Valiant’s first Guided View Native digital comic, Unity 8-bit Adventure, sees their new super hero team ‘Unity’ go old school in an 8-bit video game inspired adventure. But does this old school approach take away from the 21st century sophistication of Guided View?
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Chris Cross and Donovan Santiago
When Guided View comics began to come to prominence in 2012 they were often gimmicky novelty acts that relied on fancy transitions and clever artwork tricks to show off what could be done with this new media, usually at the expense of a more substantial storyline. But throughout 2013 we have seen titles like, Marvel’s Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted and Thrillbent’s Moth City and The Damnation Of Charlie Wormwood prove that digital comics can be about more than just fancy visual trickery, that they can have plot, characterisation and depth too.
Which brings us to Valiant Comics‘ Unity 8-bit Adventure their first Guided View Native title, which in many ways, brings us full circle back to those fun and exciting days early days of digital comics. Of course ‘plot’, ‘depth’ and ‘characterisation’ are important to a digital comic, but so is that sense of fun, excitement and originality. Something that Valiant’s Unity 8-bit Adventure has in abundance.
The premise is simple, Valiant’s new super team Unity are put through their paces in an 8-bit style training simulator. It’s as if the X-Men’s Danger Room were running on a Super Nintendo Emulator! With the action playing out in a sideways scrolling direction, reminiscent of vintage games like Super Mario Brothers or Metroid, each character faces off with a different end of level boss before reaching their final goal! It’s packed full of incredibly smart tricks and references to classic arcade games, from the constantly cycling level numbers and life indicators in the top corners to the sideways scrolling pages which keep the action forced on to one plain. It breaks out of that pattern periodically creating a 3D first person perspective at one point when Ninjak is taking on his boss, as well as using more conventional panels closer to the end, which gives the book a superb mix of comic stylings and retro game chic that is unlike anything else out there.
We’ve previously seen artists Donovan Santiago’s pixelated artwork on Valiant’s range of 8-bit covers, but given the extra space and scope he makes the book look stunning with every panel and page packed full of detail giving the book a completely unique look and feel. Although the pixelation can get a bit over-whelming at times, and when using a page zoom the action can get quite distorted, but that is also part of the charm as it’s the same kind of complaints you would make about the original games when you look back on them now. Unity 8-bit Adventure is neatly book-ended with an intro and outro from ‘traditional’ comic artist Chris Cross which helps give the story a much more grounded feel and stops the 8-bit artwork from feeling too out of place.
With the script relatively low on long term plot but high on action-packed one-liners, this is exactly the kind of novelty one shot that digital comics are perfect for. If this were a full series then it could easily get wearing and the novelty of the style could wear very thin, very quickly. But as an accompanying piece to the new Unity series it is a superb addition and a fantastic use of old school visuals and new school technology.