Shifter: Interactive Graphic Novel
- Writer: Brian Haberlin, Brian Holguin
- Artist: Brian Haberlin, Geirrod VanDyke, Kunrons Yap, Chan Hyuk Lee
- Published by: Anomoly Productions
- Pages: 20, Publish Date: Jan 23, 2014
- Notes: 875 panels of art, appendix text (book is 224 pages). Also in print as a graphic novel with augmented reality options. The UAR app for Shifter is a separate app and not a subject for this review. The app reviewed is the iOS version (Version 1.3) read on my iPad.
Shifter is set on an ultra-modern-day planet Earth (after a mysterious prologue, that occurs six months later): we meet Noah Freeman, an everyman centered on his job of drone-controlled environmental data collection. All seems well with his secure job and upcoming engagement, until a casual hiking trip goes very wrong; Noah ends up down a waterfall by a duo of sinister mystery men, and survives only to stumble upon a portal leading into some strange, other-dimensional plane of existence.
Here, Noah finds himself conversing with a sentient, spherical device. With that, he discovers a power within his surroundings to travel back to select times and places, but only through a choice of collected creatures and persons. Many specimens are extinct, and are of different sizes and personalities. One is human – a female Celtic warrior – with whom he develops a friendship. As a possessor of each specimen, he also shares its experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Such new explorations are exciting for Noah, but he seeks out a way to revisit to his old life. But he discovers himself wanted for murder – and a grand conspiracy behind it all. Now, he must use these new powers to set his original life right…
For the app, the entire story is aided by optional music, voice acting, sound effects, words, and 65 interactive “Touch”-points that access appendix pages. The appendix provides more background info on key plot/story elements as an added option for the viewer to further engage with the overall reading experience.
Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):
I love the concept and current quality of digital motion comics, as they have become an underrated treasure for mobile device users. However, to truly appreciate a motion comic, the story and art must be equally compelling. Otherwise, the presentation just becomes a bad gimmick. However, Anomaly Productions proved themselves by going above and beyond with their first interactive motion comic, the science-fiction space epic Anomaly.
Since Anomaly, I anxiously awaited Shifter. It seemed they upped their game by casting the voice of celebrity Wil Wheaton for the main role. This could add more credibility by attracting more of the growing geek culture, as projects such as this grow through word of mouth. I found his performance competent, but not terribly important to the overall product. But if the geek fan-base is helpful to the overall growth of independent science fiction in the new media, than I’m all for this.
The story and art are identical to the 222-page print graphic novel, for those traditional old-school readers of print to enjoy. The visual quality can be just the same, but only the print version covers the traditional grouped panels per page (while the motion comic has each panel is in sequenced swiping order). Whether or not the digital enhancements would improve the experience is up to the reader. For me, I found the app version refreshing and fun, as this complete format was tailor-made for an enhanced experience.
There are various customization options in the app to personalize your enjoyment of Shifter. You can turn off the words or voice acting, or turn off the sound for a more classic reading experience (however, the motion effects still happen, but not too obnoxious).
The art and color combinations are splendid, and build upon the world of Shifter as interesting and inviting. The costume designs, animal forms, and sci-fi layouts and settings makes this entire package engaging. The overall tone is an interesting mix of savage elements using neo-cyberpunk elements connecting to our familiar reality as a good old-fashioned murder mystery. The result is a perfect blend of science fiction and fantasy.
The tech and surroundings are gorgeous with vivid detail. The appendix adds a lot of background info on important story elements, and adds a ridiculous amount on less-important-to-the-story elements you could care about (like “illegal whaling” and the “evils of fast food”). Perhaps you want to learn about “video conferencing” and the “Handscanner,” and what they have to do with current privacy issues: Yes, let’s interrupt our story with these… But as a fan of world building source-books in any science-fiction or fantasy medium, the appendix is a favorite part of this app for me. I wish there was such a thing for regular comic-book reads on digital devices.
Shifter makes for a good, full experience, something one could grasp for an entire movie or full novel. It’s something that you can’t often say for a digital comic that costs a mere $2.99!
The printed book version is a much kinder price at $19.99 than the Anomaly book at $75.00. I have yet to read or check out the printed version and its augmented-reality functions (which use a different app). But I loved the paper and quality of Anomaly (though the very wide format makes shelving awkward, unless it’s on full display). The AR effects were awesome and a fun novelty. So if such things are carried on with the same or better quality, then Shifter in the graphic-novel book format will be worthwhile.
The Shifter app is free via the App Store on recent mobile iOS devices and Google Play on recent Android mobile devices, but with in-app purchases. Both are not to be confused with the free Shifter UAR App, which is for the Shifter printed graphic novel. The first chapter is free, with the second and third also free if readers choose to promote the app on Facebook and/or Twitter. For each chapter (9 total) beyond the first, you can buy them separately, or buy the whole thing for a solid $2.99: the logical choice for digital readers.
– Orion T
(This review was originally published on another site, All Day Comics; no longer actice). This review is for preservation, and to inform new readers)