Visiting The Swamps Of The Future With B. B. Free #1 From Rivera And Dunlap

by Rachel Bellwoar

Be good or be free? There shouldn’t be any reason b.b. can’t be both, but when b.b.’s father tells her “to be a good girl,” he’s not asking her to be good. He’s telling her to obey him, except b.b.’s catching on and she has friends who have her back, and in b.b. free #1 those friends include an alligator. An awesome, supportive alligator who makes sure b.b. gets home safely and celebrates her wins.

Gabby Rivera’s America (with artist, Joe Quinones) was the first Marvel series I followed monthly. b.b. free marks her long-awaited return to comics (she’s also been on a book tour for her novel, Juliet Takes A Breath) and if you found the positive energy of America Chavez galvanizing, there’s more of that in her creator-owned work.
Joining her on art is Royal Dunlap, whose warm colors add to the energy of the whole. The very first text you encounter in this issue tells you where this story is set – “Buttercup Swamp / Gainesville, Florida / Sember, 2232” – but until b.b. started talking about a plague and Florida not being a whole state anymore, I didn’t realize “2232” meant the year.
b.b.’s dream is to start a radio show with her best friend, Chulita, so (in my complete ignorance of radio) I thought “2232” was a frequency (coincidentally, Urban Dictionary claims “sember” means “best friend” but I’m not sure if that’s a reliable definition). Sember could be slang for September (along with other slang words, like “glitched,” that Rivera introduces from the future) or an example of Rivera prioritizing sound over spelling (like spelling “dude,” “dood”).

Mostly, though, swamps don’t really figure into most people’s visions of the future and what that looks like hasn’t been explored before. A swamp isn’t going to have all the latest technology that a city would, and Dunlap’s future has been through a plague, as well, so the conditions aren’t the same. Sometimes it’s more about upgrading technology than creating something new. b. b.’s headphones, for example, are a wireless telephone that allow her to stay in constant communication with Chulita, creating an interesting challenge for letterer, Jim Campbell, since he’s dealing with two characters who are constantly talking but never in the same room.
That’s the cool part, though, because while Chulita and b.b. are technically long distance (or long distance enough, given they’re living on separate islands) they’ve found a way of bridging that gap and being the little voices in each other’s head, always there when the other needs them. There’s no obstacle that stands a chance against them (another place where Dunlap introduces some cool technology is with Chulita’s supped up wheelchair) but they’re going to need each other. The alligator may not be the danger it first appears, but you feel the colors change and become more confrontational when b.b.’s dad is around, and Dunlap creates a whole menace from the gestures he makes with his glasses.
B. B. Free #1 goes on sale November 6th from Boom! Studios.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: