Title: The Infinite Loop
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Pierrick Colinet
Artist: Elsa Charretier (Flats by Rose Citron)
Cover Artist: Elsa Charretier and Nicolas Bannister
Spoiler Warning! This review talks about the plot of the graphic novel being reviewed. Read at your own risk!
The Infinite Loop is a science fiction story about time travel and its consequences. It’s about love, loss, and alternate timelines. It’s about social change and how to effect it. Having begun life as a French Kickstarter, Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier’s The Infinite Loop found publishers in both Europe and the United States, bringing this charming, moving romance to a wider audience.
The protagonist of The Infinite Loop is Teddy, a time-travelling “anomaly eraser” who works against a terrorist group creating anomalous objects throughout history. If these anomalies aren’t erased, there could be disastrous consequences for the future. When Teddy meets her first human anomaly, she falls in love with the woman and goes on the run with her. She names her new love “Ano” and struggles against her superiors to preserve their romance.
Something that stands out about The Infinite Loop is that it takes a plot typically attributed to heterosexual relationships in fiction and applies it to a homosexual one. It’s a fairly common stock plot for a male protagonist to fall in love with some manner of target or something the rest of society sees as less than human – see any number of movies where a man falls in love with an android or other artificial woman (Blade Runner or Her, for example). Its very concept puts a twist on a heteronormative narrative, and we need more of this in fiction, to the point where it’s no longer exceptional. And while the attraction is immediate, Teddy wants to deny it and briefly overanalyzes her feelings. Early in the story, Teddy thinks in a flowchart about how to confront a tyrannosaurus anomaly. Not only does this visual characterize her, the flowchart format recurs for the rest of The Infinite Loop, but disorganized and even nonsensical. The first time it recurs is the first time she has the urge to kiss Ano, with hexagons of phrases including “Kiss her!”, “Do not kiss her!”, “Error. Error. Error.”, “It’s an anomaly!”, “I am not normal!”, and “Be yourself.”, which are all telling about Teddy’s character and her dynamic with Ano.
Teddy’s conflict in her attraction to Ano is two-fold. First, Teddy feels some level of shame and self-hatred toward her sexuality. She knows she’s a lesbian, but she wants to hide it, presumably because of societal pressures and prejudices that still exist in her future. This is mostly subtextual, but interestingly, forms a pillar for the main themes of the book, which I’ll come back to later. The more explicit conflict is that Ano is an anomaly. Other erasers refer to Ano as “it,” rather than “she,” and are incredibly disgusted that Teddy has entered a sexual relationship with an anomaly. If Teddy’s homosexuality also disgusts them, it’s left unsaid. Until Ano’s appearance, anomalies were primarily inanimate objects, and living things were never human, so they still perceive Ano, who is fully sentient, as just a thing. Though I read this as an indication that Teddy’s self-directed homophobia is informed more by herself than by her society, the metaphor is clear. The title refers to an endless cycle of hate and intolerance, especially toward love between two people of different races or religions, or the same sex. Teddy explains this to her eraser partner Ulysses in the first chapter, using examples of Henry IV’s marriage to Margaret of France, Emmett Till, and Eric Lembembe. The ending suggests the way to break the Infinite Loop is through tolerance, acceptance, and solidarity with victims, a message that anchors the work as a whole.
There’s no slouching on the sci-fi elements, either. The Infinite Loop drops readers in feet-first with hologram communication and terms like “time paradox forgers.” Conversation and items from other time periods establish the existence of time travel, and details are easily layered in, rather than being given through clunky expository monologues. Teddy tells Ano her future society “suppressed darkness a few centuries ago,” and people are “better than happy: safe.” The art really helps sell the science fiction. Charretier uses smooth lines and bright colors that make The Infinite Loop looks like a classic cartoon with a fresh coat of paint. A race between Teddy and Ulysses is represented by a full-page panel that takes place across a time-space-bending no-place that includes a castle, pyramids, skyscrapers, and a curved grid. Concentric circles denote time travel, and anomalies are often accompanied by rectangles that warp reality around them. Charretier’s layouts are astounding. An in-panel blackboard contains panels of its own, and six crookedly-nested panels represent Teddy skidding along the ground. Colinet even manages some interesting lettering tricks, such as voice bubbles shaped like cubes, complete with text that wraps around the exteriors.
I could only find fault with two minor structural elements. Colinet and Charretier compress pacing in the third chapter to show the passage of a few months through small vignettes, but this didn’t entirely work for me. Events in this chapter move along through a countdown to the day Teddy and Ano are found, in a strange state that breezes through long periods at a stretch while also somewhat decompressing the scenes we do see. The fourth chapter, in keeping with the time travel element, jumbles the present with flashback. However, perhaps by design, I found it a little hard to follow, even as I grew accustomed to the abrupt shifts.
That said, The Infinite Loop is a touching love story, well-told by two skilled storytellers. The art is a delight, the science fiction is strong, and the romance is unique. It should appeal to the lover in all of us.