Friday, December 29, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #29: Comox and Ionosphere

Comox is an odd little video game-themed anthology with an interesting gimmick: it's a flip book were two artists do the "flip-side" of the other story. Filipa Estrela and Kevin Fitzpatrick are both in it, and both of their stories are very amusing. Each chapter is two pages and focuses on a type of game: horror, RPG, fighter, etc. Estrela gets "simulation," and she approaches an Animal Crossing type of game with the concept of, "what if the farmer was actually kind of a lunatic?" The frenzy of activity following the farmer (including underground rock-breaking) is perfect for Estrela's cute character design, and the fluidity of motion (even on pages crammed with panels) allows the reader to fly right through. Their partner, Emily Wigglesworth, tells the story from the point of view of everyone else in the village who is slightly alarmed by the farmer. 

Fitzpatrick's story is a fantasy RPG, something he's quite adept at in his usual comics. While maintaining some trappings of the game environment (like a health meter), Fitzpatrick wisely steers away from the clutter of a typical video game screen (something that hurt several other stories) and sticks to the layout of a typical adventure. The story follows a hero looking for their young companion in a cave, fighting a monster, and being saved by their friend at the last second. Fitzpatrick is so clever in composing his pages, seamlessly fitting together 14 panels on one page at odd angles in a way that felt both fluid and exciting. The flip story, by Mica Liesenfeld, is told from the point of view of the younger companion. The non-CCS highlight of the anthology was Shoona Browning's first-person shooter story where the bored protagonist, after saving humanity from the zombie horde, restarts the game--much to the chagrin of their companion. 

Speaking of anthologies, Masha Zhdanova edited a very good science-fiction anthology called Ionosphere. It's not a surprise that the best pieces were by her and standout CCS alum Ivy Lynn Allie, but there were a couple of other good pieces as well. Zhdanova's story "This World Still Locked Within A Dream" is a variant take on time loop stories such as Groundhog Day. The story follows a young woman named Perilla who one day realizes she is in a time loop, but her life is so boring and routine that she only realizes it when she notices that the event banner on a phone game hasn't changed. A glamorous character from the game named Gigi Galore tells her she was selected as a time loop beta tester, and for a fee, she would be sent back to her normal life. When Perilla refuses, that creates a long series of loops with some surprising emotional connections, a long meditation on depression and loneliness, and just how hard it is to break out of routines. Zhdanova effectively combines the sparkly video game character with an extremely mundane environment. The story is also available as a stand-alone minicomic. 

Allie's story, "Playthings," is a fascinating account of how adult concerns and the concerns of children are often at such odds that there is a vast disconnection of how reality is perceived. The story takes place on another world, as a girl named Rissy tramps around while her parents feverishly work on a project that will flood a local create in order to grow oxygen-creating algae. Unbeknownst to them, Rissy has discovered a race of tiny aliens that she refers to as fairies, and her parents don't realize that in trying to reassure her about what they think are imaginary friends, they have missed out entirely on the ramifications of what they're about to do. Allie adds greater complexity when she completely misinterprets the actions of the aliens, thinking they've destroyed her robot chicken friend, and she lashes out at them in violence and anger. Allie's pages are so smooth and orderly, built around lurking misery and the creeping feeling that something bad is always about to happen. 

The other notable entries in the anthology are from Akira B. and Zab R., who spin a beautiful-looking story about a space explorer letting in a highly unwelcome visitor to his ship by accident; and Torc, whose story about the ramifications of asking a freed creature for help is emotionally resonant and highly disturbing because of the emotional connection between the characters.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for reviewing the Comix/Xomik video game anthology !! (The title is the two collaborating club names, and is visible right side up and down). Filipa and Robert are valued members of the Comix Accountability Club, thanks to CCS for bringing them to us :) thank you again for the thoughtful review. -Shannon