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Crossroads Comics #151 – Hypoxia

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

This week for Crossroads Comics, we’re going to take a look at Hypoxia: A Pokemon SoulSilver Nuzlocke by Polymori.For Pride Month, I wanted to spotlight specifically LGBT+ creators or comics with predominantly LGBT+ casts, but then I realized that’s the norm for us over here at Crossroads Comics, so it’s actually just your typical Tuesday. Still, that doesn’t make Hypoxia any less special! Quite the opposite in fact, because not only is Hypoxia a great comic in its own right, but it also stars a transman protagonist named Cass. So let’s dive into this comic and analyze exactly what makes it so great. Today we’ll be going over the story as a whole since while Hypoxia also has an amazing art style and great character designs (seriously that Falkner redesign is so great), I feel like the bulk of this article should focus on its extremely interesting story thus far.

So what is Hypoxia about? Well, to be entirely candid, we don’t know much about the story at large so far given this comic is only just now reaching Azalea Town, which is pretty early game in Pokemon SoulSilver for those who have never played. That said, author Polymori has sprinkled a lot of breadcrumbs throughout the story thus far to give us hints towards a larger overall narrative. So what do we have to go off of? Well, for the obligatory non-spoiler breakdown, Cassidy, or Cass for short, is a newbie trainer who partners up with Echo the Cyndaquil. Echo wants to take on the Gym Challenge and manages to convince Cass to let them partake, thrusting the two on a journey through Johto. At its core, as with most Nuzlockes, it follows the same beats as the regular games. But Polymori is definitely putting his own spin on the story, as evidenced by the fact that Cass and Echo don’t have their first meeting during the typical fetch quest that most HGSS nuzlockes start with. Instead, it has Cass fleeing from another person and Echo helping him to escape. Already from the world go, this immediately sets the tone for the Nuzlocke as something quite different from most Johto stories. And you might be wondering, why exactly is that? Well, to answer that, we have to delve into spoilers.

Spoilers Ahead

The main theme of this run that sets it apart from other similar HGSS nuzlockes is the fact that it’s a “run” in the most literal sense. Our main character, Cass, is on the run from the authorities. Why is that? Quite simple really. Cass appears to be an egg thief, as we can see a Togepi egg stowed away in his bag on pages 7 and 9. Hot on his tail are the dynamic duo of Lyra, the game’s main rival, and her partner, Penny the Wartortle. We can see the two of them in pursuit of Cass in the early pages of the comic and follow their journey to a degree through the intermissions at the end of chapters 1 and 4 thus far. They’re hoping to catch Cass on the orders of a mysterious “boss”, presumably Professor Elm or a similar entity. Whether this has to do specifically with the egg or perhaps with Cass himself remains to be seen, but whatever the reasoning, it’s clear Cass has no intentions of being caught and is doing his best to stay ahead of Lyra where possible.

Unfortunately for Cass, that isn’t always possible, as shown by the recent pages where Bo the Mareep snitched on our dear protagonists. This brings me to my second point on why the writing for this comic is very good. As any good Nuzlocker will tell you, not every catch you get during a run is going to make the final team roster. Some Pokémon are just fundamentally more suited to runs than others resulting in them never leaving the box, and others just simply die early due to negligence or accidents. These Pokémon can be very difficult to include in a comic, because while you may want to showcase every catch and death possible, some are just hard to write in from a narrative standpoint. According to the author, Bo is one of these cases. Hatched from one of the eggs Primo gives you, the poor Mareep was just horribly underleveled by the time he joined the team and, as a result, ended up dying while switchgrinding. But that didn’t stop him from appearing in Hypoxia! According to Polymori, “But I love mareep and really wanted to keep some of the mon I caught in the story, so some of the deaths I had ends up going to Lyra in canon. So just something to keep an eye out for for some little bonus sneak peeks into what kinda mon I ended up catching.” This is actually a super unique and interesting way to include catches and deaths into the mix of the story, especially for cases like Bo who may not have been around on the team for very long. Not only does it give more opportunities from a narrative standpoint, such as having a Pokémon potentially run away from Cass in the future to join Lyra’s team or something along those lines, but it also frees up screentime and allows the readers to focus on Cass’s main team, that being Lotus and Echo. Early game in Nuzlocke runs can also be tough writing wise because a lot of these initial catches end up making the core of the run’s team at least for most of the early part of the run, if not its entirety. Thus, it can be hard to balance introducing so many characters and giving them the screentime they deserve, especially if one also dies early. So working around Bo’s death while still finding a way to include him like this is very cool and I can’t wait to see what other ways Lyra is used in the future.

Spoilers End

From a gameplay standpoint, Polymori‘s rules are also rather interesting if only because I’ve never really seen anything like them, at least not in a comic before. Polymori follows a ruleset similar to that of a Colorlocke, which is a Nuzlocke that only allows you to catch Pokémon with a certain color in their palette. This is why all of Polymori‘s catches that we know so far in-comic have a large amount of yellow in them. Per Polymori‘s second rule, “A catch must share one of the two most dominant colors of a current team member”. This means that Polymori wouldn’t have been able to catch a Geodude, for example, because it lacks the same colors as Cass’s starter, Cyndaquil. This has led to a rather diverse team for Cass thus far and it’s something I’m very fond of because it’s showcasing several Pokémon that you rarely see in Nuzlocke comics. I also like the same party number as the Gym Leader for the extra challenge. The Johto games as a whole have a problem with their non-linear nature meaning things don’t scale level-wise all that well, especially during the stretch between Morty, Jasmine, Chuck, and Pryce. This additional rule keeps things interesting and more intense, which is also true for the switch clause added in as well.

All in all, Polymori has done a great job to make Hypoxia a unique and interesting read so far. From the gameplay having a unique set of rules to the story itself having an interesting setting, there’s a lot to like about this comic. Hypoxia also has bits of additional worldbuilding surrounding other details like Potions and Apricorn Balls to make the world feel even more alive, which I really like. It shows that the author really does care for this story and its world, and I can’t wait to see where he takes it.

You can read Hypoxia on Deviantart and ComicFury. You can also follow Polymori on Twitter or Tumblr. And if you like is content, be sure to support him through Patreon or by commissioning him. It is Pride Month so what better way to celebrate than by supporting an LGBT+ artist?

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

Crossroads Comics
Ask Team Lightbringers Surprise guest appearance from Judith!
Land-Shaymin Baby has been returned.
PMD: Chanterelle Now who is this?
PMD: Explorers of Life She’s a little too into this for my tastes.
PMD: Wildfire These are some heck of rewards!
Pokémon X Adventures Victory for Pin-pin!
Renegade’s Redemption And he’s down.
Shinka: The Last Eevee I bet that weighs heavily on the mind.
The Shaymin Café Here comes a thought…

ComicFury Comics
Dear Sergio Wonder what the champion wants.
Little More Than Waitstaff Cue the X-Files theme.
PMD: Gleaming Hearts The beatdown continues!
PMD: Mitigation A fair question indeed.
PMD: Tower of Glass Zephyr, no!
Pokémon Shine Poor things…
Power of the Universe Things are progressing at least. But how well? Debatable.
Team Daydream Onwards! Towards adventure!

Deviantart Comics
Deadly Syns It’s Candela time!
Milos from Home Uh-oh busted!
Pokémon Across Dimensions A Pokéball? Will it work in this universe?
Pokémon Explorers Comic Something doesn’t quite add up here.
PMD: Keepers of Light That’s one sleepy bird.
Pokémon Royal Seems there’s some bad blood between these two.
Soul Brothers The stage is set and our combatants are ready.
Undertow Oh hello, Olivia!

Off-site Comics
The Tale of Two Rulers Skull Kid is just ASKING for trouble.
Ask King Zamazenta It seems even the king shys away from kindness.
Ask Savel We’ll have to see if Fear will consume him another time.
Ask Streets of Castelia That’s a bit of a downplay, don’t you think?
Ask the Isle Suicune would be my top choice too.
Ask the Traveller We’re in the endgame now.
Monthly Cubchoo Comics Thief! Thief!
Team Next-Gen Return of the moms!

Ongoing Conversation