Hyper Force Neo suffers from the visual equivalent of cacophony. I suppose the charitable way of describing it is "lively". Look, "hyper" is right there in the title; I get it. And there's something admirable about the overactive geyser of imagination spewing out of writer/illustrator Jarrett Williams' brain. But it doesn't always quite come together. Let's diagnose the problem. The downside of that great imaginative fervor is that this book is a visual mess. In particular, the action scenes struggle to gain coherence in a swirling vortex of seemingly endless line work. And, as the art rarely stands still, the action doesn't stand out. Everything is always in motion, drawn in a way to insist a kind of explosive energy all the time. The balance of imagery really isn’t conducive to comfortable reading. The eye isn’t pulled across the page smoothly. Instead, you are looking all over the place at one. The stylized nature of everything in the world makes it difficult to pick up any subtlety. You've got store front signs fighting for your attention, chaotic architecture swallowing people and vehicles, and Family Circus-esque path indicators, marking where our protagonists are located in frequently crowded images. The world feels big. But that just makes it easier for the art to lose its way. Everything blends together like a mouthful of partially chewed Skittles. Very colorful and pretty. But where does one element begin and another end?
This story is begging to be animated. It can't all be contained or adequately conveyed through still images. Character, creature, and mech designs don't do these jumbled compositions any favors. Scenes can be hard to follow because you're just not sure what you're looking at. Angles, designs, poses, and clutter all conspire to ruin the few otherwise decent action scenes we get here. Williams crams so much data that needs to be mentally unpacked, but it's overwhelming. You want to keep up. You want to absorb it all. but the pacing of the story is so feverish and flop-sweaty you feel like you have to move on to the next page, if only to perhaps escape into something calmer. What's more, the pages of Hyper Force Neo are littered with text boxes indicating lots and lots of information. Though meant to be informative, these graphics are eventually very annoying, like pop-up ads strewn about the comic. They fit the aesthetic, for sure. This is certainly a future rife with pointless data points and social media ubiquity. But it makes for a difficult read. Info invades thought balloons and word bubbles. They point out details we don't need and info we can simply infer. Williams apparently wants to put everything on every page, but I can't help but believe Hyper Force Neo would benefit from a little restraint.
None of this is to say the art is poorly done. Quite the contrary, Jarrett Williams draws well, ably capturing his soft edged, ultra cute, super dense future. It is a future where nothing is spotlessly clean nor are we subjected to yet another grimy post-apocalypse. The book has a voice. And Williams' control over both the writing and the illustrations make this feel more personal, more intimate than it might otherwise.
The story itself is a very sweet one. It follows classic good kid Dean as he nervously navigates his first days as a student of New Sigma High School. The distant future setting feels familiar enough to be inviting. And the humor hits far more than it misses. Issue one is an origin story that does a very capable job of endearing you to the lead character. The supporting cast is also quite likable. Some of them fall into one-note joke territory, but even the supposed villains are written pleasantly. Most of the book has our hero out of costume. And these are the absolute highlights of the issue. Dean's sweet personality and seemingly unending reserve of enthusiasm instantly win you over.
By the end of issue one I was fatigued and on the verge of a headache. But, I’d still recommend the book. It’s a decent all-ages title that lacks coherence at times, but delivers enough fun, good-natured energy to warrant a try.
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Hyper Force Neo #1 Writer/Artist: Jarrett Williams Colorist: Jeremy Lawson Publisher: Z2 Comics Price: $5.99 Release Date: 4/27/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital