April 3, 2012

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Double Jumpers #1

Written by Dave Dwonch
Illustrated by Bill Blankenship
Action Lab

A computer gaming company working on a legacy project are up to their ears in trouble.  With a skeptical public and the game's original creator turning on them, they have only one night to fix the problems that plague a game which promises character integration like you've never seen before.  The team is almost as dysfunctional as the game itself, but things go from bad to worse when a chance accident turns the worlds upside down.  The lines between virtual reality and our world are about to be taken to new limits in the irreverent pages of Double Jumpers!

I have to admit, I wasn't sure about the premise on this one and I think it's a comic that has to find the right reader to be liked.  After one issue, I'm still a bit on the fence about it, because while I enjoy the premise a lot, the dialog is rough and in one case, very offensive, and while I understand that's the nature of the comic, I'm not sure it's necessary.

Let's start off with the two things I really enjoyed about Double Jumpers, the high concept and the artwork.  Double Jumpers is set within the world of the computer gaming industry and shows its seedy side, with characters you probably wouldn't want to be friends with, from the CEO on down.  In this comic, the creators get zapped into their world while the characters move into reality, which is a fun idea.  How would the warriors from, say, Gauntlet or Assassin's Creed react to being thrust into a major city, circa 2012?  And what would their creators do if they had to fight for their lives to survive every day?

It's a really cool idea that I don't know that I've seen before done just in this way.  Sure, it's a fish out of water plot, but Dwonch and Blankenship have come up with a way to use that idea in an innovative manner. That's part of what makes a comic cool--can it do something new with an idea the reader knows well?

I also thought Blankenship's artwork was excellent.  He does a great job with making the action move quickly, choosing panels that drive the story and help keep the reader's eye focused.  There's an almost seamless transition between the scenes in the game and those in the real world, and his character designs for the warriors are distinctive, vibrant, and, best of all, fairly easily translated between the two worlds without being overt about it.  Blankenship's faces are strong and emotive--you can tell the meaning behind each character's words just by looking at how they say it, which is a big thing for me when I examine artwork.  Too often, emotional lines are said with blank expressions, but that's not the case here.

Unfortunately, as good as the concept is, Dwonch, in his attempt to make the comic irreverent, has just gone a bit too far.  A lot of the dialog between the characters is extremely crude, and while it does set up a particularly good karma moment for the misogynist Milo, overall I had a rough time reading what the characters were saying.  I get that the creators wanted people to dislike several of the protagonists, but when there's a reference to forced sex on page one, I might not make it to page two to see your cool idea.

The worst example of this, however, is the blatant and unnecessary use of a gay slur.  I'm sorry, but in this day and age, you need to have a really good reason to use certain words in literature, and Dwonch just doesn't meet the bar here.  I realize that there is a right to free expression, and yes, you can say what you want in your comic, but that doesn't mean I have to approve of it.

Overall, I'm on the fence with this one.  I like the art a lot, and I think the concept is great.  But I don't know if I can get past Dwonch's dialog, which feels too much like it's trying to show how rude it can be without ensuring it helps the story.  I can't recommend this one at this time, but if your tolerance for being offensive is higher than mine (I admit, mine is lower than most), the story itself is really cool.  I just wish it had been handled with a bit more care.

Thanks to Action Lab for the review copy.