Bubble, the podcast, is an eight-episode single series that takes a satirical look at the gig economy with a blend of dystopian parody and monster fun thrown in. Funny, insightful, and quick witted, it is unfortunate that the podcast only lasted for one season.

Bubble, the graphic novel, brings the podcast to life in graphic form. Telling the story of Morgan and her friends who were kidnapped by “the man,” in this case the megacorp Tandem, from the Brush, a slow nod to the Australian outback, and are raised and now live in Fairhaven, which is under a large geo-dome known as the Bubble.

Life in Fairhaven is much like one we know now: people have jobs, go for jogs, go to Starbucks, date, love, as well as hangout on social media. Life seems to mirror one we know in the here and now except for one tantalizing thing: there are monsters from the Brush who stalk, maim, or kill the citizens of Fairhaven. The Bubble is to protect Fairhaven from these attacks, but as the attacks begin to increase, Morgan and her friends Annie, Van, and Mitch begin to sense something is not quite right and they need to solve this mystery.

Morgan, our heroine, is an imp slayer who uses the app Huntr to respond and kill monsters as needed. Just like Yelp and Uber, the higher her rating, the more jobs she gets. And she’s tired of killing imps. She wants nothing more than to have a perfectly mundane job doing mundane things. But Morgan knows there is something more afoot and she cannot let it go. It begins when an imp crashes in her apartment and nearly kills her roommate Annie and Annie’s ex, Mitch. The increase of imps, somehow sneaking in through the Bubble, leads Morgan to start questioning her surroundings and purpose.

For nearly 300 pages we follow Morgan, Annie, Mitch, and Van as they track down and battle the lesser baddies (Psychic Earwig and The Hive) only to come across the biggest baddie of them all: Bonnie, the CEO of Tandem. Bonnie was instrumental in bringing Morgan and Van from the Brush into the Bubble and has her own dastardly plans she wants to come to fruition.

The story is fast paced and an obvious poke at gig economy and relationships. It parodies, to an extent, a romcom. There are imps (and worse) to slay, puzzles to solve, and 311 (the band) Easter eggs to decipher. Subplots such as the romance between Morgan and Van, their time as children in the Brush, Morgan working against and then with her dad, Van’s childhood trauma, and Mitch’s wanting to be special combined with Annie’s beer brewing success add to the backdrop. At times, there can be a bit too much going on. Bubble tries really hard to be clever and funny and almost always succeeds, but it also tends to wear the reader down. There are no chapter breaks, as the story is just one long continuous series of arcs, which leads to reading fatigue. Because the language is quick paced and lively, you’re zipping through the novel fairly quickly, but the lack of obvious stopping points can be overwhelming.

The art is what really separates the book from the podcast, and Tony Cliff’s art is magical. You may know him from a wide variety of anthologies and children’s graphic novels which explains the sense of lightness and playfulness in his art. His style is light enough without becoming too serious or bogged down in the story. If his line work were tighter and more controlled, we’d have a wholly different type of story going on.

Natalie Riess did a great job in choosing the palette for the book with soft muted colors that drift towards a watercolor aesthetic. Riess is also fond of a wide shades of pinks and light browns which does not deter from the story but does actually enhance it. While this book is not out and out gory, it is very violent, and the color palette tends to soften the blow just enough to make it a bit more lively and adventurous than if she would have picked harsher tones.

Bubble is definitely for a mature audience and could border on a MA-17 rating for its drug use, language, and overt sexual scenes. But the great thing about Bubble is those scenes are not gratuitous but actually do tie in with the characters, their motivations, and most of all, the plot.  While the book has the same basic storyline as the podcast, meaning curious readers could follow it without listening to the podcast, I also recommend the podcast—it’s a lot of fun and a good earworm for a night or two when you want to be a bit scared in the dark. Since the podcast isn’t available for libraries to purchase, I’d recommend Bubble the graphic novel for adult collections in public libraries.

By Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan
Art by Tony Cliff, Natalie Riess
First Second, 2021
ISBN: 9781250245564

Related media: Podcast to graphic novel adaptation

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Lisa R.

    | She/They

    Reviewer and Content Editor

    Lisa (she/they) is a GenXer about town and can be found at https://linktr.ee/heroineinabook. Her favorite Elizabeth Bennet is Keira Knightly. Lisa is @heroineinabook.

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