By Dustin Cabeal
Wren McDonald’s SP4RX is pretty damn cool. I wish I had gotten to it sooner considering it was sent to me early, but I was traveling and every time I opened it my young son thought it was a book for him. None of that is the main reason it took so long. No, the main reason was the news broadcast bubbles on the first page. I’m serious, that’s the main reason.
I can’t stand fake TV bubbles. I know they’ve always had a home in comics, and that creators in the early 2000’s brought them back and made them popular again, but I find them to be the most worthless part of any comic. They add nothing to experience, and they’re rarely fun to read.
After I had gotten over that first page, I found a charming, interesting, and depressing story of the future. Almost the perfect love child of Johnny Mnemonic, Hackers, and strangely enough Astro Boy. To put it another way, it’s cyberpunk. Sp4rx is our main character. He lives in a sub level in which killer robots patrol daily for the sole purpose of killing people. Thank goodness, he has a cyborg's arm. We quickly learn that he’s a hacker and after turning down one job he takes another that seems simple enough. It’s obviously not, but his bad luck puts him on a collision course with a rebellion trying to save the future.
The story is quick and short, and there are more news bumps in-between chapters that I honestly skipped. If I missed something important, it obviously wasn’t that important because I was never lost while reading and felt very satisfied by the end. In fact, for cyberpunk fiction, the ending was great.
It’s not perfect. The character development is all on Sp4rx, and yet he doesn’t carry the entire story. There are other characters that could have used development or at the very least had their roles in the story toned down. The dialogue was enjoyable, but Sp4rx and one other character were the only two with an original voice.
The artwork is a large part of the success of the comic. Having read McDonald’s other Nobrow Press mini-comic, I was already familiar with his style. I enjoy it and find SP4RX to be a vast improvement over his earlier work. The linework is cleaner but without the sacrifice to McDonald’s style. The overall look and feel is in line with the genre. I do feel as if the art is influenced by Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka ever so slightly, but that could just be me. Whatever the case, it’s a great looking book with entertaining visuals and a style oozing with personality.
Again, I regret sitting on this one for so long. I enjoyed it. I would love to read more stories set in the same world because McDonald does a fine job creating a living world to explore. Hopefully, that will happen, but in the meantime, you should just start by checking out SP4RX.
Creator: Wren McDonald
Publisher: Nobrow Press