allowing readers to fully invest in his development as a character as he learns about the world around him and forms relationships. The entire cast is charming and the balance of serious moments and chuckle-worthy comedy allows each character to shine. Pages that are overflowing with detail and a story that focuses on the human side of the narrative create a truly captivating webcomic that looks into the unrestricted and wild lives of individuals without the constraints of society as we know it weighing them down. The ongoing mystery that begins at page one unfurls at a consistent and gripping pace that, even four hundred pages in, still has new twists and turns to discover.
Jackarais is currently in the process of remastering the first three chapters for print. With a new page dropping every Friday, this long-running, binge-worthy series is a must-read to add to your regular line-up.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Old Souls by Jackarais
The Pale by Jay and Sanders Fabares
Plume by K. Lynn Smith
If you like the art:
Wavemen by Jackarais, Jonas Goonface, Joel Mercer, and Cory and Robin Childs
Red Light by Jackarais and Forrest Storrs
Cold Sweat by Lorsenal
ABOUT THE CREATOR:
Jackarais is a queer comic book artist from Canada that has created several comics of his own, as well as having illustrated several others alongside writers such as Forrest Storrs and Mokopress.
Bicycle Boy is currently his largest and most time consuming project. It began as a 51k word NaNoWriMo project in 2010. There is an active fanbase with tons of behind the scenes pieces, WIPs, and non-canon pieces related to BB on his Patreon.
A future project entitled Desert Bird, another collaboration with Storss, is his next endeavor. It is a western horror comic about "a cowboy pursuing a scruffy dude across a desert. All the while, both men are harassed by vultures who talk through corpses”.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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