Pullbox Reviews Tower #1- Don’t hate the gamer… hate the game

Real-life contestants battle it out in a video game-style competition to reach the top of the Tower! Casandra, Kimi, and Mac are thrust into a brutal (and seemingly virtual) world where danger lies in wait around every corner. With no time to solve the mystery of where they are or why they’re here, they’ll have to smarten up and join forces if they intend to survive, using their individualized weapons and animal assistants to outsmart deadly traps and ambushes. But loyalties will be tested, as only one (or one team!) can become the ultimate champion!

You wake up in a room with a strange voice explaining the rules in a competition where participants will fight to the death. Happens all the time, right? As common as it might be to most, it’s a first for Cassandra. All things considered, though, she adjusts to her new situation pretty well. She manages to avoid certain death in her first confrontation, and as things progress, she finds allies willing to work with her to survive.

From the first panel, Tower is moving and readers are picking up the plot right along with Cassandra. I’m a huge fan of stories that build like this, giving no lead-in and letting events happen on the page. Sure, it can go wrong but when “show, don’t tell” is supported by solid writing, it’s like watching magic happen. Camrus Johnson & Kelsey Barnhart keep the narrative moving, giving the reader just enough information to follow along and build a relationship with main character Cassandra.

Backing Cassie (may I call you Cassie, Cassie?) up in this Game of Death are fellow contestants Kimi, Mac, and Jess. Instead of taking the far-fetched approach where everyone trusts everyone else, this group reluctantly forms an uneasy alliance to boost their odds of survival. Honestly, if everyone would have gotten along like besties from the start, the story would have lost credibility with me and I might have lost interest. Again, Johnson and Barnhart have their hands on the wheel and keep their story on track.

A comic book without any artwork would be kinda boring, so with great relief I’m reporting that Tower does in fact have pictures, and they are spectacular. Artist ChrisCross is doing great work here. The first thing that jumped out when I read this issue was that perspective is used to outstanding effect. Coupled with solid character design and dynamic action, ChrisCross is helping produce a gorgeous book.

That foundation is rounded out with the final touches from colorist Andrew Dalhouse and letterer Deron Bennett. Dalhouse builds on the video game idea, using sharp lighting effects to give everything a neon and fluorescent look. Bennett keeps it going by giving the narrative boxes a computer voice-over feel to give readers the impression that they’re listening to a video game tutorial.

The entire creative team is working in sync, and that might be the strongest appeal of this book. Everyone knows what it is that they’re working toward, with the first issue opening up a world of learn-as-you-go tension. Video games turned into comics haven’t always worked out… but building a comic book into a video game from the ground up makes it a whole new ballgame.

Final Score: 11/13

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