Swordquest is an unfinished series of Atari video games from the ‘80s. It was part of a contest including three games and one that was never released. Each came with a comic book explaining the plot and part of a solution to the puzzle that needed to be solved to win a series of prizes worth $150,000. This series was one of the first attempts to make narrative and logic elements of a game connect. Atari’s financial problems and the video game crash of 1983 didn’t allow for the contest to finish.
Swordquest is also the title of a new comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment. It is the first Atari comic from Dynamite and the first Atari comics endeavor in 30 years. Yeah, things just got real. Fans of Atari, get ready!
Bowers and Sims orchestrate a meta-contextual script about Peter Case, a man who tried to win the contest when he was a kid. He is now grown, and dying of a degenerative lung disease. As his apartment goes up in flames and he has to move back in with his mother, he stumbles upon the old game and starts wondering where the sword prize is today… He has six months to live, so what does he really have to lose? It’s time to get that sword. Let the quest begin!
So far, we’ve only met Peter. However, there are two other characters that will serve as heroes of the series: the Perez siblings: Amy and Alvin. We barely get to see what they’re up to these days (aside from what Peter sees on social media), but we can assume that they’ll have something to do with this mission.
This issue reads really well. The pacing is steady but quick, and this story gives us just enough information to get hyped for the next. The language is natural, fluid, and believable. Characters interact in ways that you and I would on any given day.
The fact that this series is based on historical fact and Atari in general makes it all the more appealing. I’m sure a lot of us can identify with Peter in terms of the nostalgia he felt while going through his old video games. We’ve been there, we’ve imagined those stories, we’ve played those games, and we’ve made those gaming friends. The sentimental part of this script really tugs at the heartstrings.
Scott Kowalchuk’s artwork perfectly illustrates the script. It isn’t realistic, but we can easily relate the pencils to the real world. We don’t see all too much detail, but small instances of such really stick out, like the flashbacks to old comics with decipherable Ben Day dots. The characters don’t show a lot of emotion, but when they do, it looks really believable. The lines are heavy but clean, and Karl Fan’s colors are believable in that they reflect both anatomy and light sources really well.
This is the perfect comic book series for fans of the classic Atari and new fans alike. Much like gamers had to fill the gaps between games, Bowers and Sims have set out to get readers in the same head space—an immersive experience that allows fans to jump into the book/games themselves.
Written by: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims
Illustrated by: Scott Kowalchuk