San Diego Comic-Con book review: ‘Anomaly’

“Anomaly” is a ground-breaking book that combines technology with the graphic novel in order to tell a story. Just reading this oversized book isn’t enough; you have to update your technology to a tablet, iPhone, iPad or smartphone that can handle Augmented Reality to truly appreciate this science fiction graphic novel.

Originally published 15 November 2012, Originally published 15 November 2012, the book is published by Anomaly Production and available on Amazon. Ian and I first saw this at San Diego Comic-con 2013 and then looked them up at other Cons. The book awkward to read but special enough that you won’t want to read it near grubby adults or kids and you’ll want to keep it well out of the reach of any slobbering creature. The pages are thick and slick and they need to stay that way so that you can appreciate the Augmented Reality which includes animation as well as sound and informational tidbits.

You have to download an app and there’s a potential to continuously add on. This could become addictive, but it could also become movies in a book in the near future. That doesn’t mean future kids won’t learn how to read. Some background info is included in the apps.

The book was written by Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin and illustrated by Brian Haberlin and Geirrod Van Dyke with lettering done by Francis Takenaga and coding directed by David Pentz.

Plot: We’re in a dystopian future in the third Golden Age. The Earth year is 2717. No sign of the Federation, but we do have a governmental structure that is referred to as The Conglomerate. Not a particularly catchy or imaginative name. All corporations and nations have been merged and technology has been made to serve The Conglomerate.

People now life in terrarium cities and in off world colonies or orbiting space stations because all of earth’s resources have been depleted. Al Gore has failed miserably.

Our protagonist is a warrior of the era, an Enforcer, named Jon. Jon is a white, thirty-something guy who’s fallen on hard times having been disgraced out of the bully leagues. He’s single, but has a sick mother and a younger brother, who is too young to work. Jon gets a chance to rejoin the force of Enforcers when his black, bald bud Robert offers him a mission: Babysitting, Samantha,  the daughter of a high-ranking Conglomerate executive.

Samantha is blonde and attractive. She’s illustrated to be busty and seems to wear too much mascara and/or false eyelashes. She’s your classic babe from uptown who needs bringing down, who has more ideals and ideas than a practical knowledge of how the world works. That makes her being bossy insufferable which is totally different from Jon’s problem with authority. You know that Samantha and Jon will rub each other the wrong way until Jon shows how physically able he is and for no other reason that he’s the hero, Samantha will succumb to his charms.

They are traveling to a planet that might be inhabitable or, even better, might have resources to plunder. While that’s the real purpose, that’s not why Samantha thinks they are there. On this planet, we’ll find all the likely suspects.

For those who have a crush on Xena, Warrior Princess, we have Aodh, a warrior of the Red Clan who wears bustier and a cape. There’s a lot of attention paid to her cleavage. Then there’s the pudgy, neutered alien that whines and the alien who will challenge Jon but become his friend in that sort of noble savage Tonto tradition.

Jon isn’t a Lone Ranger, fighting for right episodically. He’s more of the Laurence of Arabia I’m a white guy who can unite the savages who’ve been fighting for centuries. Oh, wait. They are still fighting over there in the Middle East.

The enemy is a snarly looking beast as well as a few bad men. You might be offended when you realize that the humanoid characters are all white except for the token blacks–one being evil and the other being expendable. To say more would spoil this story which you know will end happily ever after with Jon being told he’s the chosen one.

The dialogue–even human to human–won’t win any awards. The character development is shallow as an ant’s belly button.

If we still believed that things could be unAmerican we’d form a committee in our house and consider that things like a chosen warrior or one that should rule sort of story is totally counter to democracy and meritocracy. Aristocracy is all about the right to rule by birth. Do we really want to go there still? And what happened to the rule of the geeks in the future? We’re no longer chic?

As Ian noted:

Anomaly is one of those stories where the storytelling is more important than the story.  The story is basically a rehash of the chosen one, who unites everyone against a common enemy, and is wrapped in a nice sci-fi background with a few fantasy elements thrown in.  It is nothing that you haven’t seen before.  What is interesting is the graphics and the augmented reality that you can download for free to you smart phone or tablet.  The art work is stunning and the attention to detail is amazing. Even more amazing is the app.  This immerses the reader into the world, give an experience that unmatched before.  At certain points in the book, using the app, allows graphics that jump out of the page and give more information that gives a fuller understanding.  The possibilities of this technology has only begun to be tapped.

And do we still want to go into a future where that 60 percent of the Earth population that is Asian (of which 20 percent in Han Chinese) suddenly disappears so that we can have a white hero although we still get the token black? It’s as if in the future, the problem of race has been resolved by having almost none and showing the generous acceptance of other races/species as comrades even though that is heavily mitigated by the concept of the superior white male homo sapiens coming to the rescue of the aliens.

Ian commented:

Why is white the human standard?  In this universe most people are white.  The two minority characters in the story; one ends up dead the other is a surprise villain, both essentially footnotes to the story.   The human-ish aliens are white (with celtic names).

If race is one issue, then there’s the sexism. Nothing new to comic books or graphic novels, but it does get tiresome. Two attractive women and both need our hero because one has no common sense and the other is primitive. Both are followers and not real leaders which is only acceptable in dancing from Jana’s perspective.

Art: The book itself is large and cumbersome, but two pretty to put on where grubby hands or slobbering mouth might get to it. It comes in a box sturdy enough to ship electronics in. The paper is heavy and glossy.The illustrations are like oil paintings and best when looking straight on for a frontal angle. Other angles are a bit awkward and we can blame the software Poser for that.

The texture of the skin is okay, but hard textures such as the detailing of the swords (yes, old school battle tools) and controls are more convincing than the clothing or skin. The women look like they’ve made a serious investment in mascara and a gym membership.

What makes this book worth having is the technology behind or on the surface. This is the first graphic novel with Augmented Reality and it signals the future of books with movies embedded in the pages. Get your tablet, smartphone or iPad out. After you download an app you can have some fun and there’s always a possibility of updating the app and adding more Augmented Reality content.

You won’t get this book for the plot. You get it for the innovation and the promises it makes about the future of books.

  • Hardcover: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Anomaly Publishing; Box edition (November 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0985334207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985334208
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 16.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • List price: $75
  • Amazon price: $51.39

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