Trip

Trip

Staff: Kelly Matten and Waker farrell

Overview:

I got a contact high from this hit AND miss comic.

Review:

So I’ve got an interesting indie comic to review today. It’s called “Trip” and I was warned that it’s written from a female perspective, alternating authors depending on perspective, and features extensive drug use. So, let’s drop some acid and trip into Trip!

So the art is really hit or miss. Some panels it is spot on and sometimes it looks like it was rushed. When it is good, it’s a very interesting stylized approach that lends itself to the tone and theme of the comic quite well. And since there are two artists on this, I feel like I should point out that it is not one artist who is worse than the other. It is more a few rough patches scattered throughout the comic (example: Page 3 and the top right part of page 4 as compared to page 7 or 7). Sometimes the navigation from panel to panel is a little odd and hard to follow.

The lettering was a bit off at some point. The font wasn’t quite sharp enough to give a reader a totally legible experience. An example of this is on page 4 of the comic. A character says, “There’s the liquor; gotta get out of myself”, but the r gets lots and it appears to read, “There’s the liquon”. It also gets a little small sometimes and the resolution on the comic prevents a reader from zooming in to really get much of an improvement. We lose the edge of dialogue balloons due to an inconsistency in whether they have a stroke around them or not . In addition, there are a few capitalization errors and minor grammar errors, but all and all it’s a good effort.

The dialogue is riddled with a lot of slang terms that the uninitiated might find jarring. Occasional linguistic drifts occur and almost seem to hang in the hair for a while. However, it fits with the trippy “burner” vibe that one of the characters exudes. That is to say, it is hard to read but that’s intentional as far as I can tell. There is a lot for the reader to identify with. We’ve all had a party where you got dragged along and just want to go because but can’t because someone else is having a good time. Plotwise I get a kind of Alice in Wonderland vibe. Like complete with the trippy imagery and invitations to a bizarre drug trip. In fact, if I had to pick a single word to describe this comic, it’s “trippy” (I guess that they picked the right title, eh?).

Now let me get to the meat of this comic. About page 12 we get our big jumping off point. This is one of the best representations of a drug trip I’ve seen translated to a visual medium. While the artist are far from professional level- they push themselves and come up with some amazing visuals. Every time we get tossed into that trippy world, everything is dripping with creativity. If the entire comic had this level of visual creativity- it would be a vast improvement. Now since comics are not exclusively a visual medium, we have some great dialogue that firsts perfectly with the visuals. The onomatopoeias used are fantastic and fit the vibe perfectly (check out page 28).

The subject matter touches on a very touchy subject in our society. It explores the reaction to psychedelic drugs in a positive light and uses it as a tool for discovery of the characters. I think it’s effectively done and is pretty risky gamble. It could have easily fell apart and been a bad trip (pardon the pun) but they save it from the fire. One thing I enjoyed was the realistic and holistic approach that the authors use to build the relationship between the two protagonists characters.

The plot, unlike your typical run-of-the-mill indie comic, isn’t concerned with progressing some bloated over the top “epic” story. It’s about two women finding themselves and reflecting on their life. While there is plot progression near the end, that’s not the point. This is a comic focused on character development and exploration of themes over telling a linear story per se. This might turn readers off to it, but I thought it was a successful application of comics as a medium.

Overall, I like the creative intention behind the comic but I was a bit disappointed at the rocky execution. Sometimes this was Grade-A indie comic but other times some sporadic rough spots cause a jarring disconnect. It’s certainly one I’ll recommend you read. It has a brave and creative take on a taboo subject matter despite its pitfalls.

Metrics

Art: 3/10 (A few good pieces, but a lot of rough stuff)

Lettering: 3/10 (Sloppy and inconsistent)

Plot: 6/10 (An exploration rather then a story.)

Novelty: 8/10 (Trippy and boundary pushing)

Overall: 5/10

Link to Product

Advertisements

Average Jo

122094-tumb140Average Jo

Staff: John Pross, Derek Adnams, Julius Abrera, Bryan Maganaye, and Brandon Bullock

Overview:

Solid story, awesome artwork.

Review:

So today’s main dish is Average Jo by Hound Comics. It’s got a slick cover and an “adult” warning on it so what could possibly bad about it? Well, let’s find out!

I mentioned this a while back in my Spectrum review; if a comic’s description starts off by telling us the race of our protagonist- it seems to absorb a lot of the focus on the comic. Average Jo starts off by saying, “Meet Jo Hamilton. Jo is a Filipino-American police officer in the city of Eden…” To be honest- unless this comic is going to be deeply entrenched in the cultural plight of Filipino-Americans, leave that out of it. (I am waiting for the day a non-Neo Nazi comic starts off saying, “Bob Smith is a Caucasian-American police officer in New York City.”) This is a tiny little pet peeve of mine that I’ve spent enough time of this review of a solid comic on so…

Let me jump into the art section of the review by saying, “DAMMMN”. Now reclaim a bit of my professionalism (*cough cough*) I’ll explain why I think this is one of the most gorgeously drawn comics I’ve recently seen. It blends realism and traditional american comic art conventions perfectly. Angels are used well, anatomy is consistent and realistic, the outfits are imaginative (kind of gives me a bit of the “New 52” vibe- in a good way), and they don’t skip on the background. I can’t overstate how important that is, a lot of good comics have stunningly bad backgrounds (I’m looking at you Marvel and DC).

The dialogue is smartly written and have a very professional ring to it. A lot of indie comics have this tendency to overload us with exposition right off the bat and we’re smothered in dry lines by page 3 or 4. I got a LITTLE background (in snippets) during the first two pages. It didn’t require a block of text- I got it through dialogue and demonstration. I like that we get to see a lot of our protagonist’s home life and get to really empathize with him as a person.

At first I didn’t even notice the lettering, which to me makes me squee with joy. Lettering SHOULD be easy to read and not the main focus of the story. They do a bang up job of some very professional lettering and it pays off in a unicycle flowing comic.

One thing I’ll say detracts from this comic a bit of the subject matter. We have “supers” running around cities and a legal act that protects them and… yadda yadda yadda. Sorry to say but this is a really tired concept. We get it from the perspective of a mundane cop which is kind of unique but it feels like 1/2 the other indie comics in the superhero genre I’ve read. Off the top of my head, just the ones I’ve personally reviewed, I can think of: iHero, The Misadventures of Electrolyte and The Justice Purveyors, True North (somewhat), and Division M. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Division M (though much better written and executed) with that entry level cop vs superhuman sort of thing going on. It’s not to say this is a bad comic, it is just a song that has been played one too many times on the radio.

Overall this is solid comic. One of the most well rounded endeavors I’ve come across recently. It has a very human element in what could easily have descended into mediocrity. With a deft hand its crafted and bolstered by some solid artwork. Give it a read!

Metrics

Art: 8/10 (Pro level)

Lettering: 6/10 (As it should be)

Plot: 5/10 (Very human characters, good dialogue)

Novelty: 4/10 (Been done before)

Overall: 5.75/10

Link to Product

iHero

iHero

Staff: Luke J Halsall, Graeme Kennedy, and Gary Chudleigh

Overview:

iSquandered the premise.

Review:

So today I’ve got a comic to review called “iHero” from Obscure Reference Comics. Now I’m not an Apple guy. I think they are proprietary garbage if you ask me… but hey- you’re here for comic reviews right? Lets review that instead 😉

Right off the bat I dislike the cover. Maybe it’s all the comics I grew up with, but this is so divorced from the traditional that it bugs me. We have the title “iHero” in a traditional san serif font and a picture of a iPad with a few “superpower apps” on it. It looks really uninspired to be honest and the artifacting in the top right of the image really doesn’t do this comic’s otherwise decent artstyle justice. The credits page are also done in the same fashion, trying to mimic the layout of a mobile device but coming across like someone was messing around with Adobe Illustrator.

The art is a decent attempt, blinding more of a cartoonish style with comic forms. The use of strokes is nice but sometimes the inexperience of the artist (maybe rush?) shows though. While nothing is “bad”, nothing is good either and it is a far cry from the big leagues. A good understanding of dynamic motion is really shown however and I’d love to see some work from this artist in a few years. On a related note, the letting is legible and even the onomatopoeia are decent. I think they left a speech bubble blank on page 13, but otherwise it is a solid job.

So the plot has me on both sides of the fence. The comic is about an iPod like device that gives you superpowers. The product is called “iHero” and was developed by a guy who looked like Steve Jobs… but isn’t. I understand that they can’t call it “Apple”… but it really detracts from it. There is a very heavy “real world consequences for superpowers” feel to this comic, but we have everything BUT the real world. It is like talking about a burger place in a story but calling it “McSonalds” so they don’t get sued. It seems like there always air quotes around every mention of something “non-Apple” related and it is really distracting (A pear logo with a bite taken out of it, etc).

The plot is very quickly rushed through, like a speed run of some video game. We are told of events, sometimes in single panels, and I don’t feel like a reader doesn’t have enough time to develop any sort of investment in the elements of the story. iHero released, we see some fun uses of it, then it is banned right and left, and we see the bad stuff happening with it. At first I thought some of the early stuff was a parody and we were going to get a zoom out to see that it was a commercial they were considering or whatnot. We have some really dark things happen (A girl freezes her boyfriend’s junk off in retribution of him sleeping with someone else) but it comes across like it’s a joke or funny, and it might have been but then two pages later it is banned and it is implied that people are fearful of this because of the stuff. It is like it can’t decide if it wants to be funny or serious and doesn’t have the substance to convey the complexities necessary to manage that sort of dynamic due to the breakneck pace it rushes through stuff in.

A lot of these situations could be a good 3-4 pages worth of material that could allow us to get invested in the characters and thus the outcome. Imagine if we got to MEET the guy who was teleporting around so he could sleep with his mistress? If we learned about who he was, his personality traits, his rationale for doing it, and the context it occurred within maybe the ending could have a real punch- but instead we get 6 panels of it and are not sure if we should laugh or feel bad for him.

There are a few stock superheroes that you can tell are either parodies or pastiches. We have characters similar to superman, supergirl, and batman joining “not-Steve Jobs” on a superhero team (reminiscent of the Justice League or perhaps Avengers) to combat people misusing the iHero. In a world like this- it seems like a really missed opportunity to develop some really unique characters.

While this comic starts off with a potentially really interesting premise- it is squandered on mediocre fair. The whole comic seems really one note; “What if an Apple product gave you superpowers?”. If that excites you- read this and laugh at the iPod jokes. If not, I am remiss to recommend it.

Metrics

Art: 4/10 (Decent but not pro level)

Lettering: 5/10 (Legible)

Plot: 2/10 (Rushed and exposition heavy)

Novelty: 4/10 (Squandered)

Overall: 3.25/10