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Will hold your attention

Will hold your attention

Release Date: OUT NOW!

156 pages | $24.99 | Publisher: Vertigo

Writer: Douglas Rushko­ff

Artists: Goran Sudzuka, Jose Marzan Jr

Spending too many hours playing Skyrim or Arkham Asylum is an experience that some SFX readers will know only too well. But surely few take their interest to the immersive extremes of the Korean pro gamers who inspired Cyberia / Ecstasy Club author DouglasRushkoff’s new graphic novel ADD (here an acronym for Adolescent Demo Division). It centres on a band of preternaturally talented teenagers whose proficiency at mastering the latest open world computer games has elevated them to pop star status. But despite most of the so-called “Realworld” being aware of their artificial origins, the young game experts are blissfully ignorant of the true circumstances of their birth. After realising that their eventual “graduation” to the mythical Next Level is considerably more final than they were led to believe, they embark upon a quest to locate their actual parents.

A media theorist and journalist by trade, Rushkoff peppers his script with buzzy terms like “media testing” and “emergent resistance”. He also devises a Clockwork Orange -esque teenage argot that isn’t too difficult to master once you’ve distinguished your “dekhs” from your “stims”. But for all its cutting edge speak, the grim dystopian scenario that’s conjured up sometimes feels a little too familiar. The gamers’ forlorn search for their origins brings to mind Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go while dashes of The Island and Logan’s Run are thrown in. There are also parallels with the microcosmic school setting of Nick Spencer’s Image series Morning Glories , while the reality TV elements echo Brian Michael Bendis’s Powers and the New X-Men run of Grant Morrison.

For all its high-tech trappings, ADD is essentially a teenage melodrama at heart, and Rushkoff deftly handles the characters’ developing emotions, including the rivalry between plucky prodigy Takai and insecure bully Matt. He is excellently served by the classically sturdy pencils of Goran Sudzuka and Jose Marzan Jr’s sharp inks, with the Croat adding a previously unseen Akira -style manga edge to his typically fluid figurework. More compact than Rushkoff’s Vertigo series Testament, ADD was initially conceived as a monthly title, before being converted into a standalone graphic novel. Resembling the first arc of an open-ended book, the story rarely ventures beyond the claustrophobic confines of sinister corporation NewGen Inc’s sleek headquarters, until the devastating finale, which leaves plenty of intriguing plotlines dangling for any potential sequel. Game on!

Stephen Jewell

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