Junkwraith is a solidly beautiful cool and emotional story that peers deep into the realms of our connection to items as well as the angst that comes with searching for self and our place in this world. Ellinor Richey’s debut graphic novel is fun for all ages and has a cool but also warm and epic energy that permeates through every page.
In this grand age of consumerism and owning of things, tossing things out, even the things we love, is often quite a simple thing to do for most people. But what if, once we tossed those items away they became junk with a life of their own that come back to haunt us in revenge for their abandonment?
This is the concept that is quite central to the young adult graphic novel Junkwraith from Ellinor Richey. Originally appearing as a serialized webcomic on Webtoon and Tapas, the story has been collected and expanded upon and published by Top Shelf Productions through IDW Publishing. When ice-skating prodigy Florence Sato is overwhelmed by pressure from her parents and peers she throws away her precious skates and accidentally summons a terrifying ghost known as a Junkwraith. In order to stave off this ghost, which seeks to attack the memories of its former owner after cursing them, she and her digital assistant Frank must set off on a grand adventure into the Wastelands and find a way to resolve this issue.
While this series hits a lot of epic adventure science fiction buttons with this plot, there are a ton more things happening that make it an even richer story. Richey touches on the themes of guilt, identity, friendship, loss, consumerism, and the idea that both items and people need a purpose. There is a very thought-provoking exploration of just what sort of relationship we should be having with the things that we love, told through the age-old lens of adventure and fantasy.
Flo’s struggles with trying to find herself and deciding whether the things she loves and pursues, like skating, are desires of her own or things pushed upon her by others is a universal issue that both young adults and adults can relate to. So many people out there tend to dismiss things that are labeled as young adult as simplistic or not for others, but that is just such a close-minded attitude to have. Stories starring youth characters can speak so much to people of any age, and this is one of those stories where that is 100% true.
There is a very whimsical and charming appeal to Richey’s art at first glance, but a deeper exploration showcases so much detail and inventive focuses. There is a specific energy that is on display here that almost perfectly fits this idea of a story about growing up/finding your way. Even reading it in digital format, the way the colors have been done and the almost dull tone to them in a way makes it feel like a lot of old-school comics on paper and that is kind of cool.
In many of the sections, there are some drawn-out bits of the story that somewhat could reflect the original webcomic format, but they work and don’t really slow things down. This is an adventure of an angst-ridden teenager and their programmed to be logical digital sidekick, and that’s the type of journey that isn’t going to be some smooth epic. During those scenes, there is often a lot of attention paid to setting the mood with the different places that they find themselves, which in a way gives the reader a moment to breathe and take everything in.
Overall this debut graphic novel from Richey is a fun and quirky emotional journey that is sure to appeal to various ages.
Junkwraith will be available in print and digitally from Top Shelf Productions on January 19.