I am literally bursting with excitement to review the second volume of the digital graphic novel Archeologists of Shadows: Once a Nightmare from Septagon Studios. I had been waiting a bit to allow for risk takers to give the first volume a chance before publishing it, but I woke up this morning and something told me today was the day! (I also didn’t have any other article ideas and a deadline to meet). If you followed my glowing recommendation for the first volume (and $.99 price tag) and loved it but didn’t immediately download volume two because you were waiting for my review, well I’m just flattered. Well, no. I’m actually flabbergasted because shit was amazing. The achievements of volume one remain unquestionable, but did Once A Nightmare live up to the Everest-level bar set by its predecessor?
No, but it was pretty damn close. The novel picks up where the last ended. Baltimo and Alix are plummeting into another world in pursuit of the ever elusive Gods. This environment, lush and full of sweet organic life, is in stark contrast to the cold mechanical train where they spent most of their existence. Unable to waste anytime taking in the gloriously weird new landscape, the pair is immediately pursued by a new manner of beastie. It’s quickly obvious that this is not the Oneric world of the Gods. Luckily, Baltimo and Alix finally get in-touch with their inner Alter-Ego and that comes with some major firepower. Picture Neo-level spoon-bending as our heroes merely raise a hand and blast their pursuers in to tiny pits.
The new powers are really going to be put to the test in this Nightmare world. I won’t give it away but there are some amazing sequences in which the Baltimo and Alix, who are rarely separate, must confront the hellish manifestations of their fears and doubts solo and in some sick ways– like Baltimo battling his own soul by devouring his own heart. Ok, I gave it away a little bit. Sue me. The dialogue in these scenes was probably the weakest of the issue. Particularly the battle of wits between Baltimo and his mechanical soul were a big pile of “huh?” Honestly though, the visuals were so strong and striking that my confusion was rendered a dull whisper compared to my roaring excitement from the colors and artwork.
While the Alter-Egos are fighting their nightmares in dream-land, the battle between the authorities and resistance rages on. Someone has succumbed to the 3rd rule of robotics and turned traitor against the pro-organic freedom fighters. Calvin prepares for an all out war and calls the resistance fighters to arms just to buy the Alix and Baltimo (whose bodies remain in the bunker as their minds travel to other worlds) more time. Does he succeed? Do the Alter-Egos have time to confront the Gods? Download and find out!
Although the art of the Nightmare-world was breath taking, I wish Alix and Baltimo had spent one more volume in the mechanized dimension that I found so interesting and original from the premiere novel. It could have used some more exploration and development before we plunged into the more fantastic dream worlds. The art definitely stole the show, but by a far greater margin than with the previous issue.
What remains most important about a sequel is that it doesn’t suck so much to turn me off the story. When the price tag is still less than a dollar, well it’d have to suck a whole lot. Archeologists of Shadows: Once a Nightmare breaks the suck-threshold by leaps and bounds. If you enjoyed the first one and are interested in getting invested in what will turn out to be an epic sci-fi saga of a digital comic, pick this up for sure and be sure to like them on facebook if you like what you read!