by Brandon Beck
I really wanted Double Jumpers to live up to the promise of its premise. The first two issues come very close, missing the mark by thiiiis much. This is a great idea for a mini-series: Freaky Friday meets WoW. But throughout the first two issues, I didn’t feel like the creators were having nearly as much fun with the material as they could be. I’m not saying the book is terrible, it’s definitely not, it just loses its way from what I thought it would be in a way that, as a reader, was very frustrating. Now I know I sound like that nerd that gets mad because a thing isn’t the way he would have done it, but hear me out.
Double Jumpers tells the tale of the staff of Uberdyne, a software development company attempting to resurrect the long dead franchise, The Dungeon Lords, as some sort of nebulous, fully immersive virtual reality gaming experience. They play fast and loose with the details, which serves the Freaky Friday aspect of the story, but makes the whole enterprise seem just vague enough to leave me wanting just a bit more detail. Through a Mountain Dew-related mishap, the programmers are thrust in to the game world, while the heroes of The Dungeon Lords are zapped into the bodies of the programmers. This is such a fun idea, and when the ball finally starts rolling on it at the end of issue one it really hooked me.
Issue two, however, didn’t quite live up to the promise of the ending of that first issue for me. Writer Dave Dwonch sets up some great, hilarious situations (my favorite being a Vegas casino called “Caligula’s”) but seems to go out of his way to avoid actually showing them, instead cutting away from the action only to have the characters talk about this hilarious thing we didn’t get to see. Comics are the epitome of a writer’s ability to “show not tell” and all we get is exposition.
There’s also an inordinate amount of time paid to a group of rival programmers hell-bent on pwning Uberdyne that never really amounts to anything other than some filler between the stuff we really want to see. I get trying to flesh out the world and have multiple B- and C-plots happening, and dramatically they all make sense, but when you only have four issues to tell a story I’d much rather have economy and an intense, driving narrative than some meandering story threads and “villains” that don’t quite pay off. But, of course, I even have to take my own assessment of this with a grain of salt because I’ve only read the first two issues. For all I know, all the threads could still come together in issues 3 and 4 and prove me vastly wrong. But so far that’s how it reads. Honestly, it felt a little bit like listening to The White Album: Whittle it down to one disc/issue and it’s great, but as it stands it’s too bloated for its own good.
By contract, Bill Blankenship’s character designs are wonderful, and there is enough continuity between the real world characters and the video game characters that it never becomes confusing when trying to figure out who’s who. The easiest characters to identify “in game” are Milo, the misogynistic jerk, who has been turned into a female warrior, and the intern, Maxine, who has become a hulking, Groo-style killing machine. But the other characters don’t have defining enough character traits or comical enough juxtapositions to be that obvious. But despite the lack of material to work with, Blankenship nails it, and has added enough little similarities to the characters that you slowly figure out what’s going/who’s who at almost the exact same moment the characters do. His character designs are clean and nicely stylized, reminding me of the pointy, exaggerated characters from The Iron Giant and the geometrically wonderful Asterios Polyp. They’re stylized without sacrificing humanity, and human enough while still feeling like animated characters. Blankenship also seems to be having a ton of fun with the monster designs in the game world, heavily evoking Lord of the Rings without seeming like a direct rip. The art is easily Double Jumpers’ strongest asset.
TL;DR: Double Jumpers is a Freaky Friday meets WoW story that I really really wanted to like, and I’m honestly hoping they can stick the landing. But the first two issues had some writing that didn’t quite work for me, despite very strong art, and frustratingly didn’t live up to the promise of the premise.
Double Jumpers is written by Dave Dwonch with art by Bill Blankenship. It is a 4 issue mini-series from Action Lab Comics. You can purchase it on their website or ask your local comic book shop to stock Action Lab titles.
Review PDFs of Double Jumpers were graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.
If you will be at San Diego Comic Con this weekend, you can visit Action Lab at booth L-13 in the Small Press Pavilion and pick up their books there. They will also be doing portfolio reviews at their booth on Friday and Saturday. Check out their website or Twitter feed for full details.
Action Lab on Spandexless:
Princeless (nominated for an Eisner at this year’s show!)
Brandon Beck is a writer/director/improviser living in Brooklyn, NY. He recently finished his MFA in TV Writing/Producing at the TV Writer’s Studio at Long Island University and is now working on bending the entertainment industry to his nefarious will. He is more than happy to talk to you about Phish. You can see inside his mind on Tumblr or by following him on the tweetbox at @hellyesbrandon.