I'm feeling burned out on negativity. Not that I feel too terribly unjust in feeling negative so much of the time, but we all feed various engines within ourselves at any given point in the timeline, and getting back onboard reviewing here on Bastards hasn't fueled many productive ones. Despite the few standout exceptions, 2016 has been pretty uniformly a bunk year for media for me. All the good music I've listened to this year came out last year, save for that made by recently dead artists. I've only seen one genuinely great film this year, with an overwhelming amount of disappointments and skipped trips to the theater, despite making a personal promise to see more. And comics...well, let's face it. Outside of two or three vets who keep plugging away at the medium, most comics are a crapshoot for me. I don't gamble on DC or Marvel anymore, only ever reading them on an extraordinary recommendation or out of critical obligation. I don't know if it's about getting older or just being tired, but this isn't fun anymore. Most of the time I'd rather have a quiet night in talking about anime or Grant Morrison comics with a few friends than going to a convention just to be amazed at the ocean of premium priced novelty clutter. I don't know, like the old song says, "if you're bored then you're boring." Well, I am bored, and it's only getting to feel more like it's a part of me every day.
Augmented is...well, not as bad as the last two comics I read I guess. The story concerns a fighting match where fighters are sponsored by the wealthy to be enhanced with cybernetic augmentations, pitted against each other in a fight to the death. A prisoner is given a chance at a life beyond bars by being selected to be the latest fighter in the competition, but at what cost?
Did any of the wording I just used in the synopsis sound a bit awkward? It felt awkward to write because I realized how many big chunks of plot information are just completely absent from this book. There's actually one part that feels like a page might have been missing from the review copy, but here's a rundown of what we don't know. We meet our protagonist in prison. What was he imprisoned for? No idea. What did he do before he went to jail? Boxing, maybe? All we get is one line about someone having seen his "fights." The fighting tournament. Is it illegal? Doesn't seem like it, but we're never given any sort of motivation for why it exists. Our douchebag CEO antagonist seems really concerned about it but never explains if it's a matter of TV ratings, a la The Running Man, or an overly elaborate way to test out the technology he's developing for other means, as in D.O.A.: Dead or Alive. Nothing. Our protagonist makes a really dumb deal with really obvious dumb downsides, and we're not even provided with a horrible stock tragic story about how he just wants to get back to his wife and kid or girlfriend or terrier. He's just angry he got tricked in an obvious way but won't get to do anything about it until, oh, say issue #4 or #5. Probably the biggest piece of missing information: who are we supposed to be rooting for in the upcoming fights? The lead isn't sympathetic. The goals of every institution in this is unclear. So, where's the hook?
The one thing that helps elevate this a little is the art. It's by no means great, but it fits the popcorn storytelling well with exaggerated energy and 90's-esque ambitions. The colors are also decent, extremely saturated, but poppy enough to make the art look like what it is trying to look like. Everything flows nicely, save for the weird gaps in the narrative, making this book at the least seem a competent attempt at the limited premise. The nicest thing I can say about it is for a book about fighting tournaments, they at least did better than Kevin Eastman's Cage Hero, and that man created the Ninja Turtles.
Maybe I am boring. It is nearly midnight, and I'm in front of a computer at home, being unhappy about a comic that never really had a chance in appealing to me. I ate too much of the wrong things; the beer has worn off, and now I'm left trying to put words to the lack of anything I feel when I read these books. But there it is, isn't it? Beneath the ambitions to be art, to be personal, to capture imaginations, inspire controversy, or puppeteer the emotions, the simplest goal of media, the most primitive function, is simply to entertain. To provide an escape from the computer, and the job, and the aching shoulder. To be somewhere else that is just more interesting than here. Haven't found it here. I'll keep looking.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Writer: Bill Stoddard
Artist: Chris Royal
Colorist: Nimesh Morarji
Publisher: Tenacious Comics