IN REAL LIFE/AURORA WEST
Story by Cory Doctorow and Adapted and Drawn by Jen Wang
Written by Paul Pope and J.T. Petty and Drawn by David Rubin
Published by First Second
Reviewed by Marc Mason
To absolutely no surprise, First Second continues to turn out one brilliant graphic novel after another. Sorta repetitive, really…
The fine writer/artist Jen Wang has adapted Cory Doctorow’s short story “Anda’s Game” in IN REAL LIFE, an unbelievably timely graphic novel about a young girl gamer coming of age in an MMO environment. Anda, a charming young woman, finds herself flourishing inside a game where she learns teamwork, friendship, and responsibility while going on raids with her guild. But when she starts making real-life cash by taking out “gold farmers” (players who do dirty work in the game and then sell the spoils of said work for big money) she winds up meeting on who changes her perspective not just on her own behavior but on a culture far across the world. This also sees her interfere in a well-meaning, but kinda damaging way, and she must deal with the fallout from her actions.
Gaming and issues of sexism has been so prevalent as of late that it has made the pages of major newspapers and magazines, which gives IRL even more of a cachet than likely originally intended. Anda herself is a fantastic character; smart, moral, hungry to learn about herself and the world, and she is an excellent representation for so many out there who are just like her… in real life. The stakes in the story turn out to be surprisingly high, yet they are also incredibly personal and human. Wang gets everything right as both storyteller and artist, and the essay Doctorow provides to introduce the book is interesting and informative. I seriously loved this book – and I think you will as well.
On the heels of last year’s BATTLING BOY, Paul Pope has allowed for the expansion of that “universe” with this first of two prequel volumes focusing on that book’s other protagonist. THE RISE OF AURORA WEST takes us back to a time before the young heroine’s father died and passed on the mantle of city protector to her. Here we see her as she is undergoing the early moments of her training, and as she investigates one monster-related crime, she discovers a clue at the scene that makes her question how she lost her mother many years prior. Perhaps what caused her mother’s death was a little more… personal… that anyone ever realized.
Pope works with writer J.T. Petty here to deliver a fast-paced, entertaining story, and artist David Rubin delivers work that stylistically matches well with Pope’s own. In other words, if you’re worried about Pope not executing all of it himself – don’t. You won’t even notice. The characters are fun, the action is lovely, and Aurora is a terrific character. She’s brave, inquisitive, and doesn’t take the idea of responsibility lightly. This is volume one of two, but it ends on a solidly resolute note so you don’t feel short-changed. Recommended.