Though it’s the fourth book in Jeff Martin’s Hockeypocalypse series, Cult of Hockey is an accessible read, even for those unfamiliar or uninterested in the sport. Born and raised in Edmonton, quite possibly right outside Northlands Coliseum, Martin makes an effort to make sure readers know who the characters are and what’s happening. His secret? “Ticker” technology!
The Ticker is a clever device that lets readers keep up without expending precious panel space. At the bottom of each comic page, it offers helpful insights that ensure the reader knows who’s who and what’s what.
Our ‘heroes,’ the Edmonton Atomics, have split their team; the first line is on the road, while the second line is defending their home ice. Readers will see a multitude of characters, new and old, hit the rinks.
Martin’s self-taught cartoony style, perfectly suited to the story he’s telling, should appeal to its target audience: young kids with a love of hockey. But the creator feels his Canadian sports saga could attract another audience as well: manga readers. The black-and-white format, use of speed lines, sports as a subject matter, and the book’s basic theme of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds are all commonly found in popular series overseas. With the exception of manga’s right-to-left reading order, this series has more in common with Attack On Titan and Slam Dunk than the majority of mainstream North American comics.
One of Hockeypocalypse’s major strengths is Martin’s storytelling. He faces a difficult task in attempting to translate the dynamic action of live hockey in a static medium. By picking and choosing the right moments to present, Martin skillfully plays out his story’s drama, sacrifice, and thrills. His characters are diverse, distinct, and fun, making it easy to pick a favourite to cheer for and empathize with as they experience competitive sports’ highs and lows.
For the teams, there is much more on the line than just win/loss records. They are playing for resources to support their communities. Every game counts, as it could mean the difference between eating well or not at all. It warms the heart to think that if the world fell into apocalyptic ruin, Canada might settle resource disputes via the good ol’ hockey game, but it’s heartbreaking when the score isn’t in the good guys’ favour.
Getting North American readers to give black and white comics a try can be a daunting endeavour. Martin plans to meet the challenge of reaching a wider audience by eventually releasing Hockeypocalypse in colour. For now, his attention to detail, variety of character shapes and sizes (man, Ogopogos are big!), sense of humour, and his pacing make the series a very satisfying read, well worth cross-checking someone to get a copy of.
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