... magnificent ... As with [Walden's previous project,]Spinning, [On a Sunbeam] can be hard to equal in prose the comic’s inviting, spare line work, use of black-and-white, and expressive qualities. (Walden can make one pen stroke on one character’s face equal two pages of dialogue.) ... On a Sunbeam is less like any other American comic, page by page, than it is like a film by Hayao Miyazaki. For Walden, faces and bodies are not types or dummies for action scenes but ways to convey emotion and expression, even as the backdrops—speleological, astronomical, aquatic, or forested—flourish and shine. Walden’s dialogue—never talky, but never too sparse to follow—complements her characters’ body language; it also brings out the feeling of ninth and tenth grade, when every impediment seems like an apocalypse, and every kind word like an angel’s violin ... Like all science-fictional utopias, On a Sunbeam feels imperfect, even (to quote Ursula K. Le Guin) 'ambiguous.' But it also feels magnificent: it’s a world in which many readers would want to live, and a way to envision solutions to real-life problems that seem intractable now.
With On a Sunbeam, Walden has created a science-fiction universe that is about women, queer love, old buildings, and big trees. It may piss off science-fiction purists... The most endearing aspect of On a Sunbeam is the confidence the narrative has in the world it exists within. The fish-shaped spaceship becomes a silent character, its face seemingly straining as it flies. Walden doesn’t create fake scientific-sounding explanations for why the ship is shaped this way—it just is ... Walden creates the intoxicating effect of a universe as mysterious as our real one.
Fans of Walden’s work will be happy and unsurprised to learn that the book lives up to Walden’s reputation ... The book is well over 500 pages, heavy and satisfying to flip through. Walden usually works with limited color palettes, and On A Sunbeam is no exception. Two alternating timelines are washed in blue and purple respectively, with amber yellows and shades of red used to accent both ... The End of Summer and On A Sunbeam share something truly special thanks to Walden’s skill with world-building ... Part of what makes that sense of scale so important for On A Sunbeam is that Walden has removed many of the markers that readers would regularly rely on to understand a setting ... she lets her imagination take flight, sometimes literally ... Walden sinks her characters’ roots deep, building solid foundations for them to stand on ... hopefully there’s many more years to come of her beautiful work.