At a glance, The Battles of Bridget Lee: Invasion of Farfall appears to be another in a long line of post-apocalyptic alien invasion comics, albeit one aimed at younger readers, but to dismiss it as unremarkable wouldn’t be giving it enough credit. There’s something truly charming in Bridget Lee, and arguably something rather important, too, and in that, it manages to surprise. This is a comic I want to see go places.
An alien invasion force called the Marauders have been fighting to eliminate humans for as long as anyone can remember. Mankind’s various nations have long since collapsed, replaced by a trio of color-coded “sectors” which each have a different philosophy of dealing with the Marauder threat. The one constant, it seems, is the push to draft men into military service, resulting in a dearth of men in any non-combat role – and in frequent abandonment of girls to orphanages at an early age. The titular Bridget Lee is the head nurse at the remote outpost, Farfall, principally an orphanage for these disenfranchised girls. But Bridget has a history with the Marauders, and when Farfall’s small community comes under attack, she is the best person to save everyone.
If anything, the main weakness of Bridget Lee is that there doesn’t feel like there’s quite enough of it. That is, of course, a pitfall of being the first book in a presumed series, but even then this first story feels a bit more abbreviated than I’d like. By the end, the characters are well formed enough that I want to see more of them, but other aspects of the world – the Marauders, for instance, or the nature of human civilization outside Farfall itself – feel a little too sketched out to be entirely satisfying. This is, to be fair, a relatively minor complaint, and one I imagine I wouldn’t have if I were in the book’s target audience. There are enough tastes of that larger world to suggest that where Bridget’s story can go is exciting and dangerous.
Bridget Lee is written and illustrated by Ethan Young, an up-and-comer previously known for last year’s Nanjing: The Burning City and the webcomic, Tails, and in both capacities Young succeeds at realizing Bridget Lee’s barren, scrappy world. Young has made no secret that one of the goals of Bridget Lee is to provide strong and compelling characters that represent women, girls, and Asian-Americans in more diverse ways than popular media usually achieves. Though Bridget herself falls squarely into the “woman warrior” trope (with strong allusions to the story of Mulan), Young does not leave the entire task to rest solely on her shoulders; the book has half a dozen female characters who feel immediately fleshed out, and each strong in different ways, from much-beleaguered mechanic Bree to wise, but scrappy, Zhang and several of the young girls at the orphanage. The subtle strength of these characters is sometimes overshadowed a little by a bit of heavy-handed posturing from male characters – one soldier scoffs repeatedly at the very idea that Bridget even knows how to fire a gun, much less really handle herself in a fight – but ultimately that helps to point the spotlight at where the real meat of the characters can do the rest of the work. Like the book itself, Bridget Lee’s characters work in ways that can surprise.
The Battles of Bridget Lee: Invasion of Farfall is absolutely worth checking out for those young readers who have worked their way through The Hunger Games and other sci-fi action/adventures and want to see what comics can offer outside of superheroes, and older readers can also find something to like in the strong cast. This world still has a lot of growing to do, but this book should give you several reasons to want to be along for the ride.