Axcend #4 Review
by Bryan Scheidler
As an online gamer I admit that I have often found myself thinking “I wish I could level up my real world self as quickly as my on line avatar”. Ridiculous, I know, but if you were given the opportunity to bring all your skills and abilities from your favorite video game into the real world – you would take it in a heart beat, wouldn’t you? That is the premise behind Image comics new series Axcend, a new series from veteran comic artist Shane Davis. Three people from different walks of life with different experiences, problems and fears are chosen to take part in a mysterious Beta test for a new online game. Things quickly go south and all three characters can now change into their online personas in the real world.
Some history first, since many of you may not have heard about this series.The first three issues of this series give background on each of our main characters, with each issue focusing almost entirely on one of them at a time. This book avoids the trope of the “noble but reluctant hero being called for greater things”, as we see with characters like the Green Lantern, which is always a compelling idea. Rather than starting with a character who’s pure of heart from the moment we meet them (therefore casting little doubt on how they will handle power), we have three damaged,complex individuals. Individuals that have real problems that make how they respond to their new found real world abilities that much more arresting. The first character we meet is Eric, a high school student who’s twin brother died one year before. Next we have Rain, a techno pop star who lives in her own made up world; always looking to escape from her reality. Finally we have Ruiz another high schooler at the end of his rope after constant abuse from his dad and peers. It’s these three baggage- laden individuals that are given amazing god like power in the real world and who lead us through the story.
In the game world, the characters are guided by, what I assume is, the Game’s AI, DOG. DOG is a mysterious character who looks like a Robot Anubis in a business suit. This guy legitimately has me very intrigued about what his role really is. Once things start going wrong and Eric and Rain manifests their game abilities in the real world DOG also decides he needs to cross over. Oh, and one more thing. All of this is set up against a back drop of an alternate world history. In this world, the cold war was not ended by a war of attrition with Russia. A tentative truce was induced by the threat of Nuclear Force – and the fingers near the button of this ultimate threat are decidedly itchy. This was just a super quick summary of the first 3 issues, but they are all available on Comixology.com, so you should go read them now!
With Issue 4 it feels like this series is finally done with the prologue. We know who our characters are; We seem to know who the villains are; and we seem to know what the goal of the team is. However, as the story unfolds, we discover that things are nowhere as simple as they appear. Ruiz has set off to get as powerful as possible and, in his mind, right all the wrongs done to him over the years. Eric and Rain are consequently tasked with stopping him before something majorly catastrophic happens. Of course, in this world, the leaders would rather “burn the house down with the rat inside” as opposed to dealing with the real problem. The entire issue is full of tension as all sides feel like they are at the knifes edge regarding Ruiz. And, of course, it is in the final moments that everything seems to be flipped upside down. What happens? I’m not telling you, buy the book on January 27th and see for yourself, but I can tell you I can’t wait for issue 5.