'Motor Crush' TPB by Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Heather Danforth/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Motor Crush’ TPB. Art by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Heather Danforth/Image Comics

By Arpad Okay. Motor Crush is a drug. It’s a world. Two worlds. International motorcycle racing held in the most beautiful city under the sun. The champion’s cup is filled with synthetic speed by moonlight. Domino Swift’s life is the sum of both halves of Nova Honda. She’s chained to both. Bound to master a double life.

Day world, celebrity underdog. Swift exudes cool on any set of wheels. Her rep is legit. She’s followed by robot flying catball cameras, signing autographs on streets where she used to be able to just hang out. A true contender. Night world, drug addict. Swift doesn’t need Crush to keep her edge in the World Grand Prix, she needs it to survive. It’s complicated. A binary system — “dirty” or “clean” — doesn’t hold for complex, real-life problems like substance abuse.

Motor Crush isn’t really a “crime” book. It’s more like a superhero comic, only without superpowers. There are, however, criminals everywhere. In Nova Honda, everyone you care about has a secret. Here, being a criminal doesn’t necessarily make you a bad guy. It just makes things complicated.

Swift has to break the rules. Her story is so compelling because her hand is forced — she breaks the law but she chooses to bear the consequences. People are bound to screw up from time to time, and Catball catches all the mistakes. The problem isn’t having flaws; it’s more like crossing those who would use your mistakes against you. Domino owns them. Domino deals with them. Despite her many missteps, she might be a superhero after all.

Interior page from ‘Motor Crush’ Vol. 1. Art by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Heather Danforth/Image Comics

Motor Crush has enough dimension to let you decide for yourself whether Swift is a hero or a villain. You get her story, cosmic warts and all. But those consequences aren’t hers to navigate alone. You get to ride with killer mechanic and glowing pink angel of mercy, Lola Del Carmen. You see into Big Sully’s past, what becoming Swifts’ father has done to his life. Read the stats on Queen Christine. Those who persevere in Motor Crush are characters rich with resilience and endurance.

It’s all rendered with the iconic grace of Babs Tarr, though separating where one member of the creative team’s contributions end and another’s begin in Motor Crush is nigh-impossible. Tarr’s worldly style lands somewhere between BDs, manga, and a Why I Hate Saturn, Love and Rockets upscale indie look. Characters painted larger than life. The cartoonish embodiment of an emotion that never betrays the vibe’s stylish sophistication.

Motor Crush has undeniable cool. The outfits. The vehicles. The weapons. There are as many bikes as there are contestants. Every chapter in the first act has at least one race: snapshot moments of skill and chance, the micro-seconds that make the difference, the details all just so. The assiduously arranged action rendered in perfect portions of simplicity and intricacy, with inspired colors and textures stopping all gaps. The heavy processing on the art lifts the whole book up. Lettering and peerless publication design enliven the experience and break the wall between the reader and the setting. Top-to-bottom hard work from everybody involved. The sweat is visible on this one. Each aspect finely tuned for one. Perfect. Comic.

Image Comics/$9.99

Written by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr.

Artwork by Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr.

Color and Production by Heather Danforth.

Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

Publication Design by Tom Muller.

Edited by Jeanine Schaefer.

‘Motor Crush’ Vol. 1 TPB is in stores June 14.