If you’re a fan of ’90s video games magazine then you may recognise the name of Smart Bomb!!‘s Will Overton as the illustration whiz behind the anime-inspired covers of Superplay magazine. If you don’t recognise the name, then the eye-popping, jaw-dropping cover for this debut issue of his video game inspired comic magazine Smart Bomb!! should be enough to power you up and purchase it!
Publisher: Super Monster Club
Writer: Wil Overton, Neil Roberts, Philip M Jackson, Eddie Sharam, Jamie Woodhead,
Artist: Wil Overton, Neil Roberts, Philip M Jackson, Eddie Sharam, Damien Sparkes
Price: £1.49 from Gumroad
With its stunning mix of anime-influenced artwork, eye-meltingly gorgeous digital colouring and sublime type-setting and design, the cover of Smart Bomb!! Level 1-2 sets the tone for what is inside the mag as we delve into a world that is like a vintage video game come to life – just with 21st century production values.
Smart Bomb!!‘s mastermind, Will Overton, has created it to be a comics magazine in the style of classic British titles from the Beano to 2000AD to Deadline and beyond, but with a heavy emphasis on video game culture and so reminiscent of classic mags from the ’90s like ZZAP64, Gamesmaster or Overton’s own alma mater Super Play – but with comics.
The opening story, written and drawn by Will himself, features characters P-Wun and P-Too as they battle evil alien download pirates and is packed full of super smart gaming references alongside the high impact technicolour artwork . But don’t worry if you don’t know your Mario from your Metroid as you can revel in the amazing artwork and simple but effective story, which is heavy on action and low on exposition, as the characters attempt to battle their way through to the next level with the the help of an omnipotent octopus.
As well as showcasing Will’s work, it is also home to fellow creators who bring their own stories to the issue and help create a even more diverse look to it. There’s Neil Robertson’s Jefferson Six, which is a 70s style time travel tale that feels like it could have come straight from an old Warrior annual; Philip M Jacksons The Air Is Death, a futuristic sci-fi tale that is a muted counter balance to the technicolor action of the opener; And Eddie Sharam and Jamie Woodhead’s super slick tale Prison Planet – Fragment A, which is rendered in a stunning 3D photo montage style.
The true star of the show is Overton though. With his pedigree in the world of magazines, Will has not just collected together a handful of stories, but also has filled out the issue with some equally stunning editorial pages. There’s the letters page from sarcastic alien The CORE, a vintage video game cartoon ‘Gaming Ace’, a guide to creating new video games with cutesy character Delightful Harriet and a rundown of all the games that everyone is currently playing (quick game of Trumpet Geezer anyone?!), and much, much more.
As we have seen elsewhere in indie comics, creating a compelling package for your product can help elevate it from the run-of-the-mill titles out there, however Overton’s expert use of design and layers and layers of content helps send Smart Bomb!! into the stratosphere of quality to become one of the most compelling and beautiful comics we’ve seen in years. It’s one of those books that rewards repeat reading just to take in the complexity and detail on every single page. You can tell this is truly a labour of love, and if you are into your games, or were a 90s video game addict then it is an utter joy and a delight to read. But if you weren’t, it’s good enough to appreciate as it is and should entertain and enthral.
Having praised Smart Bomb!! for its detail, our only issue with this first issue is a slight lack of depth in some of the story-telling. While there is a lot of style on show, there is not that much substance with many of the stories ending frustratingly early. However when the style is this good, you can almost forgive it for not having the depth of an Alan Moore book, as that is just not the kind of comic that Smart Bomb!! is attempting to be.
“An explosive mix of 90s video games, comic books and gaming culture Smart Bomb!! is sheer self-publishing perfection. With a quality finish that is genuinely second-to-none, we cannot wait to power up and get on to the next level!”