High School Hijinks

High School Hijinks

Staff: Jer Alford, Willie Jimenez, Amanda Garman, Bar-1

Overview:

An earnest attempt by non-Japanese to do manga.

Review:

I am not really just what I’m reading. Once again, I’m a bit out of my typical wheelhouse, but I soldier on. The first page looked promising at first until I realized that the artwork in the background was stock art of a high school. Well… let’s not judge a comic by it’s cover and jump into “High School Hikinks”.

The first page here tells us there are three stories. Gaijin HI, Furry Ninja H.S., abd H.S. Sweethearts. I’m going to play a game and try to guess the plots of these before I read them based on the teaser panel. (lets see how I do). One is about a weird foreigner in a typically japanese high school who has a bizarre twist, the second on the list will have little to do with actual high school and more to do with ninja bunnies, and the third will be a rather emo one about two students falling in love.

The first comic, “High School Sweethearts” starts with a piece of artwork drawn on line paper and is by someone named Willie Jimenez Aka “Idest”? (Seriously, couldn’t tell what it said.)
The art style looks like someone tried to adopt the manga art style but had little to no formal training in art. The opening dialogue and scene was painful to read and watching the two main characters awkwardly pose while they talked was even more so. Lines like, “…but girls are watching me.” “Yea yea, quiet… here comes one now!” or “I’m sure you know me as Jessie. The coolest kid in school.” show a lack of understanding the fundamentals of writing. We know there is a girl. People don’t refer to girls as a gender, but the individual (It’s like having your dad walk up and your brother say, “There is a father”). And some of the reactions from teachers… it’s bizarre. We also get a very bizarre set of facial expressions in this comic where, even for a comic done in manga style, their reactions are totally overblown and at time inappropriate for the panel. I understand trying to portray sadness or loneliness but subtlety is the name of the game. In this comic we are beat over the head with it. The art in this comic suffers from a lack of understanding anatomy. Manga is stylized and this one is too, but proportions need to be maintained between panels and relative size should established early on and continued.

In short, it was a kind of a mess, the plot was a contrived romance between two high school students, and the art was poor. 1/1 in my predictions!

Mini-Metics

Art: 2/10

Lettering: 4/10

Plot: 1/10

Novelty: 1/10

Overall: 2/10

The second one is “Furry Ninja H.S”. (It’s a little weird that they are out of order). The first panel says that this is based on “Ben Dunn’s Ninja High School”. I had to look it up. Apparently it is a comic series I haven’t read so I am going to excuse some stuff on this comic as a result. Now, I’m not a huge furry fan, but I can get it. Different strokes for different folks and by the end of the first few pages this already looks a lot better the “High School Sweethearts”. I know well enough that this isn’t my area of interest, but the comic is cohesive, they don’t waste much time on exposition (something even professional comic writers have an issue with) and I can tell the characters by their introductions. Then we jump into some random robot fight without much explanation, but it fits with the tone of the comic (and I don’t know NHS so I assume it’s a “thing”). A crazy furry… ninja… alien… fight ensues (just roll with it) and then it descends into complete and wonderful chaos to the point that we need a 1 panel continuity reset after some bad pop culture references and a 4th wall break.
This one… well it gets a pass because it’s crazy. Art is half way decent, just shy of pro level, and is looks good even if it’s not my thing. (2/2!)

Mini-Metics

Art: 6/10

Lettering: 5/10

Plot: 4/10

Novelty: 3/10

Overall: 4.5/10

The third one starts off with a good ol’ fashion rustling of my Jimmies. This ones features some terrible lettering and the name “Gajin”. Even when played for parody, Japan’s zenophobia (stemming for it’s long isolationist period) is never something really that needs to be highlighted. I feel it’s somewhat akin to naming a comic, “Jiggaboo High School” in some respects. It’s a slightly derogatory term (ok Jiggaboo is a really offensive term… I just like the way the word parts sound) that gets used with an almost positive connotation.

Anyway, the comic has the footprints of someone who isn’t from Japan trying to write a story set in Japan in a Japanese style. It would be like if someone from Japan tried to remake Boy Meets World or the Little Rascals (Topanga would of course be a busty space alien ninja cat girl with a crush on the unassuming shy geek Cory who has a special power). I’m not saying that an American can’t write stories set in Japan but you need to write from a place you know- not try to imitate something you don’t. This results in a world that is neither here nor there. The dialogue is childish and formulaic, the characters are stock, and the plot is the plot from every harem anime you’ve ever seen. The art is a painful attempt to imitate drawing a style they were not trained to draw. (3/3!)

Mini-Metics

Art: 4/10

Lettering: 1/10

Plot: 3/10

Novelty: 1/10

Overall: 2.25/10

Also, the last page looks like Lisa Frank threw up all over a manga.

As a whole, this book was really schizophrenic. It had some decent parts (Oddly enough, “Furry Ninja H.S” wasn’t bad to my surprise) but the other two were straight up painful to read. It feels like some friends who liked anime got together with these “three really cool ideas” and tried their hand at making something they had no business making. The failure in tone, story, and character development permeates so many levels of these comics but it’s magically how they manage to make it cohesive. If this is your thing- go for it. You are going to like it either way. It really seemed like a lot of passion and effort went into this comic. They really are passionate about what they do and I salute the hell out of them for that… however, anyone reading this will be hard pressed to wipe the armature fingerprints off this one.

Metrics

Art: 4/10 (Varies but in favor of bad. B&W by the way)

Lettering: 3/10 (Decent in some, really bad in others)

Plot: 2/10 (Directionless)

Novelty: 1/10 (A lot of tired plots)

Overall: 2.75/10

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Servant

Servant

Staff: Geoffrey Borgonia,  Gilbert Monsanto

Overview:

Inoffensive, but offensively inoffensive.

Review:

The art is…well… more poser 3D art (I see a lot of this on DriveThruComics). However, I will give more credit to this team. They don’t make the same mistake that every other comic I’ve reviewed with poser art has made. The scenes are full of characters and “things” rather than taking place in ghost towns where only the characters exist. My fingers keep freezing up as I try to type these words, but… I’m actually ok with them using poser art. Like this is how it SHOULD be used. I’m not saying I love it or that it really brings anything other than having visuals to the comic, but I don’t spontaneously vomit when I see it. It could probably benefit from some actual artwork (something hand drawn or digitally made) but it’s passable. They use dynamic poses, have decent compositions, and I do like that there was a bit of post processing on the images and that all the models are not the same base male/female model with a few characteristics switched up. The massive chest of the protagonist is a bit much, but they play that for laughs a few times so it doesn’t really detract. There is this weird effect where you can always see the ripped abs of the protagonist through his shirt and it looks like they are vacuum formed to him chest.

Gerry Alanguilan did a pinup of the main character and it is at the end of the PDF and… wow. It is downright gorgeous! It just stands in stark contrast to the rest of the artwork in this book. With THAT sort of artwork this book would have knock it out of the park rather than just being average. It seems like this book being “average” is a recurring thing with Servant #1.

Lettering is nothing special, but it fits the vibe of the comic and I can read it without having to zoom in. It gets close to the edge every now and again, but it doesn’t ever tread close to being “bad”. A few times letters were oddly clipped (see page 12, last speech balloon) but it never made it unreadable.

The dialogue is a bit cheeky, which is a nice turn. It does this thing where the narration comments on what is happening (“Oh look, that comic store is having a sale! I’ll have to go check that out later.”) and it is a little out of place at times. A few times the author uses * to describe what the acronyms being used mean and that would be fine but does three on the same page (so we have *, **, and *** all in 2 speech bubbles). It kind of broke the flow a bit.

Once we hit about page 10 we get introduced to the villains and oh boy does their dialogue get bad. We had some decent lines before that felt like we had a human narrator, but now we get the most chalky, dry, genetic, villain dialogue I’ve had to swallow in a while.

Issue #1, like a lot of the series I read, is an origin story (for new readers: I only review the 1st issue of comics). A lot of times I feel like I’m a bit too hard on the amount of exposition crammed into 1st issues, but then I remember comics like “Slave” and I feel secure in my knowledge that people can inform the reader without cramming exposition down our throat. In this one, it almost  lampshades other origin stories, but it feels a lot like a superman pastiche (last son of a dying world and all that) so it doesn’t gain any points for originality in that department. Then again, his name is even Gal Ang… which is totally not Kal El or anything close…

To be honest, it doesn’t jump out and grab me. The story is predictable and while sometimes that doesn’t detract from it (see Pacific Rim for example) this time it does. It’s a bland origin story about a guy who is a mash up of a few different origin stories that doesn’t really feel unique or interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong, nothing really is wrong with it, but nothing really jumps out. As a medium, storytelling doesn’t need to be sensationalist but it does need to convey something that we haven’t seen before. The morals are drawn from things like the most recent Superman, Batman, and Spiderman movies (you can becomes a symbol, serving a greater good, etc), the origin is all but borrowed, the main character is pretty genetic (geek, family values), and even the powers lack a creative “umph”.

A cool little thing this comic did that I would like to see more do is offer multiple forms for download. They had the standard .PDF (which I normally read), but they also had a Comic Book Reader and E-book format that people could take advantage of. That’s how you do it!

There is a lot to like here but most of that is just because it does the bare minimum to get by. It feels like this is the kind of comic that, if it were an employee, would be the sort of employee that goes to a 9-5 job and just clocks in and clocks out. There is nothing really special or unique about this comic other than not really being “bad”.

Hey, it’s free. Give it a read.

Metrics

Art: 5/10 (Decent. Bonus for Gerry Alanguilan’s pin up)

Lettering: 4/10 (Few errors. Good overall.)

Plot: 4/10 (Predictable but fine)

Novelty: 3/10 (Been done but not in this particular way. Bonus for extra file types)

Overall: 4/10

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Spectrum

Spectrum

Staff: Draegon Grey and Alfonso Pinedo

Overview:

Big build up, big let down.

Review:

When the description provided for a comic starts with, “A new black superhero now endowed with special powers…” makes me cringe a little. I know every culture needs heroes they can identify with, but it kind of feels like that when your strongest foot forward is to appeal based on the race of the character… it’s kind of a weak start.

So the art. It’s strong, but not professional grade. It’s close and definitely seeks to be done in that style, but it doesn’t quite hit that level. They use a very bright color scheme and it gives it a bit of a closer. The lettering and onomatopoeia are in top form so nothing to complain about there.

The comic also comes with a little youtube video. It’s mostly done with low resolution stock images and tells about all the awards this comic won and praise it got. I don’t get why they don’t show off the artwork of the comic- it’s fairly good.

So far, so good. If it was all this well put together it would be a solid comic I’d be putting on my “Indy Comics Worth Your Time” list. But then we get to the story and dialogue…

The video claims that this was written by a master storyteller. If that’s the case, we need to reevaluate the metric by which we judge what a “master storyteller” is. The dialogue is filled with sloppy exposition (Unless everyone stands around declaring the start of a new semester out loud). The premise is a bit week. Boy struck by lightning and put into a coma for 15 years. Now he’s up and about (no mention about the detriments of being non-ambulatory for 15 years in the physical or mental realms…). This magical lightning bolt has given him ill-defined lightning powers.

The intro comic gives us a scene set in genetic-town high school (which is actually a college) with every tired trope and stock character in full attendance. By page 5 I could tell who the love interest was  the bully who gets beat up in a few pages, and the hero were going to be. Their introduction was about as subtle as a freight train going off the rails.

A comic that takes its time and introduces elements with a careful hand wouldn’t have come across so rushed and messy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “jerky bully picks on geeks and hits on female classmate while a shy outsider protagonist looks on”. I don’t feel like Ulysses (the protagonist) is a real person. I feel like he’s an amalgam of tropes the author liked. He doesn’t show anything akin to fear so his inevitable victory is lacking in impact. We don’t get to know who Ulysses is. He’s a blank slate. I’m sure he grows a personality in later comics, but right now all I know about him as a reader is he defends geeks from being beat up and got struck by lightning.

All and all I’m really disappointed in this comic. It was built up as this big, groundbreaking, comic but it was nothing but another genetic superhero comic. Also, this character seems a LOT like Static from the late-great Dwayne McDuffie (except Virgil had some personality). I hope the rest of the series is better than this one because the creative team seems to have a big vision for this character. I’d LOVE to see something more from this team, but I don’t think I was sufficiently impressed with this issue. Don’t take my word for it though. Give it a read. It’s free!

Metrics

Art: 7/10 (Just shy of pro grade)

Lettering: 8/10 (Wish more were like this)

Plot: 3/10 (Amounts to nothing but fluff)

Novelty: 1/10 (Been done before. In several ways.)

Overall: 4.75/10 (Art caries this book where the story fails)

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