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Item - Xyr: The Seekers of Valcin

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Series: Eclipse Graphic Novels — no. 21
Authors: Hopen, Stuart
Deming, Sean (editing)
Yronwode, Catherine (editing)
Illustrators: Dunn, Ben (pencils)
Giacoia, Frank (inks)
Mooney, Jim (inks)
Orzechowski, Bob (lettering)
Parsons, Sam (colors)
Date: March, 1988
ISBN: 0913035459 / 9780913035450
Length: 48 pages
flyingbolt's Thoughts:

A few comic book publishers have claimed to be the first company to put out interactive fiction in the form of a comic; as far as I know, Eclipse Comics were the first to do so in the form of a graphic novel... or at the very least, a graphic novel as we understand the term today - i.e. a comic book story published as a book, that isn't a trade paperback.

It's a fairly slim volume, but it doesn't need to be lengthy, it just needs to be good. Fortunately, it is. Xyr is a likeable, if reasonably flawed protagonist and Stuart Hopen's writing goes along at a decent pace, although he can get a little self-indulgent at times (that's 80s comics for you - they often tried too hard to prove they deserved to sit with the grown-ups) but overall it's a very good science-fantasy tale, and the artist Ben Dunn proves himself more than capable of shifting between all kinds of weird and fantastic scenes. That said, the inclusion of a murderous, mono-syllabic Eskimo could make a modern reader roll their eyes more than once.

As a gamebook it works very well, with clear instructions on which pages to go to, depending on how you want the story to go. There is the chance of getting caught in a loop, but the graphic novel's shortness works in its favour, as you can simply flit back to where you were before without feeling too bad for cheating. I suspect the decision to keep the page count lean was made early on, and plays to the strengths of the story - no part of the story wears out its welcome too soon, and having Xyr be too grand in its scale could've worn the reader out.

Of course, you are given the choice at the start of the graphic novel to read the whole thing in order. Very few gamebooks give that option, for the simple reason that it's very hard to pull off, if not downright impossible. However, doing so with this graphic novel <spoiler>can give the reader a special reward; an extra ending, and arguably the real one at that. My advice is to read Xyr as a gamebook until you exhaust every possible ending you can find, then head to the last page.</spoiler>

Overall, I have to give Xyr: The Seekers of Valcin a solid B. In its only little way, it's a pioneering work in American comics. However, the thing you have to remember with pioneers is that they usually get outdone later on. Frankly, it's hard not to look at it now as a pleasant little curiosity.

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