This was a super intriguing book visually, feeling very much like a mashup of graphic novel, video game and instant messaging, which was the format most of the dialog was presented in. Pages of message boxes face gorgeous full-page panels that illustrate the story with an almost 70s rock band poster-like feel. This is less surprising when you learn that the Digital Lizards Of Doom originally started as Gabriel Valentin’s musical project, before expanding into both a graphic novel series and, in a turn of branding that will absolutely make sense to any geekdom con-goer, a beer.
The story itself is very much the first chapter in an ongoing mystery. We begin with an enigmatic, self-confessed supervillain named Pineapple Pete telling us that he’s trapped a bunch of heroes in a video game. Only they don’t know that they’re in a game, and we the readers are meant to choose our characters and “play” them through. Trouble is, someone else also seems to be messing with the game, and Pineapple Pete wants our help figuring out who.
Delightfully self-referential, even without the knowing asides from Pineapple Pete throughout. We’re basically following along as two young heroes, one mostly sorcerous and one mostly scientific, wind up in heated battle with an invading enemy from their planet’s past. Khlugus and Dizzy are the last of the Shokunin, an academic line that meshes science with sorcery and was initially founded in the aftermath of Commander E.K.O’s original devastating attack. Before opening their school, the founders of the Shokunin had banded together to banish the Commander back to where he came from. As the decades have passed, however, he’s gathered new allies to allow him to try again. Will he succeed, especially with Pineapple Pete’s meddling getting in everyone’s way?
Despite the potential for confusion, Mr Valentin does a great job keeping the plot threads distinct, with answers to several of the many mysteries gradually becoming clearer as the book progresses. The text-message-heavy layout of the book helps, especially with the different quasi-emoji representing the speaking characters. Unsurprisingly given my pop art bent, I am a big fan of both the heart-eyes and the waterfall-tears versions of each character.
That said, this book also feels very much like a first chapter, with accompanying propulsive energy. It’s so enthusiastic that I can’t actually tell you if it’s any good, as it definitely does not feel like a whole. I was certainly entertained and intrigued — as well as very appreciative of the fresh new style of art direction — and will be keeping an eye out for future installments so I can make a better evaluation of this otherwise very fun property.
Digital Lizards of Doom — Level 1: Dizzy Doom by Gabriel Valentin & Ernie Najera was published December 5 2023 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including