I’m always happy to read a comic that begins with an enthusiastic appreciation of women’s penises, but Syncing offers a bit more than just that. An elegant, impulsive erotic scene, two people rushing onto a bare mattress, peeling each other’s clothes off with nervous excitement, is interrupted briefly by an awkward question. After asking to put their mouth on their hookup’s cock, the lithe, dominant figure pauses, and asks shyly “can I call it that?” Ambiguously, the person whose penis has just been taken out replies “uh, sure.” It’s a small moment that nonetheless speaks volumes about life outside the gender binary: our desire to gender each other correctly and affirm one another clashes with the oppressive simplicity of a language long maintained to serve a cissexist world and the reality that one actually can’t ever expect to fully, immediately understand someone else inside out. One learns to embrace uncertainty about the most “basic” concepts of identity just as much as to affirm expressions of transness. Have you ever had lesbian sex with someone who can’t quite say what their gender is?
Queer sex is only one small part of Syncing’s narrative agenda, but that moment could be seen as a coda. This is a comic about a complicated social group in a post-collapse near-future. It is an inhabited, lived-in place and time; people have their dreams, and their relationships have a history. You, the reader, do not have access to any of the context that guides this story in full. No maps or block of text will guide you comfortably through the history of the likely societal collapse or the birth of the communities that exist in its wake. Nobody pauses to tell you their pronouns, or their names, or why they love someone, or why they hate another. Our protagonist, Sparx, the eager and sexually dominant young person from the beginning, either already knows this information or is too shy to ask, gathering what they can from context and snippets of conversation like we do, and misunderstanding situations that are clarified too late.
Syncing is a comic about transformation in a drowned world; people hustling to find connections to their bodies, their community, and the world around them in a post-capitalist future full of possibility yet overrun with decay. Its characters inhabit a neighborhood of diffuse houses that could be Portland, could be a suburb, submerged in deep pools of water that stretch as far as the eye can see. The community is small, reminiscent of a commune, or even a polycule, where everyone knows each other a little. The climate catastrophe has happened, our homes are sinking; maybe beyond this village community lie nothing but toxic jungles and wastelands. Amid this eroded and drowned American landscape, some gays and freaks live on, caring for each other, supporting each other, harassing each other, making awkward glances at each other, peeing on each other consensually, trying to build a better future or at least enjoy the moment in a time seemingly after society’s collapse that still bears the scars of capitalism’s violent sins. While mother nature chokes on humanity’s ruin, a few of her beautiful, androgynous human children remain.
Curiosity about science and narrow hopes for environmental renewal permeate the scene. A group of explorers, led by Donna, a researcher who still remembers when her mother didn’t care about her special interests, navigate the limits of the known waters by canoe, learning about what’s left. Sparx shares that enthusiasm for biodiversity, but unweathered by years remains just as enthusiastic for concerts, casual sex, petty grudges and naïve crushes, and is head over heels infatuated with Brian, a mer-person who has huge boobs and apparently lives underwater. After discovering and cultivating a unique fungus, Sparx’s social world and greater curiosities collide catastrophically, the life spent feeling alive and the life spent investigating a world that could go on living threatening to snuff each other out over one house party gone horribly awry.
Syncing presents an awkward, frustrating and hopeful world, a little worse than our own, but a little happier too. This is an angry, bitter comic, presenting a future where the earth has not recovered from the all-out violence which climate criminals have perpetrated upon her and even the liberated survivors of humanity still carry the awkward aches and seething pains of generational trauma. Still, an overwhelming kindness shines through. The potential of queer anarchy pervades these pages and never fades, a future where people look out for each other and everyone gets to be themselves: accepted for their flaws, their passions, their stumbling beauty, their unique strengths and innermost emotions. It’s a wonderful world that we could live in today. It’s a shame that we have to fight for it. Amacher presents her story through charmingly handcrafted cartooning somewhere between the bluntness of a 2000s webcomic and the boldness of a classic underground tract, with approachably stiff figures and minimalistic spaces rendered by a sensual line which becomes more confident and lithe as the series progresses, as if halting the reader to appreciate its dynamism. This is an impressive debut series and I look forward to Amacher’s future work in comics.