I picked up On A Sunbeam on a whim. The back of the book promised an LGBTQ+ sci-fi love story in the form of a beautiful graphic novel. I was instantly sold. I’m nothing if not a sucker for space adventures with a side of unapologetically queer characters, and this book delivered.
On A Sunbeam focuses on a young woman named Mia. She joins a crew that roams the far reaches of space to restore ruins on other planets. With a diverse cast to support her, the story is part space exploration and part slice-of-life as Mia works towards her true objective: She wants to find out what happened to her old flame from boarding school, Grace.
At first, the book hops between the past and the present. The story of how Mia and Grace met is woven around the narrative of Mia’s current-day life. Mia forges new relationships with those around her but can’t seem to let go of Grace, driving herself and the crew into the furthest recesses of the universe to find her. The story is more about the people within it than the plotline itself. I personally find this compelling, but it can lead to some odd pacing throughout.
While the plot itself is straightforward, I’d be remiss to not spend time speaking on Walden’s artwork. I particularly love the way she handles the past vs. present scenes in the beginning of the book. Her linework is messy and dynamic, which can make it hard to tell characters apart at times, but she handles the time skips very well through color. Walden paints the present in shades of maroon while the past is blue. This allows the reader to clearly understand when the storyline shifts. When the two timelines converge to one, the color palette expands to allow for some visually stunning pages.
Walden’s simplicity in her character design is made up for entirely by the energy she spends on backgrounds and scenery. The linework may be scrawling at times, the text handwritten, but the book feels warm as a result. Even scenes meant to convey the vast, emptiness of space are rich and overwhelming. Walden’s visual storytelling is perhaps her strongest selling point.
For me, the book was less of the advertised love story and more of a story about love. It’s about the connections we make with the people around us and how those can have lasting effects long after they’ve come and gone. It’s about rebuilding those connections and bringing past into present and settling regrets. It’s a soothing book and an electrifying read. If you don’t mind plot taking a backseat to characters and you love unique takes on sci-fi aesthetics, I highly recommend this book.
My Score: 9/10
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