Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now #1
Written by Cory Doctorow
Adapted by Dara Naraghi
Art by Esteve Polls
Colors by Robert Studio
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Cover by Sam Kieth
Cover price: $3.99; Available Now
I feel kinda bad…
See, before having the opportunity to review this book, I’d never heard of Cory Doctorow. For those of you not in the know, Cory Doctorow is a Canadian-born science-fiction author and all-around busy-little-Internet-bee. He seems to juggle a million different projects at once, has written a number of books, all of which can be bought in stores or downloaded for *FREE* from his website, and he wears the title of “Blogger” with the same dignity and authority as “Author.” Quite an interesting fellow, even from an initial outsider’s perspective.
So, what’s this series Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now all about (aside from being a contender for world’s longest comic book title)? Simply put, every month, a different writer/artist creative team will take one of Doctorow’s previously published short stories and translate it into comic book form. Something which I think is a pretty brilliant idea, and it’s a wonder that similar projects haven’t sprung up around more well-known creators like Stephen King or Richard Matheson.
The series debuts with the story, Anda’s Game, and I think it sends the perfect message to the audience as to just what they can expect from this series. That being… the unexpected.
Let me explain…
At first glance, the title alone may paint pictures in your brain of the sort of strange science fiction tales you’d find in movie serials from the 1940s and 50s, mixed with the twisty, cerebral, cyberpunk atmosphere of Philip K. Dick.
… Or it may not. It did for me.
When I first received this book, one glance at the cover by Sam Keith had my mind racing at the possibilities for what may lie within. Could this possibly be the comic book equivalent to series like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits? With barely a moment’s hesitation, I put all my calls on hold (cuz I’m a popular guy, you know…), sat down in my favorite chair (the porcelain one), and prepared myself for a science fiction journey like no other.
I prrrrobably should have read the title a little more carefully.
Anda’s Game is the story of a 12-year-old English girl who gets involved in the addictive world of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG for the acronym-enabled). Now, I say “addictive” because it’s an easy adjective, and because I know it to be so. However, it is never represented as such in the context of the story, which was my first hint that I might be in for something a little different. A story about role-playing games that didn’t depict them as bad habits needing to be kicked; Anda’s Game passed the “Mazes & Monsters” test. I was pleased.
Anda and her online buddy, an American girl named Lucy, are gaming partners in a fantasy-themed MMORPG. They go on missions, collect treasure, and belong to the most elite guild in the game. One day, Lucy approaches Anda with an opportunity to earn real-life cash for doing in-game kill missions. A bit suspicious at first, Anda eventually decides to go along and see what it’s all about.
This curiosity is the driving force behind the rest of the story, and already I can hear your brains churning. “What are these missions?” “What does she discover?” “What’s the conflict?” I can tell you right now, it’s probably not what you’d expect.
When the twist in the story arrives, it’s… almost underwhelming. For me, this is probably because I was expecting something so much more mindblowing and freaky than what I got. The actual conflict of the story is a fairly mundane one, though not any less entertaining. Once my initial reaction passed, I realized what the story was truly about and gained an instant new respect for it. Whether it’s what I was expecting or not, I was hooked.
While I haven’t read the original story that the comic is based on, I can definitely appreciate writer Dara Naraghi‘s talent for translating Doctorow’s original concept clearly and effectively to the comic page. None of the ideas presented in the story are lost on the reader, and the comic format actually adds a dimension I can only assume the original work was lacking: The visual presentation.
Esteve Polls‘s artwork in the issue is solid and he nicely captures the fantasy world Anda and Lucy’s avatars inhabit. See, the truly fantastical side of this story is revealed when we are thrust into the gaming world to witness Anda and Lucy’s exploits. The setting looks and behaves realistically, while still resembling the terrains that players of World of Warcraft or EverQuest have come to love. Whenever their characters speak to each other (through voice chat), it is shown as a real conversation between two people living in this fantasy setting.
This approach to telling the story satisfies the genre requirements of the title while adding a more dynamic visual quality to what is essentially a girl in her darkened bedroom, staring at her computer screen and speaking into headphones. It also becomes especially effective when their characters are thrown into battle. The realistic depiction of the in-game violence lends an eerily graphic metaphor to the story. The stakes in the game Anda is playing are high, no matter how detached from it she (and the viewer) may be. Polls also has a talent for capturing youthful characters that actually look youthful. His kids look like kids, instead of miniature adults with over-pronounced features.
Anda’s Game‘s one weakness is that, on the first read, you could find yourself a bit disappointed by the story. It’s only after you’ve learned all the details and given it some thought that the intelligence of it really shines through, and because of this, it holds up well under numerous rereads.
It’s part allegory, part fable, and a wholly satisfying piece of fiction, made stronger for its translation into a visual medium. While the story itself packs a punch you’re not quite expecting, you can’t deny the quality of the book, and it foretells a promising future for the series as a whole. I give it an A-.