REVIEW [Comics]: Power Up

15 07 2009
What if life came with power ups?

What if life came with power ups?

From the creator of Earthworm Jim comes this [autobio]graphic[al?] novel about the life of lowly retail employee Hugh [Randolph] and his dream of creating “the world’s greatest video-game!”

Hugh is frustrated with complacency, but reluctant to take chances and possibly improve his situation. His best friend and co-worker, Doyle, on the other hand, is content to trot along the path of least resistance, or, as Doyle’s boss puts it, “Doyle … will never advance.”

Moreover, Doyle’s deranged: as the duo drive to work, he pretends to consume pedestrians with his “Pac-Man hand” (“wocka-wocka-wocka”).

So what draws together this unevenly matched pair? Their love of playing and designing video-games, of course! And, in only a minor contrivance, Hugh stumbles across an antiquated game system at a yard sale. Soon, he discovers that the game is capable of bestowing powers upon him: “invisible shields,” a “continue flag,” and “boots of speed” (among others that any gamer/reader will surely recognize and appreciate).

As Hugh begins to activate such powers and improve his life (and, he hopes, the lives of his wife and son), he discovers that he should have been careful about his reach exceeding his grasp.

The story’s strongest elements belong to Hugh, who experiences his powers as would any other developing superhero: by trial-and-error, often with humorous results (Hugh’s thwarting of an attempted armed robbery is particularly funny).

Unfortunately, a sub-plot concerning Hugh’s strained relationship with his son is never really resolved and the plot’s conclusion is a literary “cheat” in the mode of many stories concerning wish fulfillment (but I’ve probably said too much already).

From a technical standpoint, TenNapel’s work is solid: each page possesses a simple layout, which serves the artist’s bold line-art and precise comic timing. Barker’s lettering is a great complement to the work as it functions in both a dynamic and loose way (the sound effects are particularly evocative).

Power Up is available from Image Comics, Inc. ($12.99)