Sunday, April 10, 2011

Aaron and Ahmed

Written by Jay Cantor
Art by James Romberger

I was really excited to read Aaron and Ahmed. Here's the pitch: A U.S. Army interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, sickened by the methods used by his cohorts, attempts to suss information out of a high level prisoner (Ahmed) by feeding him estrogen and allowing him various comforts and privileges. The idea is that the combination will cause Ahmed to fall in love with his therapist/interrogator and reveal information he wouldn't otherwise. Pretty crazy, no? Intriguing, yes?

Unfortunately, the bulk of the book didn't live up to its premise. While I really enjoyed some of the high-minded analysis about the motives behind Islamic extremism and the War on Terror in comic-book form, it ended up dragging the plot down.

Things take a turn for the crazy/implausible about mid-way through the book and I don't think that the story ever really recovers. But none of this is to say that Aaron and Ahmed isn't worth checking out: the dialogue is smart, the art is unique and effective, and the treatment of HIGHLY controversial subjects is handled tastefully (I think).

Ultimately, I think Aaron and Ahmed just needed a little more room to breathe: stretch this story out over two or three volumes and the massive amount of happenings, twists, and weirdness might not seem so forced. I dunno. Maybe I was just really pulling for those crazy kids to make it...

2 and 1/2 out of 5 Enhanced Blogging Techniques

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nonplayer #1

w/a by Nate Simpson

The cover to Nonplayer has been catching my eye in Diamond's Previews magazine for months now. Look at that dinosaur-thing. All wrinkly and what not. All harnessed up and shit. What is that about, I wondered? But the description didn't do anything for me; something about video games, angsty chick, blah blah whatever. I consciously allowed the book to flush out of my awareness. "Be Gone!" I said, and forgot about it and probably ambled toward my next food.

And then there it was, today, new comic book day, sitting on the olde New Release Wall. And man, what a great fucking read it was.

Image is on a tear! So many good books! Bad Dog! Morning Glories! Chew! Undying Love! Who IS this publisher? And now, with Nonplayer, the hot-streak continues.

Nonplayer IS about an angsty girl and video games, but in a really good way. It's also about the future, maybe a little video game culture, escapism, violence, dinosaurs(?), violence, and, I think, artificial intelligence. Anyone who reads comics or watches movies knows the danger of written video-game-speak--this kind of dialogue almost always comes off as forced or nonsensical, filled with real and made up jargon to compensate for writers having no idea what they are talking about.

does not suffer from this problem. The book is one of the few titles that references technology (games, in this case) in such a way that it isn't cloying or silly. I am genuinely curious about the world that's being fleshed out here and I genuinely want to play the sweet-ass game these characters are obsessed with.

And the Frank Quitely impersonation that Nate Simpson is pulling off here? Very nice.

8 out of 10 Non-Playable Characters (or are they...?)