By Wes Jones
The Running Man, Rollerball, Smash TV, Mad Max, and now Chaosphere. This self-published title follows in the footsteps of beloved dystopian, sci-fi, deathsport fiction. Oh right, I almost forgot about Deathsport. While the premise of a post-apocalyptic society controlled by corporations and enthralled by an ultra-violent spectator sport isn’t anything new, Chaosphere presents itself as a unique entry in the genre.
Writer and creator Greg Lambert introduces us to a universe that feels vast and fully fleshed out, which is to be expected as he’s been constructing this world in his mind since he conceived it about 15 years ago. Following rising sea levels leaving much of Earth uninhabitable, corporations begin founding off-world colonies for the planet’s displaced inhabitants. Admittance into the colonies comes with a catch, though. In return for shelter, people become the property of the corporations and are referred to colloquially as Corpses. Society is divided between the Corpses and the Elites, with one unifying endeavor: Chaosphere. Not all of this is made clear in the story, though, and I had to go to the books Kickstarter page for a concise backstory. It’s certainly still readable as it stands, but it could definitely do with some sort of prologue.
The titular game is a sort of handball, except the balls are skulls and the players are equipped with medieval armor and weapons that can be buffed and imbued with bonuses just like an RPG. The part that makes Chaosphere unique, however, is that all of the violence is virtual and none of the participants can actually be harmed, making it the safest sport ever created (except maybe ping-pong). Recently however, participants have begun dying and we get hints that these fatalities are being orchestrated by an unseen force.
The story follows Kurt, Chaosphere player, military veteran, and stressed out new employee of a space mining vessel. We’re given little background other than that, though it's implied that he has/had a daughter whose current whereabouts are unknown. Kurt is a truly likable protagonist. He has a ne’er do well attitude and a sharp wit that keeps his conversations engaging, while his inner monologue displays his worries and self doubt, keeping him relatable. He’s your typical asshole with a heart of gold.
Artist Dave Mims provides a hectic and almost expressionist visual style. It suits the setting for the most part, but when presented with busy panels and unfamiliar sci-fi forms, I found it a little difficult to determine just what I was looking at. Mims’ style incorporates thin inks to highlight detail, but in certain places it seems superfluous and messy. These instances are minor and don’t distract from the story enough for me to dislike it completely. Generally, I really did enjoy it.
Chaosphere takes place in a setting that will feel familiar to sci-fi fans, while bringing enough new concepts to the table to keep us interested. Lambert’s first issue is a pinhole that gives readers a limited glimpse into the fascinating universe he’s built, so here’s to hoping issue two becomes a reality and the hole is widened.
Writer: Greg Lambert
Artist: Dave Mims