Do you like crazy? The Donnie Darko kind where you’re given only a few pieces of the puzzle, and none of them fit together? Then “UXB” is for you.
Written and Illustrated by Colin Lorimer
In a shattered future London, experimental “lifesuits” are grafted to the bodies of three brothers, affording the boys great power… and great license. As the sibs settle into the abandoned Buckingham Palace, the problems of the world fade from sight in a whirlpool of old movies, violent video games, and porn. But when the once servile scavengers of the city begin to rise en masse against them, the brothers discover that their suits are designed for more than survival. Will they save the future…or just bollocks it up the worse?
The plot of “UXB” is split between the post-apocalyptic present and the pre-apocalypse past of the main cast. The two co-mingle throughout the whole book to heightened effect, turning natural scene breaks into an organic presentation of information. The cuts are neither forced for suspense or timed for dramatic reveal. On the one hand, the after-the-end parts of the story are mostly typical for the genre, but the lead up to it is a fresh take and lends some novelty to the premise. The finale does rely somewhat on a deus ex machina, but by the time it’s revealed it fits right in with the additional craziness of the plot (in a good way).
The book stars only four people, and it’s not unusual for a book with such a limited cast to have a strong focus on characterization. Lorimer takes it a step further and dishes out his characters’ personality in spades. Utilizing subtle facial expressions and beat panels to capture real emotion, he makes them seem less like fictional entities and more like actual brothers who support one another even as they purposely frustrate each other. Even at their worst moments, it’s impossible not to relate to them.
Lorimer’s efforts are enhanced further by his amazing talent for dialogue. Every character in “UXB” has a unique attitude and unique mannerisms. Their speech patterns set them apart from one another almost as much as their visual distinctions. Despite the very different world they occupy, you’ll feel like you know them from their first introduction. After all, who hasn’t met the jerk who makes crude jokes and swears way too much? Who hasn’t met the sensitive guy who allows himself to be bullied out of being compassionate? These aren’t exactly standard archetypes, and they have much more nuance than can be easily expressed here.
Lorimer also handles the art duties for this OGN, and you should already know it’s great. His style is a mixture of sharp, almost photo realistic backgrounds and rough, sketchy foregrounds. Pages with heavier shadows have a white gutter, pages with lighter colors have either black or no gutters. Whichever option is used, it always serves the particular layout and never hampers the story’s flow. The action scenes have a static look distinctive to art which is photo referenced. Lorimer seems aware of this weakness, and tries to counter it with a blurriness to give the panels an illusion of motion. It’s somewhat effective, and definitely better than nothing.
There aren’t many sound effects in the book, but the one which are present stand out – not in a good way. The art is colored with a subdued palette and lots of highlights and shadows. In contrast, the sound effects are bright, flat colors. They lack depth or texture, and even when they’re partially hidden behind part of the art they look like clip art which has just been pasted on top of the image. It appears Lorimer did most of the lettering himself (Jason Kevitt is listed as “additional lettering”), and it’s hard not to wonder why he chose to adorn his detailed art with such contrastingly boring effects. Fortunately, the effects aren’t used with high frequency and it would be easy to over look them.
The last ten pages of the hardcover are reserved for some bonus content, including sketches, deleted scenes, retakes. The various captions add context to the images, and make for an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the book’s development. Many of the sketches are dated 2009, revealing just how long Lorimer has been carrying the “UXB” world around with him.
This story is well crafted and objectively well done. Lorimer should be very proud of this work. However, it’s a niche tale which definitely won’t please everyone. If you read any of its excerpts in “Dark Horse Presents” and liked them, you’ll love the whole book. If you haven’t, you’ll certainly want to browse at least a little before buying. But do yourself a favor – browse from the beginning, and don’t skip pages. You won’t want to spoil yourself.
Final Verdict: 6.9 Strong browse, definite buy if weirdness is your thing.