Tim Fielder’s graphic novel Matty’s Rocket would be an innovative, inventive and moving comic no matter what year it was published. In a year when Black Panther has made the term “Afro-futurism” ubiquitous, the book has managed to come out at just the right moment to find a larger audience, but also offer new ways to rethink and redefine the genre. This is a project that Fielder has been working on for years about a young woman growing up in 1920s Mississippi, who moves to France in the 1930s so that she can pilot rocketships.
It’s an amazing book told in a number of styles, from the sepia-toned Mississippi Delta of 1920s to the 1930s, which resemble a recolored silent film, to a 1960s that evokes the comics and science fiction imagery of the era. The book’s real strengths, though, lie not in its imagery, but in its writing. Matty’s Rocket is great fun, but to engage with the book and Retro-Afrofuturism – as Fielder calls his approach in the series – is to be forced to rethink not just the genre and the stories we know, but the world, and the assumptions that underlie them.