Where to begin with this series. I remember when the first issue came out. I was looking forward to it because the art looked incredible and it was. The story was interesting and while it barely set up the world, it was still interesting enough to bring me back for more. But then there wasn’t more.
Creator Nate Simpson will be the first to tell you why that is exactly. You see that first issue had at least two printings (I want to say a third) and soon enough the WB had picked up the rights to the comic and then the years began piling up (they let the rights lapse in case you were wondering). I’m not going to list all the reasons; you can read Simpson’s blog for those.
So here we are at issue #2. Four years later and we’re on issue #2… I really went into this issue with no expectations and hardly a desire to read the issue. I didn’t re-read issue one because why bother? That would be more effort on my part than the creators to be quite honest. If we had to re-read every issue that came out before reading the new issue wouldn't that be incredibly frustrating?
And you know what? It didn’t matter. This issue barely calls back to anything from the first issue and only vaguely brings up the character that we followed in that issue (I have a pretty good memory, so yes I do actually remember most of the issue). And that's strange since it seemed like this was her story... her world, instead we're introduced to new characters.
There’s a very different vibe to the story now. Before we seemed to be exploring a future that has much like our current world, but amped to eleven. In an interview I did with Simpson way back in the day he told me that he was influenced with more of the Japanese approach to the future rather than the typical post-apocalyptic future that America is obsessed with. In the second issue it seems more like a cross between Dark Minds, Guilty Crown, Gamer and any anime involving mechs, whereas before it didn't seem like something new and fresh.
Yes, it still feels like the future and yes it seems to follow the overall idea of the first issue, but let’s call a spade a spade and just admit that this is a brand new first issue. It really feels like it since the call backs to the first issue are so vague or worse, didn’t stand out enough in the first issue to matter.
The overall gist of the second issue is that AI’s are starting to take control of worker robots and cause incidents that result in civilian casualties. We meet an old school police officer (or whatever they’re called) and he doesn’t use any kind of body tech. No neural eye link thingys for him which of course makes him kind of a badass, but mostly a cliché.
On the other side of the story we meet the guy that has created the MMORPG that was originally the focus of the first issue. The dude is pretty much just pulling a Gamer on the story and for some reason realistic AI isn’t allowed and all the nonplayable characters that are in the game are living AI’s even though they don’t know it, so it's like killing real, but still fake people. The dude fires the programmer to avoid the heat and this programmer has somehow taken one of the NP’s out of the game and put her in a body so that he can… be in love? Or something. That’s kind of the cliffhanger so we’ll see more on that… well I hesitate to say next time.
Overall I have a hard time recommending this comic, but since I couldn’t get my review up in time I’m sure most of you have already made up your mind on purchasing it. All I do know is that while Simpson is a talented artist and a pretty solid storyteller, he’s yet to prove himself in such a way that would warrant a dedicated following. If he said that the next issue would be out in six months and delivered on that promise that would be one thing. At least then I would know if I was ever going to see this book again, but now it's kind of a big whatever. This isn't one of those "what ifs" for me, but I'm sure when there's a dry news day some comic blogger will dust it off for a story.
The sad part is that I did actually like this issue, but it could have been anything else. It didn’t need to be Nonplayer, because again I remember enough of the first issue to know that this issue barely ties into it. At the end of the day it’s heavy handed with its influences and maybe it’s just because so much time has passed and we can see it clearer. The art though, is fantastic and it’s a shame that I was so distracted by the journey to get to the issue that I couldn’t really stop myself from being distracted and just enjoy it.
Some might say that it’s unfair to judge this book based on the journey to get the issue. Unfortunately, though, when a product is delayed it’s inevitable. The reason being that with any delay the expectation is that the extra time will somehow make it better, but almost never does. Instead our anticipation builds to critical mass and once that happens there’s really nothing you can do to keep that out your head. It poisons the well and really only fanboys and girls are unaffected by it.
I’m still on the fence about recommending this issue. Part of me doesn’t see the point as any success might actually start this vicious cycle again. The other part of me really does enjoy this comic, but now with a four-year delay it’s hard to be excited for it. It’s hard to keep going with it even though it seems like something I would totally read the hell out of. Perhaps Simpson would be better off just making a graphic novel and penning a deal with a different publisher in order to get upfront money to finish the project… if any would take that chance now.
The bottom line is that liked this issue, but too much of the drama of getting the issue has interfered with the experience of reading it and that’s the worst part of all this.
Nonplayer #2 Writer/Artist/Creator: Nate Simpson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 6/3/15 Format: Print/Digital