Welcome to Fresh Ink, our updated-as-often-as-we-care-to articles sharing our thoughts on comics and graphic novels. Please enjoy our inaugural offering, featuring Nate Simpson’s NONPLAYER. As with most media reviews, there may be spoilers; consider yourself informed.
It would not be uncommon to look at the covers of the two already published issues of NONPLAYER and determine that, short of the comic title, they have nothing in common. Issue 1, seen to the right, prominently features an armored warrior riding a rather large beast in a jungle setting, while issue 2’s cover, pictured below, depicts a behemoth robot towering over a crowd in an urban setting. You could be forgiven for thinking they are unrelated, but I assure you they are. Simpson has created an interesting plot tying these two very different settings together.
Composed of equal parts Sword Art Online, Ghost in the Shell, and Ready Player One, NONPLAYER introduces us to a world where virtual reality has progressed so far as to be nigh-indistinguishable from Meatspace (AKA the real world). The debut issue finds us with protagonist Dana and her companion planning a raid against a royal convoy in Jarvath, a virtual reality fantasy world. Dana and her as yet unnamed companion lament their numbers, as members of their normal party are absent due to Meatspace obligations. They commence the assault, which does not go as planned; after a short and ultra-violent confrontation, they are summarily slain, but not before witnessing strange behavior from Jarvath’s NPCs.
Back in the real world, we get a glimpse of the existence that Dana seems determined to avoid. Evidence of her digital escapism is easily seen in the condition of her room, with laundry, half finished sodas, and a thirsty plant hammering the point home. After a short dialogue with mother and sister regarding career aspirations (or lack thereof) she is off to work as a tamale delivery driver. The first issue ends with a blending of Dana’s two existences, as she adds a filter of Jarvath over the urban decay that surrounds her.
Issue two introduces to a new set of characters, in a story anchored firmly in Meatspace. Readers begin to see the level of technology in society, where virtual reality and remotely piloted mechs are commonplace. The focus of the issue revolves around a hostage situation, with both human and mech enforcers attempting a rescue. What results is an interesting (albeit short and introductory) story that touches on such issues as the cost of a human life, corporate shadowplays, and the ethics behind artificial intelligence and their rights. Readers begin to get a glimpse of the bigger picture before the issue ends, with a good cliffhanger in Jarvath wrapping things up.
I found myself impressed with both the art and the dialogue of NONPLAYER. Simpson’s aptitude as an artist is easy to see, and his ability to blend fantasy and science fiction is impressive. Characters are quick to quip turns of phrase with origins in MMO lingo, as well as being able to parrot corporatist EULA legalese to describe divinations within Jarvath. A little background knowledge in internet cant will go a long way to helping you understand things here.
Spanning only two issues over 4 years, NONPLAYER is easy to pick up and catch up. While 4 years is quite a while between updates, it is easy to understand when you view Simpson’s website: this is a one-man production, done in small spurts of whatever time he can spare between a day job and familial obligations. Two full comics written under such a workload is impressive to me, and based on the quality of NONPLAYER to date, quantity can take a backseat; I am willing to wait to see what happens next.
NONPLAYER created by Nate Simpson and published by Image Comics. Check your friendly neighborhood comic shop for availability.