Runners, with its ‘space-faring smuggler’ setting, sharp dialogue and wide-eyed, devil may care atmosphere, is easy to compare to cult Joss Whedon TV show Firefly. And like Firefly, it remains (at least at the moment) a disappointingly short-lived story, with this first volume promising much that is still yet be delivered, nine years later (a second Runners volume – The Big Snow Job – is available to read on creator Sean Wang’s website, but it’s more or less its own story rather than a straight sequel, keeping the most intriguing loose ends of Bad Goods untied).
However, despite ending on an irritatingly tantalising cliffhanger which remains to be followed up on, this is the kind of funny, fast-paced, good-looking indie comic that deserves attention. It’s as if the best parts of Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and Whedon’s aforementioned show have been combined into a tight, well characterised adventure brimming with personality.
The story follows smuggler Roka Nostaco and his ragtag crew, as they jet around the galaxy doing jobs of questionable legality. One such job requires them to handle live cargo; a young girl with no memory, who is in possession of strange powers she herself doesn’t understand. The girl – given the name ‘Sky’ – is reluctantly brought along by the crew when Roka’s conscience gets in the way of completing the job, and things quickly spiral from there into a chase story involving bounty hunters, spaceship dogfights and lots of smart-mouthed banter.
Wang is a talented writer, creating memorable characters with well-defined personalities, and his dialogue crackles with quick wit. His distinctively cartoonish black and white artwork lovingly renders a world which feels carefully formed, and his kinetic style makes for some pacey action sequences. The story may unapologetically refer to tried and tested sci-fi convention, but Wang carries the whole thing along with an ease of flow which makes any derivativeness easy to forgive.
Bad Goods will offer few surprises for sci-fi fans, but it’s served by a thoroughly thought-out, richly drawn setting and likeable characters. It’s also just great fun, never taking itself too seriously and guided by an old-fashioned sense of adventure which is instantly enjoyable. Now here’s hoping volume 3 is on its way…