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Crossroads Comics #149 – Sunlocke

It’s Tuesday which means it’s time for Crossroads Comics!

This week we’re taking a look at Sunlocke by TheTRUEgge. This Nuzlocke comic was recommended to me by quite a few people and has actually been on my to read list since I first discovered it back in March. However, due to the fact that I moved at the end of the March and have been adjusting to life in a new city with a full time in-person job, I wasn’t able to fully binge the story until this past weekend when I was recovering from my second vaccine shot. That said, I really wish I had read it sooner simply because of how interesting and fun the story is. Not only does Sunlocke have a cute art style, it has an interesting story and a really colorful cast of characters. All of which I’ll be covering today as I discuss how they help make Sunlocke a distinct and enjoyable reading experience. So without further ado, let’s get rolling!

To shake things up a bit this time, we’re going to cover the art style of the comic first. Normally I don’t bring up a comic’s art style because I feel more often than not the artist’s effort, passion, and skill can more than speak for themselves. And while that is definitely still the case here in Sunlocke, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the large amount of improvement that Sunlocke undergoes throughout its story. You might not realize it at first due to many of the early pages on the ComicFury site having a style closer to that of the current one, but this comic has undergone a massive amount of improvement. Originally, pages were drawn in the author’s sketchbook and uploaded as photos presumably taken by an iPad or cellphone. You can see this starting in chapter 2. Already, I think this is a fair testament to their skill as I can’t imagine having to draw that many humans and birds traditionally and have them come out as well as they did. Eventually, TheTRUEgge does make the switch to digital art though, and their improvement only continues to grow from there. Their understanding of wing anatomy and human faces are the two things that stuck out the most to me as what improved. TheTRUEgge shows a much better understanding of expressions and also isn’t afraid to simplify a character’s face in order to ensure everything fits in the frame. They may seem like small details but it’s important growth on behalf of the author because overall it improves the quality of the comic from an artistic standpoint. TheTRUEgge has many other large strides as an artist including improving on their battle choreography and their designs. You can really see the growth and I feel like Sunlocke is a great example of how improvement may not come right away, but if you give it time, effort, and study, you can make great improvements to your work!

Next up, let’s cover the story and characters. Sunlocke is a rather interesting case because from what I can tell, it started releasing roughly six months after Pokemon Sun and Moon first came out. As a result, while Sunlocke does pattern itself semi-closely to the original games, it’s also not afraid to cut stuff out or add stuff in to better fit the story overall. I’ll get into more details in the spoilers section of the review but I think it’s a good note to make that while the actual Sun and Moon games do have their issues with excessive filler, Sunlocke has shown it will trim that fat where needed while also supplementing other scenes in order to ensure the characters all get the spotlight and time in the sun they deserve. This means that despite Sunlocke having a fairly large cast, it actually does well to balance and develop them all through their own additions and interactions. This is an important element for a Nuzlocke especially of this scale because you want to ensure your readers get attached to your characters, otherwise any potential deaths will be far less impactful. Even if the character themself isn’t around for long, by showing how their death impacts the group around them, you can really pull at that heart strings for a lot longer than you could if you only focus on the death itself.

Spoilers Ahead

So now that I’ve given a quick non-spoiler rundown, let’s get into the actual nitty gritty of everything. So Sunlocke actually starts off pretty differently from most other Gen 7 nuzlockes I’ve read, making it distinct from the start. Rather than having our protagonist, Ann, be someone who recently move to Alola, instead she’s woken up on the shore with no memories of who she is or how she got there. Even stranger is the fact that they seemed to be expecting her, with a Trainer passport and a set of starters ready for her to collect. This would seem to imply that Ann comes from somewhere within the Pokemon world but to add insult to injury, Ann also insists that Pokemon didn’t exist in the world she comes from. Which only makes things more complicated when it’s revealed that Ann is able to understand and speak to Pokemon, something that only trainers with extensive exposure to Pokemon have the ability to do. This combination of qualities makes Ann quite the mysterious character, since up until this point in the story, we’ve got way more questions than we do answers. My guess is she’s some sort of Faller like Mohn and the others, but there’s no guarantee on that. It just leaves a lot of room for potential storytelling on Ann’s backstory and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

Additionally, one other pretty notable thing that sets Sunlocke apart from most other nuzlockes I’ve ever read is that the starter is shiny! While it isn’t acknowledged until pretty far into the story due to a rewrite of Chapter 1, since Rowlet’s line has pretty distinct shinies, it’s not hard to tell. According to the author, this was planned from the start. As stated on the original draft of page 4, “Fun fact! I actually bred for a shiny Rowlet on my file of moon and traded it over- I wanted a shiny for some story purposes, though mostly he’s just my child now.” I think this is pretty neat! It certainly makes the story a lot more interesting to have a shiny starter.

Speaking of Grasshopper, let’s dive into his character a bit since he has one of the more interesting ongoing arcs at the moment. It’s brought up pretty early on that Grasshopper appears to black out during battles, being unable to recall any trainer battles that he’s participated in. This shift is noticeable because Grasshopper’s irses turn red when this change occurs and Grasshopper becomes noticeably more aggressive as a result. It’s not entirely clear the source or reasoning behind why this happens quite yet, though I do have a couple theories which I’ll get to in a moment. However, once Grasshopper is made aware of it, he starts to strive to either overcome it, or work alongside this hidden side to him. How effective he’ll be remains to be seen though.

So what the heck is going on with Grasshopper? What’s making him black out during battles? Well, during one of his discussions with another teammate, Violet, it’s briefly mentioned that this sort of blacking out behavior is a trauma response. As soon as this was brought up, a realization hit me like a train, and I feel a bit dumb for not having realized it earlier. I’m not sure if this is the direction TheTRUEgge is trying to take things, but it appears to me that Grasshopper has some sort of dissociative disorder. I won’t pretend to be any sort of expert on these disorders, since my research has been limited to only a select few, so I will once again state that this is simply a theory and I could be completely off the mark here. However, based on the research I’ve done in the past, I think Grasshopper might be suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It’s been implied in the story thus far that Grasshopper is fairly young and has trouble remembering his past, likely due to abuse. Similarly, in a vast majority of DID cases, the origination of alters is due to severe abuse during childhood. Thus, I theorize that this Red-Eyes Grasshopper is an alter whose trigger is intense battles, which is what causes them to front during trainer and totem battles specifically. The parallels to DID would certainly line up so if this is the direction that’s being taken, I’d say the author is doing fairly well with it so far, especially with the recent discussions of how “he” is as much a part of Grasshopper as Grasshopper is.

Alternatively, there’s one other direction I could see this going that could also be very interesting while also keeping with previously established Pokemon canon: Grasshopper is a Shadow Pokemon. Red eyes are a bit of a hallmark for Shadow Pokemon, especially since their introduction in Pokemon GO. The same is true for the increasingly aggressive behavior during intense battles. In Pokemon Colosseum specifically, Shadow Pokemon can enter a state known as Hyper Mode during battle, which causes them to disobey their trainer and become more aggressive, resulting in them possibly attacking trainers instead of their opponents. Thus, it’s possible that this other side of Grasshopper is just him entering Hyper Mode during more intense fights. Since we can’t communicate with Pokemon in Pokemon Colosseum, we have no way of knowing if memory loss is a trait of Hyper Mode, but that could just simply be a bit of creative liberty on the author’s side of things to make the story more interesting.

That said, this is not to say that these two theories are mutually exclusive, as it could be some combination of the two as well. At this point in time, we’re not far enough in the story to say whether either of these theories are on the mark at all. Until we learn more about Grasshooper’s backstory or perhaps speak with this “Red Eyes” figure, we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.

Grasshopper also is by far not the only super interesting character in the story. Quite the contrary, since the entire cast is interesting in some way shape or form. While the main team members get more time in the spotlight than others, TheTRUEgge does well to ensure even the PC mons get some time to shine as well. It helps that Ann switches up her team a lot for each trial so we get to see a wide cast of characters as a result. This is also in general super nice to see, because while it can’t be easy balancing that many characters, having a rotating party is not super common in most Nuzlocke comics I’ve read. Given that switching up and adapting your party often is a key to success in Nuzlockes, it’s nice to see that showcased in a comic like this. Whether it’s a bit of a foreboding omen about the party members’ fates or something else, I look forward to getting to know each character as TheTRUEgge reveals more about them to us.

Spoilers End

Interested in reading Sunlocke? You can check it out on ComicFury and Deviantart. I’d recommend binging the story on ComicFury first because not only is the site mobile friendly there, but also it just is more conducive to binging overall.

And without further ado, let’s check out the rest of this week’s lineup!

Crossroads Comics
Land-Shaymin The child is being stolen!
PMD: Chanterelle The great outdoors!
PMD: Explorers of Life This really doesn’t seem like a good time for infighting but that might just be me.
PMD: Wildfire What a sweet reunion. Brings a tear to my eyes!
Pokemon X Adventures Pin-Pin unleashes a fierce rollout! But will it be enough?
Renegade Redemption Sure can be.
Shinka: The Last Eevee Love this Floatzel’s design!
The Shaymin Cafe Another happy customer made!

ComicFury Comics
Autumn in Sinnoh This is such an awful decision to be faced with.
Digimon Saviors 2 Looks like they’ve all been brought up to speed.
King of Light This poor kid…
Pokemon Light Warrior Hello Taze!
PMD: Team Rowanberry She has a plan! But will it work?
PMD: The Bonds Between Time Someone’s a bit confused.
PMD: Tower of Glass Meowths might but what about human turned Meowths?
The Essence of Being Hmmm this seems like a pop culture reference.
Undine Adventurer Time to meet her new party member.

Deviantart Comics
A Normal Eeveelution Comic Well this can’t end well.
Across the Divide It’s time for the big battle!
Fallen Flowers Come on, Undyne! You can do it!
First Summer – A Rijon Adventures Nuzlocke They finally said it!!
PMD: Mystic Island Curious, curiouser.
PMD: Outlanders Oh hello Penny.
Shiro’s Quest What an ADORABLE minun design/
Soul Brothers Gasp!! Look at Omelette!!
Trick of the Night I wonder what’s on Anise’s mind.

Off-site Comics
Almost Empty He seems like a rather kindhearted fellow.
Ask Savel Oh man that is quite the gift.
Ask Team Beachcomb So they don’t get along, got it.
Asking Anorith It’s the funny number.
Chance in the Pants Advice? I wonder what for.
Leilani and Kass Playtime!
Monthly Cubchoo Comics Uh-oh, that’s a lot of people!
Team Next-Gen A confused child.
The Red Vaporeon Poor guy has been through so much.

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