Fates Abound

Fates Abound

Staff: Lee S Dresner and Juan Chavarriga

Overview:

An intriguing and novel premise.

Review:

So today’s main course is Fates Abound by Lee S Dresner and Juan Chavarriga. This one is a doozy so read all the way through the review. There are a few missed steps, but in the end it’s worth the wait.

The first thing that hits me is the rush set up of the first two pages. We get some very knee jerk plot points on the first few pages. We are introduced to our protagonist, he breaks up with his GF, and he immediately makes the decision to move to the “ghetto”. I kind of find it odd to simple refer to a place as a ghetto. I mean normally you’d call it something like, “the 4th street projects” or something. In this case, we are only told he moved to “ghetto”.

The comic itself then kind of winds us though some world building, but again it feels almost like it is out of place. I don’t really get a sense of the plot by page 7 and it feels like we are just watching the protagonist’s day to day routine. That is not to say it can’t be done well, but it totally kills the pacing. On my first read though I got bored. Yeah there were some cool visuals but the plot didn’t grab me… because there was no plot. There was just a guy going about his daily routine. No end goal, no challenge to overcome, no direction.

The comic picks up during chapter 3 (where we get some hints about the plot) and really gets into full swing by chapter 4. It takes a while to pick up, but ultimately it starts to tackle some complex issues so the build up chapters are understandable. I don’t know if they were handled in the best way, but I can see why they were there.

We dive into some pretty deep quantum mechanics that the layman won’t get. While this is being explained, we get hit with a wall of text (seriously- some of the largest dialogue balloons I’ve seen… check out page 22). The concept is very interesting (involving the many worlds theory and the potential multiple outcomes to exist until viewed by an observer, which forces the existence of one reality or another). This is a super unique premise that deserves to be in a much more wide stream medium then this (not that this is a bad one). We get a great one line summary of the premise of this comic on page 33

The dialogue feels a bit stale sometimes. We get these expository lines (“Congratulations… You’re one of the youngest people to earn a PHD in the field of quantum mechanics.”) that don’t feel like they’d come out of the mouth of a person. Comics, being a visual medium, don’t always require heavy exposition. For example, a simple picture of a younger looking man next to an older looking man with a diploma in quantum mechanics would inform the reader just as much without being as expositional. However, when we get a bit of a back and forth between characters we have some really solid writing. Quips and narrative directed line delivery shine here. We get some characterization via speech, and I felt I could identify with the characters. A few clumsy lines or fragments slip in (“your not much older than me but…”) which seems rather expositional, but despite a few missed brushstrokes, the overall painting turns out pretty well.

The art and character design overall is strong and lends itself a great deal to the world this comic is trying to make. This comic makes great use of contrast and value, doing it entirely in black and white but making it feel like there is color. The dark pallet that the use for the most part really speaks to the cyberpunk soul this comic has. However, everything changes on page 24 (in a good way). We get some very eerie, bizarre, but full color art. The style and color pallet remind me of Picasso’s Blue Period and the net result is straight up FANTASTIC. We swing from a very down to earth drull pallet to this explosive insanity for a few vivid pages and then are brought crashing back down like the character is. Excellent direction on the part of the creators here.

Lastly, lets look at the lettering. The typography of this comic varies. The dialogue bubbles work and the text is very slick and readable. However, the in-art text was clearly done with some sort of very basic program. (Example: See page 4-5). It is a little distracting and doesn’t do the rest of the art justice. However, this misstep it is far and few between.

So let’s filter out a reality here where this gets a good review (trust me, the ones where it doesn’t are potentially fewer than the ones where it gets a good one). The story takes a while to pick up and this is definitely an effort by someone who hasn’t worked in comics before. However, the heart of the comic is really something else. Despite some novice mistakes, this is a real diamond in the rough. Give this team time to grow and we could see something astounding. I love the unique premise, the kind of themes it has the balls to tackle, and the way it dives into it feet first. I keep shoveling though shitty indie comics in hopes of finding a gem like this. My hats off to the creators.

For those looking to get into the comic industry, Lee writes an excellent little afterwards regarding the path he had to take to bring this comic to life. It’s a must read for any newbie and it shows the kind of trailblazing he had to do to bring this to a completed state.

Overall, I’m looking forward to reading the next chapters when they come out. Give this bizarre gem a read- you won’t be disappointed.

Metrics

Art: 6/10 (Stylized with a twist at one point)

Lettering: 5/10 (Lot of good, a little bad)

Plot: 8/10 (Wavers but gets to a great conclusion)

Novelty: 10/10 (Read this for the premise. It’s crazy.)

Overall: 7.25/10

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Imperials

Imperials

Staff: Liam Kavanagh, Stuart Perrins, Paul Moore, Stuart Patrick

 Overview:

So British you can use the hardcopy as a tea bag.

 Review:

So today I’m looking at Imperials from Red Leaf comics. This comes at me from across the pond (aren’t digital comics wonderful?). from the UK division of Red Leaf. So lets dive into Imperials #1!

…and it’s a super British comic. Not sure what I expected, but yeah, this comic is so British I swear I saw the Union Jack stitched into the protagonist’s underwear. This comic is split into two short stories so I’ll be doing two reviews of each section because they differ pretty heavily.

Lettering is really hit or miss. The introduction page is very difficult to read due to a choice to put a black text over a black and white sketch of a man in power armor. After that little misstep, the comic’s lettering gets a facelift and is near professional grade. Then it switches back to terrible when the comics does some robotic dialogue. The glaring red they use at time really clashes with the rest of an otherwise good lettering job.

The second story has typical lettering and ultimately is pretty solid. Not reinventing the wheel, but good.

Something weird about the art is that every character in the background in the first story seems to be expressing some extreme emotion. I guess that is kind of a counter to the way most comics put laughly little detail into background characters. Then again the expressions on all of these characters seem to be exaggerated. It’s not good or bad, simply a stylistic choice. The costume designs don’t really do anything for me

Otherwise the art in the first story is not typically the style you see in an everyday superhero comic. There is a lot of crosshatching being done and use of pure black backgrounds. The art style seems a bit like a political cartoon you might see in the New Yorker or something. There are some very awkward posing at times but for the most part it’s pretty well done.

The second comic has much better art in my opinion. It takes a much more minimalist approach to the way it’s drawn and even though there is a little less detail, it’s a lot of fun to look at. It seems to have a hint of asian influence to the artstyle, which makes it a very compelling mix of styles.

The plot of the first story is pretty straightforward fair. Supervillain robots attack Parliament, a hero attempts to stop them and gets back up from another one. I wish I could elaborate, but this is really just a lot of exposition. It’s a decent read so don’t skip it, but I’d suggest that you read it only with the intention of reading two or three of them back to back to get some momentum going.

The second story is a much smaller scale story that seemed to go by a bit faster. Though it wasn’t as dense or plot heavy, I enjoyed it a bit more. It was smaller in scope but deeper on characterization. Not every panel serves to progress some big story, it relies on facial expressions and action rather than dialogue. Hats off to you on that.

Overall it’s an odd mix. The first story really lost me in it’s heavy plot, iffy costume choices, and paint-by-numbers feel. It was definitely painted in the colors of the UK flag but it was still pretty generic superhero fare. The second story is the saving grace. It’s a street level story about a cop, robot, and a superhero. A lot of fun to read.

So give it a read. It’s only 99 cents (USD) and it’s 23 pages. It’s a nice little collaboration between some UK (and Canadian) writers and artist.

God save the Queen and all that 😉

 Metrics

Art: 4/10 (Decent but mixed)

Lettering: 4/10 (Lot of good, a little bad)

Plot: 3/10 (It does the pulpy action bit well. I liked it.)

Novelty: 5/10 (New art style, new cast of writers, etc)

Overall: 4/10

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Blue Water Productions Rant

Alright, after a brief absence I’m back. I actually wanted to review some comics but nothing good popped up on my radar. Since becoming a DriveThruComic featured reviewer, I have been receiving a LOT of comics to reviews. Unfortunately the vast majority have been from a company named “Blue Water Productions”. Literally 95% of the comics sent to me were from them. I wanted to take this opportunity to voice my strong dislike of them. I know there is a lot of bad press surrounding their alleged bad business practices regarding their payment of those who work for/with them, but that is not what I’m talking about (it is covered better than I could by Johanna Draper Carlson on Comics Worth Reading).

My issue with them is that they are giving the industry a bad name, They release a dozen low budget, poorly made, comics with no thoughts for their production value. See my review on Female Force: Nancy Reagan to see what I’m talking about, but in essence their comics have no heart. It seems like they were churned out in a week and lack the degree of polish and professionalism I’ve seen in other comics. Sorry for the rant but I’ve just got SO many of these god awful comics sent to me recently.

That being said, I will not be reviewing Blue Water Productions products in the future. Call it a boycott if you want but they just push my buttons the wrong way.

Crunch: Revenge

Crunch: Revenge

Staff: Kevin Hill

 Overview:

Pulpy action goodness.

 Review:

So opening up this comic I realize that it is actually the third comic in a set rather than the first (which I normally review) but I was quickly drawn in by the fun quirky style it had. So despite this not normally being the typical review I do, let jump into Crunch: Revenge!

So launching right into it, the art is awesome. It’s got this quirky 80s metal/punk aesthetic going on with some more modern tweaks. I got to say, despite it not being professional grade, it’s damn good and has a style all its own. The lines are crisp, the anatomy (however distended) is generally consistent, the artist displays an understanding of dynamic poses that allow his characters to be as expressive in pose as dialogue (very important for a visual medium), and the displays of motion are fluid and informative. Special not should be given to the perspective some of these shots are drawn from. If this was a movie I’d be giving the director of photography a high five for his excellent work. There are a few awkward facial expressions and poses, but all and all it’s a lot of fun.

The lettering could use some work. Some times I couldn’t tell who was speaking due to the placement of the speech bubbles but I could sus it out generally after looking at it for a moment. A lot of time the lettering is pretty close to the edge of the bubble and that can be a little distracting. They should probably stick to their typically lettering or have the artist draw headline text rather than switching to some other font, it just looks sloppy (see page 8).

The plot is nothing new and that kind of disappoints me a bit. However, when I look at the genre it is going for (pulpy action stuff) I can’t really blame it. Pulp thrives on the known and shines in the execution of said existing story elements and in that context this story gets high marks. In the same way the dialogue is hokey but I can’t tell if that is intentional (al Venture Brothers style) or accidental. Either way it works. I mean we have a vertically challenged main character named “Crunch Crakerton”, how serious can you get with the dialogue?

Overall Crunch: Revenge is a party. It’s a pulpy action comic that doesn’t shy in the face of being as hokey and chock full of anachronisms as possible; in fact it revels in it. I mean the hulky hero has his shirt torn off by page 12 after bantering back and forth with an ex-lover turned villain. You can’t do something like that without going headlong into it. If you half-ass it, it would come off as either a bad parody or knock off of something greater. In this case, Crunch not only jumps in feet first, but it does so wearing it’s puply-action colored speedo.

Metrics

Art: 6/10 (Not publisher grade but very fun)

Lettering: 3/10 (Slip ups and issues)

Plot: 6/10 (It does the pulpy action bit well. I liked it.)

Novelty: 3/10 (Nothing new, but keeps it fresh enough)

Overall: 4.5/10

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Female Force: Nancy Reagan

Female Force: Nancy Reagan

Staff: Michael Troy, Manuel Diaz, Jeremy Kahn, Alberto Pessoa

 

Overview:

Educational, just not engaging.

 

Review:

When I downloaded “Female Force Nancy Reagan” I thought someone had made Nancy Reagan into an action hero with a team of other 1st ladies (Note to self: pitch concept to NBC, I’m sure they are looking for something less offensive than Ironsides). What I got wasn’t that but it was still decent.

Jumping right in, the art’s solid but sometimes it looks traced (see: cover). They use a very vibrant palette and it’s clear this was intended for kids (or at least students). Layout it top notch and lettering is readable. A few times it got a bit small and when superimposed over some really vibrant colors (see page 14 for an example) it got a little hard to read when the text was smaller than expected.

The comic gives a glossy overview of Nancy Reagan’s life from birth until childhood. While good overall, it has a few missteps (it compares Ronald and Nancy to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?) Sometimes it jumps around chronologically (Example: It’s talking about a rocky relationship with her children then jumps to post presidential life when Ronald had medical issues then back). Then on page  16, for no reason, it jumps into some really disjointed things. It just says, “Consulting an astrologer about her husband’s tactics? Star Wars? Reaganomics? Red Scare Nuclear War?” without giving us the context of what is going on until a page later. It is a very odd jump and implies things that might confuse a kid on the first read without supervision.

This comic was clearly meant for students and was designed to be an educational resource. In that light, yeah it is successful. It is nice to see a comic working to engage kids in an education sense. However, it lacks any sort of passion. It’s paint by numbers. It might as well have come from wikipedia. This falls into the trap that educational TV shows and video games (really, all forms of media) falls into. It tries too hard to educate and not hard enough to engage.

 

Metrics

Art: 5/10 (Better then expected with some slip ups)

Lettering: 4/10 (Generally pretty good with some mistakes)

Plot: 1/10 (Disjointed and lacks passion)

Novelty: 3/10 (Educational angle saves it)

Overall: 3.25/10

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