Symbolic Guerilla is my favorite Infinity 8 so far. I’ve read this one before, but not while going through the series, so I couldn’t really compare. Now, I can. It’s for two obvious reasons: protagonist Patty Stardust is the best agent so far, and Martin Trystram’s art is fascinating.
Unlike the previous stories, there are significant flashback sequences, contrasting Trystram’s Infinity 8 setting and his general sci-fi vibes. But also with very delicate line work. Trystram’s imaginative and enthusiastic but very precise with the lines. His style clashes with the content to encourage the reader to spend more time on the panels, which means experiencing the excellent art more.
And then there’s Patty. She’s living as a Black woman in the far-flung future after the destruction of planet Earth. However, everyone still wants to touch her hair, including the Muppet-like alien influencer she’s babysitting at the beginning of the volume. What also makes Patty unique is it’s not her first appearance in the book; she showed up in the Hitler book. She’s a stage manager for some hippy-dippy performance artist cultists, and they went to join up with Hitler because no one in the future remembers what Hitler did, but then he kills Patty for being Black, revealing the reality of the situation. So Patty’s singular in the series.
Though there is another agent cameo at the end of this volume, so more she’s been singular to this point. And she’s got a whole, real arc because she’s got a supporting cast and a relevant backstory. She’s undercover trying to bust the cult’s business connect; in addition to the state manager gig, she’s dating the cult leader’s son, Peter. It’s not romantic for Patty, just a way to dodge leader Ron’s sexual advances.
When the ship captain and the first officer (who again is flirting, meaning he did sit out the fundamentalist lady) call on her to investigate the space graveyard, she’s busy with the Muppet-y influencer who wants to vlog all about the cult’s next art event. The boyfriend’s tripping and needy, so it’s a terrible time for her to have to go off ship.
Especially when it turns out the cult leader has chipped his entourage so he can track them at all times. Patty’s worried about getting busted for being an undercover agent—going to the space graveyard is the first time she’s broken cover in five years—but it turns out to be much, much worse because Ron realizes they’re stopped and in a bitching space graveyard. It’s the perfect location for their next show.
Writers Lewis Trondheim and Kris do a great job with Patty, the first agent with this kind of stakes and agency. Of the three previous, two have been keeping secrets and unreliable, and one was just living an action-adventure. Since the cult’s all very sixties retro, it’s a suspense comedy sci-fi action story. It’s wild. And the writing’s not just good on Patty; Ron goes from being a petty annoyance to profoundly dangerous.
Patty’s also got the flashbacks thing going on. She’s haunted by her past as an agent, the aforementioned trip away from the ship, and that character development gets wrapped into this time-bending mission to explore a space graveyard. While Trondheim and Kris don’t offer any more tidbits about Earth’s destruction, they get into the bigger ground situation. Building off the last arc’s history lesson, Patty makes an otherwise unknowable historical discovery while exploring; the script weaves it into her character arc. It’s so cool.
Symbolic Guerilla ends the first half of Infinity 8 on its highest point. I imagine there will be better stories, but I’m not sure I’ll ever dig anyone’s art as much as Trystram’s. Looking at it is just so much fun.
But it also occurs to me, having now read the first half in sequence, Trondheim and Kris haven’t revealed anything about where Infinity 8 is going, not in terms of plot details or narrative. There are going to be four more volumes, four more agents, and four more timelines, but the possibilities are….