Space Trash: Vol. 1 hails from Jenn Woodall and tells the story of three kids – Stab, Yuki and Una – as they visit abstract locations while attending high school on the moon. It’s a fascinating premise that is full of promise with the three students discovering something that could change the course of their future forever.
As a Mass Effect fan, I’ve often wondered how cool it would be to play as Commander Shepherd before they become the legend. Given that players can pick from three distinct backstories, a prequel taking us through each background would’ve been most welcome. So the highest compliment I can pay Space Trash is that it feels like that idea came to life. Introducing Stab, Yuki, and Una amidst some colorful supporting characters isn’t a novel choice, as they might as well be this novel’s Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but making all three of them come from underprivileged communities is a really good choice by Woodall because it allows for the eventual friendship forged to actually mean something. There’s trauma that these three have experienced, and it has made them who they are. It also will have an impact on who they become, and I’m really excited to see what surprising ways that unfolds.
Another cool thing the author does is to set the school the children attend in the backdrop of an Earth that has been abandoned. While this all-too-quick read doesn’t give us a lot of insight into this abandoned Earth, it does give us just enough in terms of what the planet meant to these characters for the loss to be felt. There’s also this feeling that they will try to return at some point, and that feeling does cloud the proceedings a bit as it feels like more set-up is needed for that to truly mean something. What the novel does set up better is the complex system that these children are living under: a mix of Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this dynamic makes sense considering what happened that led to the creation of it.
All of this set-up comes to life with creative color usage and writing that is top-notch. However, having 2091 look like 1980 didn’t really help set the story apart. You can’t sell a futuristic story and then not really set it in the future, and choosing to not do so really takes you out of a well-written story. The story has queer and non-binary characters, which is great for representation, and that’s always a plus. However, the lack of care given to this world made it hard for the characters to feel truly developed — much like the world they inhabited.