Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Skylanders #0 (Comic) - Zero Toys Required, Still A Good Start

While the Skylanders franchise has proven itself to be a very profitable/successful Spyro reboot and toy seller (even if Spyro himself isn’t really in the spotlight), it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of supplementary material, aside from a few spin-off games and a handful of books. To rectify this, IDW Publishing has recently announced a Skylanders comic book series, which more recently made its debut with an exclusive issue #0 at San Diego Comic-Con, its own story serving as a prequel to the upcoming Skylanders: Trap Team. As a Skylanders player myself, I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first, but as the Con drew closer I decided to give the comic a shot so as to invest myself further in the series lore; to this end, I ended up (unintentionally) getting two copies of the comic at the IDW Booth (I was aiming for one), as well as copies of the variant cover after attending the Skylanders panel at the Con (this seems to be the only way to get this particular variant) and getting each copy of the comic signed by the issue’s writer, David A. Rodriguez (he had a signing each day at IDW throughout the Con). After reading the series’ debut issue, I would say that this new comic series is off to a good start, though it’s much too early to tell how good it is at transitioning into the story of Trap Team (since, you know, the game’s not out just yet).

When Lord Kaos makes a discovery, he explains to his servant Glumshanks about a prison in Skylands known as Cloudcracker Prison, wherein Skylands’ biggest villains are encased in a material known as Traptanium, the most durable substance in all of Skylands. When Glumshanks asks what this has to do with anything, Kaos explains that he has a plan that will eventually grant him total control over all of Skylands. Later, The Skylanders Pop Fizz, Stealth Elf, and Wash Buckler are flying with Flynn as Stealth Elf practices, but no sooner do they have to join other Skylanders in fending off an army of Trolls attacking a supply of Radiance Crystals, the element used to make Traptanium. If that’s not enough, a Doom Raider named Wolfgang appears to overwhelm the Skylanders.

David A. Rodriguez, the aforementioned writer of this issue, does an amazing job of capturing the spirit of the characters Kaos, Glumshanks, and Flynn, as their personalities and actions lined up with what they would normally do in the games (I have not really played or read any supplementary material), to the point where I could hear the characters saying their respective lines. I personally don’t know much about the personalities of the Skylanders themselves, since I haven’t read many character bios and any personality I have seen from them comes mainly from whatever they say in toy form, commercials, and a handful of cutscenes. However, the actions of the Skylanders present in the story, especially those that got the most screen time (Spyro himself appearing in only a single panel), felt like things they would do in the situations they were presented with. Again, it’s too early to tell how well this comic lines up with the plot of Trap Team, but I would nonetheless say it was well-written as it seems to set up plot points present in said game.

The Doom Raider Wolfgang shows up in this comic.

Mike Bowden’s art on the comic does well with capturing the general art style of the game, as well as having each character looking accurate to how they look in-game (and on-toy). The colors by David Garcia Cruz suit Bowden’s art well and help each character pop out in their respective surroundings, helped by the use of a generally bright color palette. There is one gripe I have with the art through, but this isn’t a mistake original to the book: the Trap Master Snap Shot uses a bow-and-arrow as his oversized weapon (a visual gimmick of the Trap Masters), but, as with his toy and official artwork, the bow lacks a bowstring (which is, you know, an important part of a bow’s anatomy), so even in the context of a comic it looks like Snap Shot is holding some weird-looking object rather than a proper weapon. Aside from this one thing, I don’t really have any complaints about the artwork.

There is also a set of four character bios in the back, namely for four of the Trap Masters introduced in Trap Team (Jawbreaker, Wildfire, Snap Shot, and Wallop). I find this feature to be interesting, since it allows the reader to know more about characters from the game series without having to look them up online. Though laid out much differently, this reminds me of a similar feature that was included within the issues of IDW’s Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers mini-series, as well as the bios included in Fun Publications’ Transformers material. In any case, I find that these bios aid in adding more depth to the universe and fleshing out the characters more.

So far, I would say the Skylanders comic is off to a good start. I would have to read more issues once the comic officially debuts in October to get a better idea of the comic’s general quality, but I would still say that this issue from Comic-Con was really well-executed. As a prequel, it seems to set up the plot of Trap Team well, though again I can’t judge that fully until I get to play the game. The writing and art are both executed well and the story gives potential players a glimpse of what Trap Team will be like in terms of new characters and plot. This comic is a must-have for Skylanders fans, and if you didn’t attend Comic-Con, I would suggest trying to seek this one out if you are interested. Hopefully this issue becomes reprinted in the future, perhaps in a trade paperback of some sort, so that those who didn’t attend the show will be able to read this story, but for now eBay is probably your best bet if you don’t have a copy already.

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