Writer: Dan Whitehead Art: Conor Boyle Publisher: U.K. Comics Creative
This review covers the first 3 issues in the series. We don't get a whole peek into the entire story arc, so it's hard to tell this early on what the rest of the series has in store for us, and this review may look a little different from the regular Friday ones that cover entire volumes.
WHAT IS IT?
A '80s British coming-of-age story about art, computer games and the magic and mysticism at the intersection of these things.
It's kind of like Mr. Robot meets The Magicians, with a smaller cast and more British.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
David is a computer programmer. He's kind of a loner, single, and lives with his mother. His life may be a little dull, but not painfully so, and he certainly never wanted to get a weird spell cast on him by a cassette that may be tied to an old video game programmer friend of his who mysteriously disappeared a year ago.
But now that his life has blown up and he's seeing sights both strange and terrifying, he has no choice but to follow those who can help him uncover the mystery of the tape and his missing friend. And, along the way, these strange bedfellows will teach him to use his computer coding abilities to cast magical spells. But will it be enough to keep him safe and get his life back to normal?
The main character and the story setup feel pulled straight out of those classic stories where a boring life turns extraordinary and fantastic when magic and danger are introduced to the protagonist
It's video games, magic and the '80s -- you know this is going to be amazing
The world-building and overall mystery are compelling and fun -- you can't help but want to read more and more
The magic is grounded in art and science and logic, making it feel like a real and tangible thing
Like similar media, the idea that any mundane person can become extraordinary really helps set the hook for readers who may feel normal, ordinary and unmagical
Whitehead has a passion for and knowledge of video games that really helps bring this story to life
This concept feels ready to be made into a TV show...one that I would love to watch!
Jim Campbell does great lettering work, and I'm starting to see him in more and more comics these days
Boyle's art style is versatile and can go from fantastical to terrifying, and often uses odd angles to build a sense of discomfort and strangeness that really works for this title
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There's no color in the comic and, while it isn't totally necessary for this comic, I do feel like an '80s-influenced color palette could be really awesome, especially contrasted against some darker elements of the story
I worry that the greater story could be trying to do too much, connecting protest art, magic, video games and computer programming together while trying to tell one cohesive tale, but it's too soon to tell for sure
Yes, we've seen a lot of these tropes before in past stories, but here, they feel reshuffled and reconnected into some new and fun and different
3 issues in, and it feels like we've barely scratched the surface of the story; while there's a lot of setup to do, this may not be the best for readers not prepared for a slow burn of a story
So far, the only thing making this a "Mature Readers Only" title is the cursing, which feels largely unnecessary
I personally and particularly want more exposition and time dedicated to the magic and spellcasting aspects -- it feels like we haven't gotten enough of it yet
I didn't realize cassette tapes were used for anything other than music, so it being used as a medium for video games and other computery things was confusing at first
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Whitehead, Boyle & Campbell have created a rich world here, a rabbit hole filled with magic and mystery and adventure. All that's left to do is jump in.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Midwinter by Dan Whitehead & PJ Holden
Phonogram, Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Deadline by Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon
If you like the art:
Hex Loader, #4 by Dan Whitehead & Conor Boyle
Hook Jaw, Vol. 1 by Si Spurrier & Conor Boyle
Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson & Nate Bellegarde
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dan Whitehead – Writer
Often writes about, and is inspired by, video games
His background is also in writing about games and writing scripts for them
Has also written 2 official Star Wars books
Conor Boyle – Artist
Has an "exceptional sense of atmosphere and tension, with an aesthetic I can only inadequately describe as surgical." (Si Spurrier)
Is the co-founder of Disconnected Press
Jim Campbell – Letterer & Production
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world
Dream Team: Often does lettering for writer, Dan Whitehead
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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