I headed over to one of my favorite perches, Victrola Cafe on 15th, and started to read some comics. Okay, let me say this: Wren McDonald is one of the coolest cartoonists around. He likes to send time in cyberspace and he takes his readers along for the ride.
The short graphic story, CYBER REALM, is very action packed with tons of irony. Our hero, Nicholas was just minding his own business when thugs sent by The Master terrorize his home. Nicholas is from The Mortal Realm and must serve The Master from The Cyber Realm. But, when Nicholas does not have the extortion money that’s demanded of him, his son his killed and he’s torn apart and left to die. Pretty bloody grim!
Lucky for Nick, a bunch of robots rescue him and turn him into a badass cyborg. We’re now locked into an extreme revenge tale with Nick blasting into the Cyber Realm on his relentless quest for The Master. Thanks to a light whimsical touch from McDonald, this heavy-duty tale does not get too dark and moves along quite nicely. This 24-page comic is part of the Nobrow 17×23 series that showcases new talent and helps set the stage for larger works, which brings us to the graphic novel, SP4RX.
SP4RX has all the bells and whistles in all the right places. This 116-page graphic novel is a full-bodied cyberpunk adventure that would make William Gibson and Philip K. Dick proud. It’s a story that doesn’t forget to save the cat. There is plenty of heart all the way through. We even have McDonald’s take on our obsession with personifying droids in the spirit of R2-D2. And that only works because we have other lively characters to play off of–some human, some cyborg. After all, this is science fiction.
This is a straight-up common people against the elites plot spiked with an impressive helping of original humor and action. Our hero, SP4RX is your basic hacker for hire. The only problem is that he’s exceptionally good at what he does so he ends up working with some pretty high-powered sorts–and with that can come some pretty high-powered trouble. SP4RX finds himself smack in the middle of the conflict between the rebel forces and the evil all-powerful state. His only hope is that he can do the right thing despite his selfish inclinations.
The general public, also known simply as “lower levels,” has been lulled into accepting Elpis, a cure-all that boosts energy to superhuman levels. But the Elpis program proves to only serve the purposes of those in power. All souped-up on Elpis, the public feverishly increases its performance at work and abandons its humanity. Enter our hero SP4RX to this quirky dystopian tale.
McDonald’s light-hearted cartoony style belies the story’s serious cyberpunk undertones in an uncanny and engrossing way. The way McDonald plays with scale and pacing is masterful. He creates thrilling and immersive scenes that see our characters dodging bullets, running down alleyways, and leaping off ledges—and that includes some artfully rendered interludes into cyberspace. Wren McDonald has created a perfect mashup here of humor and sci-fi.
Nobrow is an excellent publisher focusing on books for all ages. CYBER REALM and SP4RX are suitable for older readers, tween and up. And, as I hope you can tell from my reviews, adults will thoroughly enjoy both of these works too. Visit Nobrow right here.