ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘My Riot’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

My Riot

My Riot, a love letter to the Riot Grrrl movement and the DIY scene, is published by Oni Press, written by Rick Spears, with art and colors by Emmett Helen.

Valerie Simmons is seventeen years old, coming of age and coming to terms with what she wants from life versus what her parents want for her life. She’s falling out of love with ballet and falling in love with the local punk music scene, making and breaking relationships along the way.

My Riot deals with heavy issues including body shaming and eating disorders as Val is asked by her ballet instructor to lose weight to stay with the company.  Suddenly, ballet isn’t an escape from the pressures of daily life; it becomes another restriction, another way Val feels not enough. Because of this, she begins obsessively worrying about what she eats, restricting her calorie intake, purging, and takes up smoking to suppress her appetite; anything to make herself weigh less and to fit neatly into the expectations created for her.

But when a riot incited by police violence rocks her community, Val’s world opens up and she realizes that life is dangerous, and she wants nothing more than to experience more of what it has to offer. Val’s friend Kat introduces her to the city’s local DIY punk scene and changes her life. Val finds beauty in the chaos and meaning in the music. This drives her to team up with Kat and their mutual friend Rudie to create their own band, The Proper Ladies.

As part of The Proper Ladies, Val embraces her body and sexuality and finds her voice. She learns that it’s not about being the best musician ever, it’s about the music you make and the message you send. And as her band life starts to collide with her ballet life, she realizes what truly matters to her.

Spears writes Val as a multidimensional character and this contributes to how My Riot feels so raw and real. Val is messy. She’s angry, she’s passionate. She fights, she loves, she screams, she cries. Like any of us, she’s not always likable and she messes up a lot. Spears doesn’t shy away from writing the highs and lows that make up the transition from the teen years into young adulthood.

Val holds her arm out and writes the word "slut" with lipstick

The art in My Riot comes to life when Val is on stage. Helen captures the unbridled chaos of the scene, without the pages being overcrowded, and shows how Val comes to life while she’s performing. Before she discovers her place in music, Val tries her best to be unassuming, to look exactly like her parents (and her ballet instructor), want her too. But as she starts performing in The Proper Ladies, she transforms.

Helen shows Val’s transformation in multiple ways. Val chops off her hair, bleaches a streak in it, and begins to dress the way she wants. More than just style changes, Helen begins to draw Val taking up more space in the narrative. She’s no longer afraid and no longer diminishing herself; she’s upfront, loud, and unapologetic.

Helen is also the colorist for My Riot and the way they make use of color to support the narrative is clever. They use color to distinguish the different aspects of Val’s life. Val’s home and ballet life are colored with warm tones, a sharp contrast to the cool tones used for Val’s life in the music scene. But as Val grows and begins to intertwine the different aspects of her life, the colors reflect this change with blues and reds combining to create purple.

My Riot is the story of one girl’s coming of age in the DIY music scene, and her journey to self-acceptance. This is the perfect story for anyone that loves reading about the Riot Grrrl movement, and anyone fighting to find their voice.

My Riot will be available on September 8th, 2020 wherever comics are sold.

My Riot
4

TL;DR

My Riot is the story of one girl’s coming of age in the DIY music scene, and her journey to self-acceptance. This is the perfect story for anyone that loves reading about the Riot Grrrl movement, and anyone fighting to find their voice.