Review: Nonplayer #1

This comic has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. Good luck finding the first print. It sold out at my shop within two hours. Everyone’s praised the look of this comic, including some of the best professionals in the biz. All of this is lavished on newcomer Nate Simpson, who abandoned the well-paying-but-often-thankless field of video games to make comics all on his lonesome. Everything you see here is the product of one man. Well, one man and his computer, but still, it’s quite an impressive feat. So impressive, in fact, that we’ll likely have this issue and its numerous reprintings to sate our appetites for many months until the second installment arrives.

It’s easy to see why Nate Simpson’s art has garnered such high praise. It’s intricate digital linework at its finest, and is very much in the school of Moebius, and his faithful disciples like Geof Darrow, Frank Quitely, and so on. There’s even a bit of Jamie McKelvie on display, mostly in how clean Simpson’s lines are. He uses a very light color palette to accentuate this, making Nonplayer one of the sunniest comics on the stands! Simpson’s work chiefly stems from Darrow, it’s safe to say, even keeping in a futuristic landscape with endless quirks on display. There’s a cute ongoing gag in the house of our heroine Dana’s house where her mother keeps leaving around signs to water the plant, while the poor thing sits dead and leafless in the corner. As far as visual references go, the last one I’ll mention is just the slightest bit of  Miyazaki, particularly in the design of that creature you see above my words. All of this makes for one of the best looking comics of the year.

Not much buzz has surrounded Simpson’s writing, and that’s mostly because the story unfolds mainly in the art. The concept of Nonplayer is that we see a young girl devoted to a futuristic role playing game. WoW on steroids, if you will. There’s not a whole lot more than that to the first issue, and even that is mainly deduced through visuals. The last page, for example, is a gorgeous double page spread where the young Dana rides to her shoddy fast food job while escaping into her fantasy world. The dirty, futuristic world on the left, and the lush, fantasy world on the right. Other than that, Simpson’s writing boils down to forgettable dialogue spoken in present vernacular in a supposedly futuristic world.

Simpson’s writing isn’t bad, but there’s not a lot in this first issue to go on, and that’s the comic’s chief flaw. Its others are minor. Little storytelling kinks that Simpson will work out over time. Also, comic lettering is one of the easiest jobs to do and one of the hardest to master, and it’s about as thankless a job as it gets. If you look again to that page above, and I love that page, but you’ll see some lettering intrude a character’s eyeball, and some translucent sound effects that I’m not too fond of. All of these flaws, however, even the writing, are minimal at this point. They don’t hinder the absolute joy one can experience just gazing at the pictures all day.

Grade: B+

-Bruce Castle

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