Staff: Francesca Urbinati & Daniele Garbugli
Not my genre, not even my language sometimes
This is a hard one. It’s one of those reviews that tosses me into something that I totally wasn’t written for me or my demographic.
Opening it up I get a few very manga-esque pictures with cute fuzzy creatures and that’s not something that gets me. However, judging it purely on it’s artistic quality, they definitely have an established style and it’s pretty detailed. I’m not going to say this is major publisher quality work, but it’s somewhere just outside the ballpark. They have a style and they stick to it and do it well. Just because I’m not a fan of the style doesn’t mean I won’t appreciate a lot of man hours of work and some real talent.
The story starts off with a Star Wars riff and that sets the tone quite well. The dialogue is a bit exposition heavy (letting us know that one character is a “rising star”) but when aimed at younger audience, sometimes you need to explain this a bit more. Another odd thing is that the characters keep using each other’s full name when talking. I don’t know if this is a stylistic choice or if they genuinely don’t think we can tell who “Niki” is if they don’t say “Niki Batsprite”. Then again, some people don’t actually have names. Like we have Niki Batsprite who is always called by her last name and then, “Penguin Guy”….
It’s a weird disconnect.
The lettering is a bit amateurish. It seems to not have that polish on it that would make it really good, but it does seem to manage to keep itself on the right side of being bad. It’s legible and that’s where it counts.
We have a hell of a lot of very odd sentences like, “You better appeal to your fifty percent of goodness and let me win” or “To jeer at visitors makes you escaping from boredom”. The introduction says they are doing this comic in both English and Italian. Maybe they did this in Italian first and tried to translate it to English? Either way, it’s really disruptive. To be fair, it’s not an issue on every page and you can generally tell what they are saying even at the worst of it. However, this limited grasp of the English language stifles what could otherwise be a decent plot.
The story is a both simplistic and confusing. It’s a pretty straightforward plot but it’s over explained at some points and almost comically under explained at other points. For example, they go into great detail explaining how “acrobatic flight races” work but then show the finish line and say, “…it’s important to cross the finish line to get some other points”. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or if they are just saying, “…and they get some ill-defined amount of points, or something.” They also talk about having “goodness” and “meanness” (in exposition) but it’s kind of just an abstract concept. I mean we see some mean people with “100% goodness” so it doesn’t really mesh well as a moral thing. Did it mean “light powers” or something like that? Niki mentions that he can’t really love or hate anyone but we see plenty of hate from that character. A character even brings this up but Niki just says, “Yes. I can hate”.
…and, until page 22, I thought Niki was a girl. It’s never really defined and he’s a pink & purple bat with eye-shadow so I just assumed…
Looking back, it’s not a BAD story but it just kind of feels bland; even in terms of other things I’ve read in this genre. It feels like it draws a lot from the Sonic fandom and has a lot of the trappings of a similar plot. Mystic stones, a far off world, racing, etc. The story itself has bizarre pacing that kind of waists time in every place. If these were complex characters in the middle of a long established franchise you might be able to write things like this but it feels like they want us to start off understanding the characters. It forces the reader to rely on whatever few personality traits we are give time to latch on to. This, in effect, simplifies the characters to one or two personality traits. We have angsty angry Niki, the rival, the plucky guardian, the dumb comedian, etc. They are reduced to 2D stock characters rather than anything with real depth. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but it reads like a fanfic rather than a story. Scenes drift into one another and I found myself not really caring all that much. I know this kind of comic isn’t my forte but the kiddy gloved plot and really shallow characters don’t gel well with the concepts of duality that they are stressing so hard. We don’t SEE conflict in the character, we are TOLD there is conflict in the character.
It’s a decent read if you are into this kind of comic, but don’t expect miracles. A lot of love and effort went into the comic but it didn’t amount to much beyond a simplistic paint-by-numbers plot, stock characters, and some decent art.