By Andi Ewington and Matt Woodley, art by Paul Green
Late? Yep. This one came out at the London Super Con earlier this year. Sorry.
We’re looking at a city in trouble, the populous under threat thanks to those running the show deciding that poisoning is an effective way of carrying out a little social cleansing. And we follow a small group of heroes as they fight to make a difference.
Taken like that, it’s just another overly simplistic thing. But Overrun is all about the hook of the high concept twist… one that definitely ticks the required interest boxes in terms of elevator pitch; somewhere between The Matrix, Tron and The Walking Dead, INSIDE your computer.
Overrun all takes place inside your computer, with all the characters part of the virtual environment, the residents all files, whether they’re .xls business types, sexy spammers, hip mp4 musos etc etc. But within the confines of the computer environment the memory, the virtual living space, is running out too fast, the entire virtual city is now under threat as those in power threaten to unleash a virus to wipe them out. The infected files are already seen on the streets, the infection taking hold.
That concept, that hook is the thing that attracts, and it’s a bloody good one, really well realised, but once past that hook? Well, I’m not completely sold, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The heroes of Overrun are computer game characters, forgotten by their peers, fighting to save their city from certain destruction as the virus engulfs their city. In this, there’s a load of detail to be played with, whether it’s the clever computery drop-ins (the ‘Scroll Bar’ and the files needing memory forced to beg for KBs my fave), the IT-specific naming (Norton and McAffee the detectives charged with protecting the city, or MacIntosh the head of the CPU, the big boss), or the basic fact that the ‘heroes’ involved all have a certain familiarity, somewhat down at heel and struggling to get by versions of good old names….
Yep, that’s Lucy Carter, Red Shogun, Pepe (‘who needs an Italian plumber when you can have a French electrician?’), ex-wrestler Tiny and weird yellow thing Dag Dag. Absolutely all similarity to trademarked properties meant entirely for the purposes of satire m’lud.
On top of all these cute touches and fine detail, there’s the important sense that Ewington and Woodley have sat down, thought it all out and really come through with a complete blueprint for the world of Overrun, where everything they’ve added has a place, a society with depth and history.
As for the actual story here, it’s all to do with Cooper. The hero of sorts, albeit one who has little idea what he’s meant to do, or even who he is. We meet him first on a ‘POP mail direct e-train’ approaching inbox3 with no ticket and no idea… things get worse and worse, we’re introduced to the older heroes, and see glimpses of the bad guys involved with unleashing the poison/virus currently overruning the files, turning them into computer zombie files.
For what Overrun is, it’s fine, but once I was past the exciting high concept ideas it sort of falls down a little in the execution, since like so much high concept work, the actual meat on the bones here is a touch stringy, just a standard twist on a simple Western; brave heroes fighting to rid their town of the nasty boss who plans to attack at high noon, that sort of thing. The packaging and wrapping may have changed somewhat, but that’s all.
Having said that, there’s a definite appeal to and a definite place for simple Westerns with a bit of wrapping. You only need to look at Star Wars to realise that. And Ewington and Woodley do the basics here very neatly, everyone acting to stereotype sure, but the added layers of the computer environment give us something extra to enjoy.
Art is somewhere nostalgic, at least for me. At the very best there’s hints of Darwyn Cooke here, but most of the time I’m reminded mostly of 90s/early 00s Image/Marvel. Mike Wieringo, that sort of thing. Lots of you loved that, but I can’t say I was overly enamoured of the style. (I’m sure you can find lots of modern proponents of the style but I’ve managed to successfully avoid them all thus far). So not my taste, but I can still see that what’s here is executed very well, very suited to the over the top gaming idea behind the comic, all moving really fast and really well.
One difficulty I do/did have with the style was the overly cheesecake look for so many of the women, all ridiculous body shapes, back-breaking positions, cricket balls for breasts, impossibly tiny hips, the sort of thing you can see below in the final image. Yes, I know it’s part of the sexualised cartoon imagery, all Betty Boop et al. But it’s something I’d rather leave behind with the 90s. Something I’d rather not see too much of now. There’s the usual good mix of body shapes here amongst the male characters. The women… yep, all pretty much the same.
In the end, I’m not exactly sold by Overrun. It’s done pretty well, but it’s a classic high concept idea where the actual story behind the concept isn’t quite strong enough to stand alone. It’s fun sure, but not brilliant.
This is just the preview though, the first 25-pages of a longer graphic novel that will hopefully solve a few of the issues I had, will flesh the story out, will rise above the high concept and flesh it all out a little?