Review – L1MA (Thought Bubble 18)

Set for release at this year’s Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, L1MA is a bold and ambitious science fiction one-shot from Gustaffo Vargas which takes us to the streets of the Peruvian city of Lima in what is a fantastical and dystopian version of Earth’s future.

Here we meet the Pirañas, a group of street teens who steal to survive and who come into possession of a mysterious squid-like object in the wake of a brutal skirmish between two rival street gangs.  Unfortunately, the seemingly valuable item puts them squarely in the crosshairs of a number of violent and focused parties, forcing the kids to take some rather drastic steps in order to save their skins.

The world building is ambitious and well-realised, with Vargas clearly pouring a lot of energy into making his distinctive setting feel as unique as possible.  There are a ton of different ideas being thrown at the wall here, from runaway street punks to violent Yakuza-esque gangs to disturbing blends of nature and technology, and while the majority of them stick, this does feel like a world that would be better served by a two or three issue series than a one-shot.

The sheer pace of the story – which almost completely dispenses with exposition and set-up in favour of living perpetually in the moment – also hurts things slightly, with several plot elements being introduced in a jarringly matter-of-fact way like we’re supposed to already be familiar with them. In fact, I actually found myself checking on more than one occasion to make sure this wasn’t actually the second or third issue of a series.

Putting the perpetual feeling of playing “catch up” to one side, once I managed to settle into the same rhythm as Vargas’ machine gun storytelling things definitely started to feel a little smoother, and there’s probably something to be said for just sitting back and letting a story like this wash over you.

These niggles aside, the one thing that absolutely sets L1MA aside from a lot of the other self-published comics I’ve read recently is the sheer energy and enthusiasm that surges through the artwork.  Vargas is a supremely talented artist, of that there is no doubt, and whether it’s the eye-catching and almost shockingly graphic violence, the fantastic portrayal of motion and impact throughout, or the sheer creativity that has gone into the designs of not just the characters but the city itself, there’s no denying that this book is an absolute treat for the eyes.

At the end of the day, L1MA is a thoroughly enjoyable read.  The concept is solid, the ideas are bold and the visuals crackle with energy from start to finish. Yes, there are some rough edges in terms of the narrative flow, but if you fancy embarking on a fast-paced sci-fi fantasy sprint with some truly eye-popping artwork, you could do a hell of a lot worse than picking this one up.

L1MA launches on September 22nd at Thought Bubble in Leeds.  You can find Gustaffo at Table 68A in the “Ask For Mercy” Marquee.

However, if you can’t make it to Leeds, have no fear because you can also pick the comic up from Gustaffo’s Online Store (CLICK HERE).

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