Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Nate Simpson
Artist: Nate Simpson
Color Flats: Jiyoung Lee & Matt Harding
It’s hard to talk about the release of Nate Simpson’s Nonplayer #2 without first addressing the fact that this comic has been a very long time coming. After the release of the critically acclaimed first issue in April of 2011, there was a string of events that halted production on the series – a bike accident, a new baby, other jobs, etc. As so often happens, life got in the way.
But Simpson didn’t walk away from the project. Instead, he slowly chipped away at the new issue – waking up unreasonably early, day after day, to put in meager hours at the drawing board. So now, over four years after reading the initial installment of what was to be a six-issue series, fans will be able to open the pages of Nonplayer once again, and bask in the intricately-rendered world that has been such a labor of love for its creator.
In many ways, this issue is the polar opposite of its predecessor. Where in the previous issue we saw large swathes of lush flora, here we see only the trappings of a hyper-modern city center, all sharp edges and cold steel. There is nary an organic sight to be seen. Greenery has been replaced with clouds of smog and cement, while mythical beasts and elves have been traded for robots and officers. To put it in game terms, Nonplayer #1 was structured as more of a fantasy RPG, while this new issue reads much more like a first-person shooter.
This stark contrast is also mirrored in the timing of the issue, with the majority of the story told in the real world and the last few pages told inside of Jarvath. Everything has been turned on its head. Instead of following our heroine Dana, we follow men – the CEO of Warriors of Jarvath, a National Artificial Intelligence Bureau agent, and what appears to be a disgruntled AI engineer. Everyone is connected, both inside and outside of Jarvath, but it’s still unclear as to how. This issue serves mostly as groundwork for what’s to come – something big is in the works, and a lot of voices have been added to the story alongside Dana’s.
The artwork in the issue may have shifted focus, but it still inspires awe. The first two pages alone, one even half covered with a character list, have an absolutely incredible amount of detail. There are easter eggs galore in a mad cityscape made up of various bits and pieces from nerd culture. Futurama, Harry Potter, Katamari, even Chog from fellow Image book Chew – they’re all represented while a text bubble bellows, “Calling all Otakonauts!” Quite the impressive introduction, even for a book four years in the making.
That attention to detail extends to all areas of the issue. Backgrounds, which are routinely done slap-dash in the comics world, are here given gravitas – made integral to the story-telling. The palette is generally muted, favoring a monochromatic scheme that varies from scene to scene. Even simple things like shadows and highlights are done with care, nothing is overlooked. Again, this could be the result of a book four years in the making, but if the first issue is any indicator, we can look forward to all of these things in the issues to come.
Nonplayer #2 is an exciting return to the comics world, for creator and readers alike. The story is slowly unfolding into a more complex narrative, and with it comes some of the most beautiful art in comics today. All this to say, I don’t think fans would mind if the next issue is done in 8-bit, if it pushed up the release date.