It’s been a few years since we were first introduced to Lookouts, a comic created by Penny Arcade‘s Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. The story follows a group of boys, led by a mysterious, one-eyed man named Samson, who have joined a group of Rangers called the Lookouts. Their job is to learn the magical secrets of the Eyrewood Forest, a place where the book’s slogan foreshadows “May we die in the forest.” It is indeed magical, with all manner of creatures from basilisks to sphinx to something that can only be described as an owldeeriphant.
Krahulik describes the world where the Lookouts live as a place where “Human settlements are few and far between. Learning to navigate and live alongside the forest is a necessity. Men must protect the few roads they have through the woods and as the Lookouts’ creed says, ‘What men must know a boy must learn.’ Young boys in this world join the Lookouts and are taught the ways of the forest.”
In its original Webcomic form, Lookouts met with mixed reviews from Penny Arcade‘s fervent fans. Granted, Lookouts is a departure from the typical PA fare. Fantasy epic isn’t for everyone and if all you want out of Jerry & Mike are Tycho and Gabe gaming gags, this probably isn’t for you.
The story was further compounded by strips created by guest artists who took on the story with especially unfavorable reviews from readers. But while some of the stories have missed the mark a bit, when Penny Arcade gets it right, they really get it right.
So it is with somewhat bated breath I looked at issue one of the printed Lookouts comic book this past week. (It’s also been available on Comixology since Comic-Con.) The new book, the first of a planned six issue arc, hit stands last Wednesday and tells the story of the Lookouts’ attempt to secure their forest from a murderous, riddling sphinx.
Each arc will cover the boys’ work towards an honor badge, which is detailed in the final pages of each comic. Badges are earned by the Lookouts as they learn to survive and master their perilous environment. Each six-issue arc will focus on a new badge and an exciting journey for the young trainees, starting with the “Riddle” badge in the first arc. Further, each issue will feature pages from the Lookouts handbook, helping to shape the world of Eyrewood Forest and the Lookouts’ place in it.
Unlike the Webcomic, the comic is only guided by Krahulik and Holkins, along with Cory Jones, Chief Creative Officer for game company Cryptozoic, who is publishing the comic. The writing falls to the very qualified Ben McCool and the artwork is deftly handled by Robb Mommaerts. It might seem odd to have a game company so involved with a comic, but Cryptozoic has long planned to develop a game around the Lookouts property. By shepherding the comic along, we’ll see a game more quickly.
While it’s impossible to judge a comic by a single issue alone, the first look at Lookouts is very promising. McCool and Mommaerts have done a great job of capturing the original feel of Krahulik and Holkins’ Lookouts. The story is compelling and ends before you want it to, a very good sign. The creative team has gone the extra mile, with lots of artwork on inside and back covers, title pages, and flourishes everywhere. There are several pages of concept art and a wonderful full-color page previewing the next issue. After reading issue one several times, I’m counting the days until issue two appears on shelves.