The first time I was introduced to Tyson Hesse’s work was through his webcomic Boxer Hockey, which involves an extremely unusual fictional sport that Hesse manages to make seem as normal as baseball. He has since worked on well-known franchises like Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, but I’m happy to see him put his creativity and world-building into an original story again. In Diesel: Ignition, Hesse crafts a visually stunning world comprised of floating communities above the clouds and desolate wastelands below. It’s a world whose history is shaped by a war between the kingdoms of Gass and Teppa. Gass managed to win the war through the use of a biological weapon which, over time, caused Teppa’s bird-like citizens to lose their ability to fly. This devastating loss is at the center of the mysteries that our hero, Dee, must unravel.

Diandra “Dee” Diesel isn’t particularly responsible, but is eager to become The Boss of Peacetowne, her late father’s floating city. She is especially looking forward to getting to tell everyone—especially the very responsible and serious Cap Wells—what to do. Along for the ride is Rickets, Dee’s cute robot companion. What Dee lacks in practical boss-like skills she makes up for in gusto and instinct. When Peacetowne accidentally comes across a test flight by engine-wearing Teppan, those instincts kick in. After discovering her ability to create sparks can also turn on an engine dropped by the Teppan, she straddles it like a sheriff hopping on a horse, and rides off to protect the town without an inkling of a plan. This decision sets off an adventure that takes her down to the wastelands and back again, reunites her with long-lost family, and throws her in the wake of the Teppan’s plan for revenge, a plan that centers around her father.

Diesel: Ignition‘s post war setting gives it the potential to be a very serious and weighty story, but it is balanced by humor throughout. Dee’s relationship with Rickets offers more than one amusing moment, as do her relationship with her guarded brother Bull—a citizen of the wastelands—and her naivete when exploring the streets of the Gassonian capital. These moments cut the tension and allow the reader to just enjoy our hero’s personality. The design of the Teppan birdfolk also offers opportunity for some humor by leaning toward a goofy design of awkward, lumbering bodies reminiscent of Beaky Buzzard.

Hesse’s art really shines in this book. The world of Diesel: Ignition is well fleshed out and gorgeous; each ship and town has its own distinct look and personality. The contrast of the light colors above the clouds and the dark colors of the wastelands serve as clear visuals of how the war affected the “winners” and the “losers”. The characters are all expressive, and there is more than one occasion where a slight change in expression speaks volumes or serves as a successful punchline. A particular strength of this book is the pacing which gives it an animated feel. A set of pages where Rickets is protecting Dee’s engine could easily be a standalone animated short, and this animated quality comes up time and time again with creative uses of framing and focus.

Diesel is a coming of age tale in the truest sense of the word, taking us along Dee’s journey to discover how special she really is. In many ways this story fits in well with the likes of animated series like Adventure Time and Steven Universe. It weaves together emotion, adventure, and humor that’s perfect for preteens—and everyone else—who enjoy similar series. This volume is a strong introduction to the world Hesse has created, with a fun, relatable hero and a ragtag bunch of companions readers will be rooting for. It’s sure to leave borrowers eager for the next chapter.

Tyson Hesse’s Diesel: Ignition
by Tyson Hesse
ISBN: 9781608869077
Boom! Box, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8+

  • Adriana

    Past Reviewer

    Adriana graduated with a BFA in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College, and an MLS from the University of Maryland. She’s been working as a library and research professional in the Washington, D.C. area ever since. Being a sucker for mini-comics makes the Small Press Expo one of her favorite times of year. For two years she served as a volunteer at the Library of Congress where she processed the SPX Mini-Comics Collection. Her tattoo collection isn’t growing as quickly as she’d like, but it’s an enjoyable task nonetheless. Like many people who grew up in the ‘90s, she loves Sailor Moon, and aspires to be a powerful magical girl. Or a professional wrestler. Either one would be great. In the mean time, she chronicles her attempts to get through her Netflix queue at To the Queue!

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!