I.D. by Emma Rios

ID BY EMMA RIOS comic, fantasy, science fiction book reviewsEmma Rios’ I.D. is a graphic story with a good premise, and some flashes of excellent artwork, but overall the illustration style didn’t work for me, while the characters and plot weren’t developed enough for my liking.

It begins with a trio of seemingly mismatched people conversing in a coffeeshop, and one of those aforementioned flashes of brilliance come via the page after we see a pull-back view of the three at their table. The next page is a series of fifteen close up of eyes, fingers, hands, and coffee cups conveying in wonderfully expressive and economic fashion the discomfort these three feel.

It turns out that discomfort comes from the three (Noa, Charlotte, Mike) being newly met thanks to all of them contemplating a full body transplant for reasons of their own. The work, originally done as several serialized graphics and now collected into a single book, follows the three as they bond over the impending operation, learn the details in a scene set in the medical center, and then post-op as well, all it set in a near-future on a semi-terraformed Mars against a backdrop of class/labor violence, including some that suddenly interrupt their conversation.

emma rios idThe first thing readers will notice is Rios’ use of a red palette throughout. This I’d argue works better in concept than execution. Conceptually it’s a nice connection both to the setting (the red of Mars) and the plot (red being a color so viscerally associated with the body). Execution-wise, I found it muddied the action (though this might have been an issue regardless of the color), sometimes to the point of making it very difficult to tell who was doing what. On the other hand, the use of varied angles of points-of-view was a plus with regard to the artwork.

The story bogs down in some clunky exposition at times. The first conversation feels a little forced, and the scene set in the med center, basically a presentation on the process by the lead scientist, is tech/exposition heavy.

My biggest two issues with I.D., though, were plot and characters. Plot-wise, the story feels thin as it is, but mostly just ends, I thought, far too abruptly. With such a strong premise, Rios had much more room to develop the primary story more fully, as well as the background, which basically just gets dropped and lost in the shuffle. The brevity of I.D. also hurts character development. The characters have some complexity to them, some twists and turns and revelations, but it all happens too fast and is declaimed rather than unfolding.

Thanks to the issues with plot, character, and art therefore, I can’t recommend I.D. But given I.D.’s strong premise and interesting ideas artistically, I plan to check out Rios’ next work regardless.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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