Ollie’s World of Indie: Midwinter and Hex Loader

midwinter01_cover-350x534Last month we caught up with writer Dan Whitehead to discuss his 80s video games inspired series, Midwinter and Hex Loader. But don’t just take his word for how good they are, Olly MacNamee has given them a quick upload and tried to get his own high score in the latest Ollie’s World of Indie.

Midwinter No.1

Publisher: Self-published Writer: Dan Whitehead Artist: PJ Holden Price: £4.00

midwinter01_cover-350x534Tucked behind a stunning Steve Pugh (The Flintstones) cover is the first chapter of what I have no doubt will be a major epic set in a future world brought to the very edge of extinction, thanks to an asteroid collision that has reaped havoc on the Earth and plummeted it into eternal winter.

The major characters are introduced – a father and daughter relationship at the heart of it all – as is the isolated community they are a part of. A community that’s seemingly self-sufficient status is soon put into jeopardy. And so the story begins and it would be remiss of me to say anything else on that point.

At 24 pages, it’s a rather quick read in places, but it does a lot in a short time, thanks to the winning team of PJ Holdens’ art and Dan Whitehead writing. I’m not criticising the pacing, as it doesn’t just rush you to the finish line, as it were. Rather, it does what it needs to and when the pace needs to be slowed down, or ramped up, it’s done so effectively by Whitehead. For example, in just one page we witness the end of modern civilisation but upon turning the page, the pace is immediately slowed down to that of a snail as we are witness to Cassie, a well-read, sharp shooter out hunting for her community. The pull back, to reveal the issue’s splash page, also reveals the harsh, rocky, frozen vista in which future society is forced to adapt to. And the only world Cassie has ever known. You have to be tough to survive and in such a situation, only the tough do survive.

Holden’s artwork is detailed and deep; I love the shot of the mountain based chalet atop a rocky outcrop, on page 8 and in Holden’s use of close-ups to establish Cassie and her father’s relationship, we get real emotional depth too. It’s a comic I think you’ll return to more than once because of the art, the characters and the winter world of tomorrow.

Scoop up your own edition from here.

Hex Loader No.1

Publisher: Zebra Comics Writer: Dan Whitehead Artist: Conor Boyle Price: £3.99

hexloader-front-coverLooking at this second title written by Dan Whitehead, what I immediately thought of when I read this first issue of an ongoing series is that this could well be the computer game equivalent of The Ring or V/H/S. Y’know, a video – or rather in this game a computer game tape (remember them? Remember the 80’s? Remember?) – that once watched, cannot be unwatched and leads to certain death for the hapless viewer. But, no. While there are shades of these, this promises to be a rather different story, one which – as suggested by the last page reveal – is more an action adventure, like all good computer games should be.

And, while this is clearly a story set in the 1980’s – 1986 to be precise –  this isn’t a fondly remembered, gilded framed nostalgic look back at the past. Our would be hero – computer programmer, David – has the same work problems as so many others; overworked, too many deadlines and he still lives with his mum. This is not the Manchester of the late 80’s but rather the industrially grim Manchester of The Smiths, but that dreariness is soon shot through as David received a tape in the post which has been written by a famous game designer, Declan Miller, someone who, it would seem, was a school friend of David’s.

As the title would suggest (and the pentagram adorned t-shirt worn by Miller in an old school photo), this is a story that is only disguised as technological. Rather, it is clearly linked to the dark magics and, as we all know, the media and computer games are, of course, the work of the Devil, right?

Boyle’s artwork creates this moody Manchester, with hints at a city on the cusp of greatness: a city with creative types, like David, and the hint of a Factory Records poster at a bus stop, but then there’s the rain. And in Manchester, there’s always the rain. No pathetic fallacy at work here, simply the creation of a suitably dank world. Who won’t want to escape into the world of computer games, even if they are those of the 80’s?

Let’s find out next issue, shall we?

You can get your copy from Zebra Comics’ online store here.

Author: Olly MacNamee

Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn’t know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at olly.macnamee@blogspot.co.uk. Or don’t.