Thursday, October 8, 2015

Survivors’ Club #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

Video Killed the Radio Star and Several Bystanders

Written by: Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen
Art by: Ryan Kelly, Eva de la Cruz, and Clem Robins
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 7, 2015
*Non spoilers and score at the bottom*

Video games and the year 1987 will always be inextricably linked, in my mind, because that was the year I plunked down $110 of my hard-saved allowance money and bought my own Nintendo Entertainment System. It was also the year The Legend of Zelda was released, meaning I would have no trouble logging the initial eight-hundred hours playing my NES that are required to call oneself a Game Master, a title that still earns me nothing despite my announcing it whenever I enter a room. What if, while tromping around the pixelated lands of Hyrule, I had unwittingly cursed myself to a cruel death? What if, on some long-forgotten screen in an obscure dungeon, I’d garnered some kind of unspeakable evil that would manifest itself thirty years into my future? That’s sort of where we are with issue number one of Survivors’ Club, though it is only a first issue and the story could go nearly anywhere. Where did this individual story go? Read on and find out!
Explain it!
Our tale begins with caption boxes describing an e-mail sent by one Chenzira Molenki to five seemingly unrelated people. The e-mail explains that Chenzira found all of these names on a list surreptitiously hidden in the Deep Web of the Internet, and everyone on the list is missing or dead, or ostensibly reading a creepy e-mail. Since all of them are in Los Angeles, Chenzira suggests they get up for a meet n’ greet to discuss the fact that something very bad happened to each of them in 1987. I’m thinking it probably isn’t going to be acne.

Weirdo Stepford Wife-looking woman Alice Taylor-Newsome agrees to host at her house, and even promises not to do her Tupperware pitch afterwards. We see everyone descend on her well-appointed home, save for Harvey Lesker who sits in his truck and watches people go into the home while singing a creepy song. See why you need to be careful conversing with strangers on the Internet, kids? So we’ve got a Medic named Teo Reyes, a wastrel dilettante named Simon Wickman, and Kiri Nomura who talks to herself in Japanese. They all sit around and snack on cupcakes while Chenzira tells them a strange story.
She says that, in 1987, she was living with her family in South Africa, still under the racist laws of Apartheid. The police had already killed her mother for agitating which drove her dad to drink, which drove Chenzira to the local video arcade where she excelled. Tucked in a closet in the arcade, she discovers a machine whose cabinet describes a game called Akheron, it doesn’t operate but she’s able to fix it back to working condition. As she begins playing the game, a tornado opens up right on the town and starts ripping the place to shreds. A bolt of lightning hits the arcade and everything starts going up in flames, but little Chenzira is convinced that the game is at the heart of this and keeps playing while she and the machine are on fucking fire. How raw is that? Then again I remember the days of arcade video games, it was tough to leave the machine when a high score was at stake.
Then Chenzira plays footage from a new game called Happy Hero Toast, and this makes everyone else in the room go into various catatonic states and recall flashes of the bad thing that happened to each of them in 1987; looks like Simon Wickman went through an exorcism that year, while Teo Reyes saw a woman with a big butt. Oh, and got his neck bitten vampire-style, I forgot to mention that. It seems like this Get-Along Gang has some skeletons in their respective closets, which makes them Secret Buddies. Not that they are hiding the fact that they’re buddies, but that they all have secrets. Okay so maybe coming up with group names isn’t my forte.
Chenzira suggests they team up and solve the mysteries of What the Hell is Going On and Why Should I Give a Crap, to which everyone agrees. There’s also a scene depicting Harvey Lesker having killed a bunch of people with a machete that makes me feel like he’s probably not that great of a guy. This is okay for an introductory issue, we get to know the basics about all of the characters and there are some twists that attempt to pull us into the story, but since knowing who the characters are and caring about them are different things, I felt like this book did too much double-duty and should have just introduced the characters with a shocking twist at the end. There is a shocking twist at the end, but it’s shock is lessened by the fact that the people involved are still veritable strangers. The artwork within is highly-detailed and very clean, and there should be no problems following the story along. It’s just a question of whether you will want to after the initial pages.
Bits and Pieces:
This pilot episode didn’t knock it out of the park, but then first outings in all media seldom do. There’s certainly a mystery here, but whether you think it’s worth uncovering or if it’s best left buried like a hundred-thousand Atari E.T. cartridges is up to you. I’d suggest giving this a look; the art is great, the storytelling is clear, and there’s definitely something creepy afoot, if being creeped-out is your thing. I’ll be hanging around for issue #2 at the very least, to see how it develops. Because it will need to develop—and rapidly—if it’s going to hold my interest.

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