Welcome back, readers! Are you into virtual reality? I’m not. But let me tell you about FACTION, a comic that will thrill MMO gamers and VR enthusiasts, for sure. This will be a…
‘Cause I am sleepy and when I’m sleepy I don’t drink and read, I guess. I just don’t know exactly what to think about this comic, so I’m going to keep my mind sharp as I put my thoughts down. Maybe I’ll figure it out by the end of the review (of course I will).
Disclaimer: I am a very long-time gamer, so I understand the great pull of awesome titles and the host of feelings that go with the gaming experience. I should also state that MMOs are not my thing: I am too solitary and I also refuse to play for hours and hours, mostly because I don’t have time for it – I’m too busy killing actual people. So, the whole virtual reality thing seems silly to me. With that out of the way, let’s get to the review.
The word for this comic is “minimalist”, as art and dialogs are quite lean. The plot, so far, threads very risky ground, as it is missing a vital link to actual reality while seemingly exalting armchair warriors.
Author’s description of the comic
FACTION is a comic about high-stakes virtual reality and the people who spend their time in it.
In the game of MUlate, players are sorted into Factions and must fight for domination. Emma Martina – a well known sponsored player – has played MUlate since it first launched, but with her Faction on the brink of elimination and mounting pressure from her sponsors, she begins to wonder how long she has before she’s out of a job.
Emma Martina, a professional gamer, is supposed to earn her sponsors loads of money thanks to her performance in MUlate. Apparently, though, she’s a bit of a slacker: being invited to join a crucial fight, she tries to pull out with a sad excuse. In time, we learn that she is being ambivalent toward the way her faction is being run. Will she overturn her incompetent leader? Will any of this bear any meaning?
Our protagonist is a
yummy muscled-up woman who can fight stupendously in a MUlate game, although it looks like she could hold her own in an actual brawl, too. Emma appears to be resigned to the way Faction Red works: members just do their own thing, leadership is non-existent and she is (often?) called in to save the day. To me, the most engaging aspect of Emma is that, while being a real pro during her working hours, she also seems detached enough from her job to take it for what it is: something she (hopefully) enjoys that earns her money, but nothing to be addicted to. After all, life is not a (virtual) game, and work should not be all there is to life (tell that to my superiors or your boss, though, and they will give you a different story).
A likeable character, not really rough, yet not too soft, she generally keeps her cool and detachment, but she is kind enough to Warsparks, a younger player who will likely inject more enthusiasm in her life. Which makes me wonder: is Emma actually bored with her job and that’s all there is to it? Does she have an actual life? Are the two related to each other to such an extent that she might get into serious, real trouble for not pleasing her sponsors? At the time of this writing, none of this is clear, but I do hope that this connection exists, as it would make her character (and the story) more compelling.
A character who may evolve into Emma’s sidekick, Warsparks takes MUlate really to heart, to the point that I rolled my eyes. Then again, when I was a teenager, I also took seriously stuff that would make adults laugh. So, I’ll cut her some slack. Warsparks is the voice of both innocence and reason, as she gets frustrated over the lack of leadership in Faction Red. Maybe she wants to be a star player like Emma when she grows up or maybe she just like things to be run properly. What’s clear is that she seems like a nice, outgoing and caring girl with a big gamer crush on Emma (although she hasn’t asked for an autograph, yet).
I hope this character evolves and grows into more than a simple sidekick or just the logical voice in the mass of chaotic gaming.
The incompetent boss of Faction Red, Seong comes across as a self-important guy who can’t fight, can’t lead, but really enjoys getting the social status and attention that come with power. In short – your average manager. So far, so cliche’, although with a minor twist: Emma made him the leader. It will be quite interesting to find out why in the world she did that, especially since the current, minor hints, don’t point to anything that may have forced her to do so. Maybe just a misjudgement? It remains to be seen.
Plot, dialog and pacing
In general, I believe that the comic would work better if it picked up the pace and connected the dots from VR to reality really quickly. So far, FACTION is already 35 pages long, but it hasn’t covered a lot of ground – the basic info has been given, but not much has happened. The plot is unfolding smoothly with an even pacing that works for the most part, although it tends to be draggy. Dialog is rather dry and cuts to the chase, which goes well with this type of comic: I certainly don’t expect pompous philosophical discussions from a gaming story.
Art is really cool. I can’t stand the blurry filter, it really hurts my eyes, but that’s personal tastes. The comic has a catchy style, complemented by few, yet beautiful watercolors that give out a nice dreamy vibe (I hate watercolors, so that’s telling). However, sometimes minimalism goes a little too far: some faces (especially eyes) and facial expressions are a little too hinted at, to the point of being washed out. Panels flow masterfully and engagingly (you feel like you are sliding into VR along with Emma only to emerge all suited up), although fighting scenes are at times confusing. Overall, I like this art very, very much, and I wish more comics would use it (so tired of standard, pretty styles – I get it, you learned to draw cutesy and sweet in art college and it’s hard to break the mold you and all of your friends are stuck into, but come on, be daring, art is all about taking risks outside your comfort zone and growing).
My very personal issue with FACTION is that up to now I couldn’t get invested in its characters and the story, because everything has been centered around a generic videogame. Still, overall I enjoyed this comic, and I will have another look at it once it’s got significantly more pages.
© 2017, Infected Blood Comics