Comic book reviews for b.b. free #1, b.b. free #2, and b.b. free #3 by Gabby Rivera, Royal Dunlap, Kieran Quigley, Sarah Stern, Jeremy Lawson, and Jim Campbell
Average rating: 5/5 stars
b.b. free #1 by Gabby Rivera (creator and writer)
Art: Royal Dunlap (illustrator) and Jim Campbell (letterer)
I wanted more of this immediately. The cliffhanger where you don’t know what happens between b.b. and her father Helos in their home when b.b. uses her newfound powers. Or some kind of magic.
I also wanted more because this world’s still being built. I love that it’s set 200+ years in the future and that b.b. lives in Gainsville, which is now a southern tip of an archipelago that was Florida wrecked by climate change. It shows how human life, and also wildlife have adapted. Perhaps Buttercup will go with b.b. on her upcoming adventure.
The rejection of capitalism, and Rivera imaging a different world is powerful. I cannot wait to see how this plays out, especially considering that scene with the peaches and Helos. This society isn’t egalitarian as b.b.; she’s still hampered by old-fashioned sexism in how her father expects her to act, like a “good girl,” and in her being forced to wear a dress.
Because b.b. is fifteen, I’m sure Rivera will explore both b.b.’s gender expression and her sexuality.
Rivera’s evolution of English and Spanish for this world works so well. The characters’ language is just familiar enough that there’s no need for translation, and the Spanish flowed as well. While I don’t know much Spanish, I was able to figure out all of it, and it looked like there was some further evolution there as well. There’s no way someone 200 years in the future is going to use the same lexicon and syntax as we do today.
Chulita is my favorite character in her joy. It’s powerful to see a disabled person getting along so well in this post-climate disaster world. It’s kind of clear that she has more material resources than b.b. does, and I’m interested to see how that will pan out. I feel like these two have never met face-to-face, but I could be wrong.
I assume Fifteen Free is some kind of Rumspringa in this world.
I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention Dunlap’s art. It’s beautiful and otherworldly but grounded in swampland. The details of this society are so carefully done, and the color washes are gorgeous. If I didn’t also love the story, the art would keep me going on its own.
b.b. free #2 by Gabby Rivera (creator and writer)
Art: Royal Dunlap (illustrator), Kieran Quigley, Sarah Stern, and Jeremy Lawson (colorists), and Jim Campbell (letterer)
I continue to love this story so much. All hearts all over it, and I cannot wait for more adventures of b.b. and Chulita.
So b.b.’s magic on her father made him okay with her going on her Fifteen Free? We’re going to need some more explanation about this. I suppose this is part of the world-building that needs to happen. We’ve seen some technological innovations to adapt to climate, and clearly, Buttercup isn’t a regular gator. But what are these? Did a climate emergency unlock something that wasn’t there previously?
Chulita’s family is the best. I love all of them, and I love how different and what a contrast we see in a home with three parents and one grandparent compared to b.b.’s single dad situation. Chulita’s family is very cooperative and b.b. interprets this as a kind of freedom. When this is very much just a better way to get anyone on board with your mode of family operation, or any idea in any structure that you need buy-in from more than one person. I do hope we see Helos more sympathetically soon.
Quigley, Stern, and Lawson’s colors made issue #2 feel different from the first one. Not necessarily bad, but the world felt different. It seems there’s been a deliberate choice to use a navy blue for shadows and darkness, which gives the night travel a different feeling. (This could also be the consequences of the type of paper it was printed on, which by the way, on my copy, I can still smell the ink.) Except there is a hard black used in the scenes where Helos is by himself, which is a sharp contrast to Chulita’s darkened bedroom in the scene beforehand.
I love that we get another little hint about b.b. perhaps being non-binary.
A map is an excellent addition to any story. Since we already know a climate emergency has changed how the land is shaped, it was nice to see the full picture. The U.S. right now is built of so many different regions, cultures, and climates that being separated by water is sure to bring those differences out in new and even more distinctive ways.
I adore Papa Nestor. As someone with a close relationship with her grandfather (and grandmother), these intergenerational connections in stories always warm my heart. I especially love this because of how much he empowers Chulita to live her dreams, while he understands how inaccessible the world is from his own lived experiences.
Somehow it feels like Chulita and b.b. will run into Helos on this mission to stop the disturbance in the swamp.
b.b. free #3 by Gabby Rivera (creator and writer)
Art: Royal Dunlap (illustrator), Kieran Quigley (colorists), and Jim Campbell (letterer)
I am a bit disappointed that the girls seemingly won’t be on their Fifteen Free trip. I hope we’ll eventually there. I do understand why Chulita feels like she needs to first protect her home, and how this peach A.W.C. men have involved Helos. I do feel better about b.b. dealing with her father when there are other adults around, especially if he’s under some kind of mind control.
Though I can also see Rivera switching the plot from pure mind control after eating peaches to a cult of personality or feudalistic edge lord; I mean, these are the times we’re living in after all.
It was kind of nice to realize that the world wasn’t perfect. That humans hadn’t learned all their hard lessons about environmental damage, and while Chulita and b.b. may live in harmony with their natural surroundings, there are still assholes.
With Quigley back as solo colorist, the colors felt darker than the previous issues. Perhaps we’re supposed to feel more dread in the swamp than we have previously.
I adored Chulita handling herself and announcing herself; she was so perfect. The butterfly-shaped boy puncher was outstanding. And Papa Nestor asking her if she needed assistance was a lovely added touch. He remains my favorite adult, and their grandfather-granddaughter relationship my favorite so far.
I cannot wait to learn more about this photo of b.b. from when she was a baby and also about her powers. Since more people have witnessed them, we’re certainly going to talk about it. Not that Chulita’s parents would let them get away without talking about it.