Staff: Nana Kumi-Amankwah
Simple art, simple story
So The Viper is apparently from some “blast from the past” line. The cover strikes me as if it were something drawn by a child. However, looking closer it’s not as bad is looks. I guess I’m just spoiled on digital paints from some of the better comics. Oh, well. Let’s jump into “The Viper”.
So this comic is drawn in a certain style that is very simplistic. The eyes are a little offsetting but otherwise the style pulls off a very “clean” approach. Heavy use of stroke really works to the comic’s advantage. Then again, simplistic is simplistic. The story and the style are at odds with one another and it would have really benefited from a more realistic approach. At times I felt like I was watching a puppet show or that this was set “In the City of Townsville!”. The quality fluctuates. At some points is really good while at others it’s total amature hour. Consistency is key in comics (despite how the major labels approach it…) and when we get some weird quality fluctuations it results in the remembering the best and the worst of the comic pretty vividly.
One this this comic did that surprised me was on page 6. They “hung” a single panel at an awkward angle in the center of the page. That really worked and showed an understanding of the emotional impact that would have. It’s jarring, out of place, and has a lot of negative space. Then again, that was the impact I assume they were actually going for.
Now the dialogue is not so much “bad” as it is “stale”. Things are said without much meaning other than to pass the time until a plot point can come along and it’s almost conscious of this fact.
We have this omniscient narrator who seems to be walking us through this story, but it feel almost like they shouldn’t have had this. Something a lot of new comic writers miss is that comics are a visual medium as much as they are a written medium. Ideally, we shouldn’t need a narrator present to explain what’s going on. Now one could argue that his was a stylistic choice, but I think the narrator wasn’t effective and actually detracted from the piece.
We also have this need to monologue to offer exposition. I know some characters are given to doing this, but find a clever way to do it. Think of how Rorschach, Batman, or Punisher self narrates. We don’t need literally dialogue explaining every stroke of the simplistic plan your villain just pulled off. People just don’t talk like this. At some point a character just offhandedly brings up a recent major life event and his friend is like, “Oh crud I forgot”. Come on! That’s just shoehorning back story in there! Either set it up better or wait until it’s a natural time to interject it. You’ve got your narrator on speed dial, why not use him?
The letting is up to par, but we get these blocks of text sometimes. You shouldn’t have more than a sentence in your dialogue balloons. To be fair, we get a lot of this from the narrator rather than the characters.
To wrap things up, the art is unsuccessful, the dialogue fails to deliver anything beyond stale exposition, and the plot is handled about as delicately as Michael j Fox with an Etch A Sketch. I think a lot of love when into this, but not a lot came out.