Review by Frank Plowright
Billy Wingate and Jez Lynch are extraordinarily gifted at performing tricks with a football, as seen on their You Tube channel, with over seven million subscribers and rising. They’re not shy when it comes to self-promotion, happy to plug a product or two, and someone’s obviously told them a graphic novel would be a good marketing tool. That’s where the problems start.
On screen Billy and Jez are basically likeable, unrelentingly enthusiastic, and delighted beyond belief at being on the same pitch as the likes of Frank Lampard, Lionel Messi and Neymar, who appear in their videos. On paper as written by Dan Watters and Alex Paknadel they’re smug and irritating, the Jedward of the football set, relentlessly positive (“failing just means you haven’t given up”), and over the opening third of Attack of the Football Cyborg barely a page goes by without them referring to “tekkers”, their contraction for technique. Such is the soulless commercial nature of this project you’ll be surprised there’s not a TM after each use.
The plot? Well… Jez has invented a time travelling car, but in the future Earth has been taken over by an alien entity who’s destroyed the beautiful game. Only Billy and Jez can put things right by collecting enough star players to beat the alien’s football team and reverse the changes. Does tekkers play a prominent part? Too bloody right it does. If you want to know what Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo will be doing in the future, this is the place, although don’t take it as gospel as Steven Gerrard is the footballer most prominently featured, and there’s no mention of Rangers in his future.
Amrit Birdi’s art is rudimentary. He can’t even capture the likenesses of the guys who’ve hired him, let alone the assorted famous footballers who feature throughout, and has an aversion to anything but the most basic of backgrounds. On Birdi’s watch the crowd for a World Cup final is reduced to hundreds of pink and brown eggs. To cut him some slack, it’s far more difficult than might be assumed to transfer the thrills of a football page to a printed page, but Birdi just doesn’t have the tekkers.
Having spent 130 pages gathering four players for the match, the remainder are collected in five, defenders not required, although there is a robot goalkeeper. That leaves 38 pages for the final showdown, and it has the pace of an asthmatic sixty year old Sunday league player all the way to a conclusion that’ll be predicted by the youngest readers.
Much of the above may seem needlessly vindictive about a fundamentally vacuous project that could be considered harmless enough and has some solid encouraging advice for young readers. Both Billy and Jez, for instance, tell us they can’t stand cheats. It’s odd, then that the cover is marked ‘The Football Book of the Year’ with no further explanation. This is offensively deceitful, and what is fooling people into considering the statement is some kind of official recognition if it’s not trying to gain an unfair advantage, or cheating? The Slings and Arrows Graphic Novel Guide can’t stand cheats.