“Solar punk,” an optimistic, greener version of the steampunk genre, tackles environmental and social issues when envisioning the future. In the future depicted in No One’s Rose, the environmental is the social, as humanity has holed up inside a biodome called The Green Zone, in an attempt to ride out the apocalyptic conditions raging outside. Two white-presenting siblings, Tenn and Seren, are involved with opposing factions within The Green Zone. Is life under protection of the ruling PELU (Post-Environmental-Liberation-Union) as safe as it really seems? How will each of them handle revelations to the contrary?

This self-contained volume collects five issues into a single trade. The first three issues are great at building up The Green Zone as a place full of lore and history, including class tensions and misinformation. Tenn and Seren are bright, observant, and want to help make society the best version of itself. Their methods, however, are polar opposites. Sister Tenn is on the socially stable path of helping a government laboratory research breakthroughs in plant health while brother Seren organizes public demonstrations against the ruling and upper classes. Conspiracies abound, as Tenn’s supervisors recognize her scientific talents as well as unique scapegoat position for their own misdeeds. Meanwhile, Seren’s black boyfriend with the dome’s security force is aiding an approaching coup.

Alberto Alburguerque’s illustrations and Raul Angulo’s colors fill each page with lush scenery. This almost-utopia is full of plants in all modes of life, from the enormous, bio-engineered tree that supports all life in the dome to vegetarian meals to agricultural portrayals. The relatively clean urban life of the upper and lower dome classes contrasts heavily against the dirty, violent outside world of mud, pollution, and lightning storms. The speculative sci-fi nature of the story leads to futuristic props such as multi-legged vehicles, plant-powered breathing masks, and hover carts. Layouts are similarly lush, with plenty of panels and dialogue/monologue bubbles to navigate in some sequences.

What sets No One’s Rose apart from other sci-fi tales about overthrowing a deceptive dystopia is that there are few genuine villains. There are genuine quality of life gaps between the classes, and the dome’s official leadership can be shady, but nobody wants the dome’s residents or its life-sustaining tree to die. The central conflicts are about how the dome can address its shrinking window of opportunity to either invent a new solution or migrate to a new location. An away mission takes characters to an offsite, agrarian town that represents an alternative, more adaptive mode of living. This idea-centric approach means a back half that can feel anticlimactic to anyone expecting a big, conclusive showdown against a clearly coded antagonist. It also means a constructive finale that emphasizes grassroots efforts and community support.

No One’s Rose is one of a kind among sci-fi graphic novels, or at least I haven’t read much else like it. Comics fans don’t often read a story that starts with disruptive protests and leads to conversations about non-human rights and fertilizing techniques. There’s plenty of visual sumptuousness to keep readers following along with all of the ideas presented. Where content matter is concerned, there are four-letter words, some guns and punching, and a bare butt, but they are not the core of the book. I would recommend this series for teens and up.

Additionally, I wrote about the storytelling techniques of the first issue for Comics Bookcase a while back. You can see more about how the book looks and works here.

No One’s Rose
By Zac Thompson and Emily Horn
Art by Alberto Alburquerque
ISBN: 9781939424747
Vault Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Teen Plus (16+)
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Traits: Gay
Related to…: Book to Comic

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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