Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review - Nova Phase #1 & #2

"I'm going up on the next ship..."

These days, when you look up at the stars, it's not too far-fetched to think that you'll be making a trip up there. Advancements in science are getting us closer and closer to getting off this planet and as the future creeps closer more and more of us will be getting up there. Even bounty hunters will find work among the stars, setting the state for Nova Phase, published by Slave Labor Graphics. The first two issues are written by Matthew Ritter and illustrated by Adam Elbahtimy.

Veronica Darkwater is a down on her luck bounty hunter who finds herself plunged into an intergalactic treasure hunt for a legendary world of untold wealth. But she must compete with a crazy military commander who will stop at nothing to cement his name in history. Will she stay alive long enough to see if the legends of the mythical world of Una Tesara are true? Mix in some space-travel, bounties and a cast of varied characters and you've got the trappings of a truly adventurous space tale.

Ritter has taken a western and thrust it into space, presenting a very exciting tale. Veronica is very convincing as a bounty hunter, extremely skilled but almost reluctant in her craft. Her ultimate goal is to make it into space and her path there is a little unconventional. The dialogue is very snappy and reads like an 8-bit video game would, save for the grammatical errors and cheesy lines. It presents extremely ambitious characters, each of whom are seeking their own fortune in life; sometimes though, that fortune isn't wealth. There are elements of a western interspersed throughout the book, evoking comparisons to Star Wars and Firefly.

Elbahtimy's art steals the show for sure though, primarily because it dutifully pays homage to the 8-bit games many readers will likely have grown up on. While Ritter's story is pretty scalable in terms of art, Elbahtimy's style is truly fantastic and specifically pushes the story further. He plays around with panel layouts and let's the art feel organic, as if you're watching a cut-scene from a Nintendo game. There's a great amount of detail given to the characters, something that you wouldn't expect considering it's all 8-bit and thrives on heavy shadows. Elbahtimy successfully conveys the feel of the old-school games and is a treat for the eyes.

Nova Phase #1 & #2 is, quite frankly, a lot of fun. Ritter and Elbahtimy make a great duo and have a book that evokes nostalgia in readers. The story is concise with crisp dialogue, while the art is phenomenal and really hits the mark when it comes to what it set out to do. Veronica Drinkwater is very vulnerable, which is a good trait to have as it will keep the reader on their toes as to how she'll deal with future situations. The western elements are blended in very cleanly and the characters' motives are diverse, presenting a myriad of viewpoints and rooting interests. It's sort of a comic version of what Cowboy Bebop would've been as an NES game, which is very high praise indeed.

Nova Phase #1 & #2 will be available on Comixology on January 15. The first issue will be available for free and the second issue will be up the same day and on sale for just 99 cents. A print version of the first two issues will be collected and for sale in February through the SLG website and Amazon. Issue #3 and #4 will be out in March and April respectively, with another two issue collection out in June, and issue #5 and #6 shall be out in July and August, with the final two issue collection coming out for print in September. Check out the interiors below.


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