Review – Swordquest #1 (Dynamite)

Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Writer(s): Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Artwork: Ghostwriter X
Release Date: 21st June 2017

Oh god.  A comic book adaptation of an Atari 2600 game.  Let me guess, the writers are going to try to flesh out the flimsy backstory for the 8-bit classic, trying to make us care about the little pixelated man walking around, picking up and dropping items?

Well… no, actually.

Instead, co-writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims have adopted a truly inventive approach by basing this story around Peter, a man who grew up loving the classic Atari game.  Peter’s tragic circumstances as an adult have led him to formulate a drastic plan to make his life complete by stealing the sword that he came tantalizingly close to winning back in the 80s.  So, rather than forced fantasy exposition, what we have instead is a tight, intriguing character piece about a man trying to reclaim his childhood, and while there are some fantastic elements to the story, this is very much a dialogue-driven opening issue.

Bowers and Sims introduce us not only to Peter but to his childhood friends over the course of first issue, giving us a glimpse at both their younger and present-day selves.  We meet Amy, now the successful author of popular book ‘Console Revolution’ and her brother Alvin, who Peter has a somewhat strained relationship due to an awkward moment between them as youngsters.  The dialogue feels natural and flows smoothly, and there are some wonderful moments of subtext to be had where Peter gleams additional significance from the words on the covers of nearby books.

The artwork is impressive in its simplicity, with Ghostwriter X (if that’s even their real name) doing a great job of helping the story to flow without slowing things down with unnecessary detail.  They use a panel-heavy structure with some expressive character designs and a fairly muted colour palette, and the visual ‘tics’ along the way – such as the aforementioned cover reading and the occasional panels of ‘video game tips’ which punctuate some of Peter’s conversations – really help to give the story a unique aesthetic.

The exposition is handled smoothly, the characters are relatable and interesting, and the final page provides an eyebrow-raising cliff-hanger to spur the reader on to the next issue.    Colour me impressed then, as Bowers and Sims make some bold storytelling choices to give what is ostensibly a video game tie-in the potential to be something much, much more.  Well worth a look.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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