The Fog Walkers

The Fog Walkers

Staff: Tim & Alorian Haire

Overview:

Hate to say it but buy this comic for the artistic direction and ignore the rest.

Review:

So today I am looking at an indie comic called “The Fog Walkers”. This is one of the more painful reviews I have had to do. It is a downright dream in terms of art but everything else falls so flat. In short, I REALLY want to love this comic but I just can’t. That being said, I lets jump into the good stuff first.

Fog Walkers takes a different spin on art. They are using photos rather than illustrations and it WORKS so well. The tone and style is something this comic has down pat. They have a heavy filter over their black and white pictures which blends the line between illustration and photograph. It is gritty and dark and lonely and it perfectly matches the aesthetic they were going for. It’s a risky gamble that pays off. I’ve seen other comics that have tried to do something this but it ended up looking like terrible clip art (generally traced with Illustrator). Add to that the fantastic and creative page layout, where they extend characters beyond the panel edge to look at images in other panels, and this is one of my favorite comics visually thus far for 2014. 

One thing that bugs me about this comic is the lettering. Hands down the worst I’ve ever seen. It might be a technical glitch but the lettering has odd spaces and occasionally will separate a letter or two out from the rest. I don’t think it was done for tone or style, and if it was- it fails to convey anything other than “this comic is hard to read”. They use a spidery thin font and made me strain my eyes to read it on occasion and the jumbled mess that was their spacing just compounded the problem.

The plot, unlike the fantastic artwork, is lacking as well. We hop on the exposition express in the first two pages. The dialogue is stale and doesn’t sound human and not much progresses in the first comic. We have a guy who is fighting aliens who have conquered the planet. A fog they need to survive has mutated some humans and they fight back against the aliens. Our protagonist is a “fog walker”. It’s a really interesting premise that doesn’t really go anywhere in issue #1. That is not to say that a first issue has to go somewhere and I was actually pretty interested in the setting. However, I didn’t care all that much about the character or his situation.

It seems like there were more interesting stories that could be told in this world unless I am missing something. Where is the twist? Where is the passion? Where is the intrigue? The first issue comes a guy putting on some cloths and leaving his shelter for a city where he kills something. It feels like it fell flat and honestly that is a shame considering the kind of love that went into the premise and downright gorgeous artwork.

UPDATE: Having received an updated version from the publisher the quality of the lettering has improved significantly. It was a technical error on their behalf and they have amended it. The new lettering is still not superb. I would still suggest they do another revision on the kind of font they are using. The inconsistent character stroke and embellishment may play to the tone of the comic but it is a bit difficult to read (particularly with a black and white comic). I can admire the intent but the finished product is still a bit difficult to read.

Metrics

Art: 8/10 (Oh man was this cool)

Lettering: 4/10 (Difficult to read)

Plot: 3/10 (Setting has potential. Characters and plot didn’t grab me)

Novelty: 8/10 (Trippy and boundary pushing)

Overall: 5.75/10

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Salvagers

Salvagers

Staff: Bob Salley, George Acevedo, Delfine Siobhan-Kanashii

Overview:

Caution: Hardcore scifi slummy greatness inside

Review:

So Salvagers comes to us from Hound Comics who has a pretty good rep and I’ve been looking to check out a comic or two from them. I picked up Salvagers #1 and can’t wait to dive in.

So these guys are pros. I read that comic without even blinking I think. 28 pages gone in a flash. Salvagers is about, you guessed it, salvage… but in space. At first it vaguely reminds me of the series planetes (If you haven’t seen that, stop reading this and treat yourself to an episode or two) but by the end the only things I could really liken it to were Firefly and Star Wars. A rag-tag crew of high-risk salvagers scour the stars for a few legitimate jobs. We join our crew as they are attempting to salvage a warship. When the ships security measures start kicking in, things go FUBAR. Don’t want to give anything away because it’s a solid comic but the real star of the comic is the characterization. The characters and their interactions with each other is a lot of fun to read and you can tell by the way they talk that they have been slumming in on these crummy jobs for a while now.

The art is professional, no questions asked. Top notch grade A USDA approved comic art. The color and proportions were consistent, the dynamic action spot on, and the perspective creative and indicative of the action. If there is one complaint I can make it is the lettering, it switches for various reasons (com chatter, synthetic voice, etc) and sometimes that is for the worse. A few times the type got kind of close to the edge of the speech bubble and I really felt like it wasn’t on the level of the awesome art this comic has.

Sorry for the short review this time, but I don’t have a lot of critiques for this one. Love it, go check it out.

Metrics

Art: 9/10 (100% Grade A Comic Art)

Lettering: 4/10 (Sloppy in a few places)

Plot: 6/10 (Characterization is the strong point here)

Novelty: 6/10 (Nothing groundbreaking in novelty but an instant classic.)

Overall: 6.25/10

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Dr. 2

Dr. 2

Staff: James Chiang & Peter Tieryas

Overview:

Messy and weird and I love it.

Review:

Sometimes it takes a few rough edges to make something memorable. It’s not the pearly white clean “by the book” things that stick in our minds, no they are far too ordinary, we remember the rough things that challenge us. Dr. 2 is not a clean thing by any stretch of the imagination and it’ got faults and flaws a plenty but it sticks in your mind and you can’t help but wonder if the little things were not intentionally stabbed like a needle in your brain to catch your attention.

A little background. Dr. 2 is done by two VFX artists and I can almost see it in the way this is made. It is drawn with a janky, grayscale, hyper stylized approach that draws heavy inspiration from film noir. The deformed faces and rough brushstrokes the comic is drawn in plays to the overall tone of the comics and really captures the aesthetic they are going for. Sometimes this makes it difficult to tell what is going on and they throw a LOT at you real fast and to be honest- I didn’t catch everything with just one read through. That is not a compliment because I felt pretty lost by page 20 and key points got lost due to some points that are mentioned early on that get resolved later.

Some sleight lettering/dialogue balloon mistakes are actually gambles that didn’t pay off. For example, on page 28 we have the driver of a car turning a radio on but we can’t see it so we have an arched bit of text that says “Radio On” with a curving arrow indicating that the character is turning it in that direction. Visually that works and is kind of novel, however the arrow has this issue that occurs in Adobe Illustrator when you try to curve a line and then apply a stock arrow style to it as a stroke where it oddly warps the traditionally straight tip. I know I’m getting technical here but for what is otherwise a great comic- little things like that get in the way of really pushing it up to the next level. It’s more a “death by a thousand papercuts” kind of thing that drags the production quality down and most of it could simply be reworked and repaired (provided they kept the layers separate).

The contrast used in the comic is undoubtedly the best use I’ve seen in an indy comic and reminds me of Samurai Jack fighting the Ninja. It fits with the “shades of grey” sense of morality to get and pays homage to the kind of detective flicks that this reminds me of.

There is a very compelling story to be told here and it is currently sitting in a bunch of pieces like a puzzle sitting on the floor. It’ll probably take a few issues (well… no doubt a series) to sort itself out and I gotta admit I’m pretty hooked. I’d love to see the ways this fit together. The characters were mysterious yet familiar enough in their roles that it was genuinely enjoyable to spend some times in this little world Dr. 2 has created.

As a heads up to younger readers, this comic probably should have an NC-17 rating on it but if you are of age- give it a read!

Metrics

Art: 6/10 (Good and stylized)

Lettering: 3/10 (Not this comic’s strong point)

Plot: 6/10 (Engaging and fun)

Novelty: 7/10 (Took risks and some paid off, some did not.)

Overall: 5.5/10

Diskordia

Diskordia

Staff: Andrew Blackman

Overview:

A kinda of trippy “Alice in Wonderland” kind of thing going on here.

Review:

So today I am taking a step into madness and reviewing Diskordia #1. This is another one from a team that contacted me and I reviewed. So without further ado, let’s jump down the rabbit hole.

The art is bizarre and weird, but meshes with the aesthetic (dare I say it defines it?) and is well drawn. Sometimes I can’t tell if they are being sloppy of stylistic though and while the junky madness vibe they are going for can be engaging I can’t help but wonder if I am giving them too much credit. However, later in the comic there are these odd “chibi” heads that pop up and kind of rips you kicking and screaming from the comic’s immersive grasp.

Also, this is definitely a 18+ comic*. Tits everywhere and slogans like “Penis for President” are kind of the status quo here but it works. It’s kind of a fun little “fuck you” to more tame comics and it works with the aesthetic they are trying to establish.

(*Not sure why I’ve done so many 18+ recently. I try to avoid them generally.)

The lettering bugs me on the first page. It’s near impossible to read and really doesn’t serve much point but otherwise it is pretty solid. The yellow on black text at first kind of annoyed me but when they are using such a dark color pallet I understood why they made the choice. They took a chance and it turned out pretty well. It preserved the right tone for the comic while being sufficiently

So I’m going to go on a rant here. There are far too many comics, movies, and games out there that do the “gothic Alice” sort of “madness” thing. Personally, I don’t dig it. It’s never been my thing. Like that whole Zenescope Wonderland thing, not my cup of tea. Diskordia kind of dips into that rather than marinating itself in it and to be fair the result is a whole lot better than the rest (also… it’s nothing like Zenescope’s artstyle).

Ultimately, this comic’s plot is incoherent. It moves from stock set up to stock set up with some big set pieces for their own sake (and maybe shock value). I get that comic called “Diskordia” might be entitled to a bit of craziness but it didn’t feel like it had a point. I get it was following drugged up logic, and suspension of logic due to an unreliable narration is ok, but it felt like a lot of the scenes were not chosen not for their part in a larger story but rather to set up for some sort of line delivery. That’s not to say it wasn’t a fun read and the art alone is probably worth checking out.

Metrics

Art: 6/10 (Good with some rough edges)

Lettering: 6/10 (Solid and takes risks that pay off)

Plot: 3/10 (Incoherent)

Novelty: 4/10 (Weird but I also get a “I’ve seen this before” vibe)

Overall: 4.75/10

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Master Tape

Master Tape

Staff: Harry French, Amaru Ortiz Martinez, Lesley Atlansky, Colin Bell, Coll Hamilton

Overview:

Strap in, it’s time for an overdose of counter-culture references (in the best possible way).

Review:

Alright so I am jumping in to review Master Tape (side one) today. I got some hot beats playing in the background here so hopefully we’ll have a hot comic to match 😉

Anyway, this comics has a very bizarrely wonderful artstyle. God, I love this stuff. They use a lot of skewed perspectives and an array of color palettes to great effect. Unfortunately sometimes it slips a bit and we have a few sloppy panels (see bottom of page 12, middle of 22, etc) but 75% of the time they are spot on. When it’s bad, it’s bad. When it’s good it’s good.

The lettering is clear and legible but some of the onomatopoeia are not really in tone with the rest of the comic and could have been used to greater effect. Something to note is that the text has a very different compression on it than the image (almost seems like a matter of raster vs vector) but it doesn’t make any real difference.

The dialogue is plays right along with the art style, creative a very cohesive vibe for the whole thing. They curse, they use slang, and they almost insult the reader sometimes (and it’s wonderful!). Something this comic managed to pull off that I have not seen in other comics is the use of explanatory panels as de facto dialogue. For example we have a conversation where one character asks another what is chasing them. We then get a panel of what is chasing them and we flip back to the next part of the conversation as if they had told the enquiring character. Very effective.

The content is probably 18+ or at least something you want to read your kids as a bedtime story (unless them talking about “en-mass fuck-choirs” is pg-13 in your book). There is a lot of creativity in this comic. It envisions a truly bizarre futuristic world where music has been replaced by more colorful methods of entertainment. The kind of wild ride this takes us on is truly unexpected, involving drugs, post-apocalyptic death metal bands storming corporate offices, and internet piracy contract murders. Come on, how can you not love this kind of stuff? And it is all done with the most exquisite brand of personal style and some almost overwhelming passion for its source material.

The characters are all very identifiable with a few trope braking roles. Like the protagonist who, in another comic, might have been a sleazy record producer or a playboy is instead cast as a sarcasting shell of his former glory (a parallel to the music industry). Their dialogue is a lot of fun to read due to some good banter and the engaging story.

Overall, that was a bit of an eye-opener. I was expecting counterculture but what I got was an almost overdose. It felt like Tank Girl  with a bit of Heavy Metal and a touch of Eureka Seven but with a more coherent plot and more modern aesthetic. Definitely one to check out.

Metrics

Art: 5/10 (Fitting but with some bad panels )

Lettering: 5/10 (Decent and clean)

Plot: 8/10 (Human characters, good dialogue, solid writing)

Novelty: 8/10 (It’s weird and wonderful with a lot of passion)

Overall: 6.5/10

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Allwënn: Soul & Sword

Allwënn: Soul & Sword

Staff: Jesús B. Vilches and Javier Charro

Overview:

It’s gothy and emo but it has amazing art and prose.

Review:

Alright next on my post-hangover 2014 review binge is Allwënn: Soul & Sword. It’s the preview for an upcoming comic series and it is hella free so that’s a plus right there (no excuse as to why you can’t “buy” it right?) Again, as per normal I didn’t read anything on this one prior to jumping in so let’s see how it did!

…only I totally did read up on it and there was this YouTube video the creators did so I watched that before reading the comic. The tone I got from it was that of an anime series that takes itself way too seriously and tries to be “dark”. So consider this section a kind of mini review of the comic’s promo video. The intro text was very… weak. It was a bunch of emo vague statements over some cool music than a montage of artwork from the comic. Honestly, it conveyed tone but did not interest me. The art alone got me invested but the weak and vague statements didn’t tell me anything about what this book I would be buying would be about. Something about how the narrator (who is unknown to us) “was there” when a sword was baptized in “her” name and when he tried to kill himself.

(Sigh) I really hope this comic’s story explains or I am gonna be ripped. Anyway, on to the comic!

So first off this is not so much a comic as a true “graphic novel”. I don’t mean in the “serious comic” sort of way, but in the layout of the comic. It is a series of pages with dialogue over them with art in the background. Sometimes there is no art and just a stony black background.

The art of this comic is beyond captivating. It fits the tone, it expresses emotion, it backs the dialogue, etc. In fact this book is nothing if not artistic and I say that because every visual aspect of this comic was design from the perspective of an artistic mindset. When there is art- it is a choice to do so that makes the story stronger, when there is no art- there is a aesthetic reason behind it, and the type of art (linework, full body, etc) it is all back by a solid rationale that I can understand. The background are beautiful too. Even when just a blackish stone texture it feeds that visual tone the comic is striving for. It feels a bit like a Conan story set in a high fantasy setting visually. Kind of remind me of Skyrim’s take on fantasy and I am impressed to the nth degree.

After I finished this review I read another and it talks about how there are a few reused pieces in the comic but ultimately I find this acceptable. When they use the picture more than once, the first time we see only part of it and as the story unfolds, we see more of it.

I’m sorry to say that the plot is just straight up “emo”. As a reviewer, I like to use better words than “emo” but it’s the most fitting one I can think of. The protagonist acts like he is going to kill himself every night by holding a dagger to his chest but stops and is always seeking his own death. Really? REALLY! That is the plot you are going for with art as goddam GORGEOUS as this? That is the tone you are going to use for a graphic novel laid out as well as this with as much love as was so clearly put into this? We get to hear the goth kids from South Park’s backstory for their D&D character? Ugg. Kill me now… except don’t. I don’t want to be as emo as this comic’s premise.

The premise, as far as we are really told is that this a half elf half dwarf guy loves this girl… a lot. Like a lot a lot (we are told about it on just about every page) and since he couldn’t have her he went 120% emo and started seeking his own death by doing stupid stuff like trying to kill 20 people at once. Of course since he is the protagonist- he can’t die and keeps on going around repeating his suicidal quest.

The writing itself is solid. No grammar mistakes, no odd word choices, and overall is brilliant. You have to get past all the gothy-emo stuff that is just laid on so thick and heavy it hurts at times. It reads more like poetry or limerick than story and you have to read between the lines quite frequently. The writing style reminds me of a Homeric epic at times while at others I find little snippets of The Bard in there. There is a particularly vivid love scene that we get one (tasteful) picture of but are then given a powerfully moving bit of prose that would make even a salty maiden blush.

One thing that kind of bugs me, but I can totally see why they did it, is that they tell this story in such short fragments. It jumps around every four or five pages and I am unable to follow any one trail for more than a moment before the graphic novel jumps to something completely different. It was really hard to get through the first few “chapters” (which are only a few pages long) but around the midpoint it started to all click. There is an overall narrative that begins to take shape but since the story is not told chronologically for the most part it is a tough read.

All and all this is one of those graphic novels you don’t want to miss. It’s a rare gem with greater prose and artistic direction that is second to none. The premise they chose is really dark and a little overplayed but the team that made this is wildly passionate about it and dives head first.

Metrics

Art: 9/10 (If this art was a woman, I’d put a ring on it)

Lettering: 5/10 (Nothing groundbreaking but always legible)

Plot: 4/10 (They were a little heavy on the emo but great on the prose)

Novelty: 7/10 (A crazy attempt at a true “graphic novel” with solid art direction)

Overall: 6.25/10

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Spying with Lana: Sweet Nothings

Spying with Lana: Sweet Nothings

Staff: Sean Harrington

Overview:

A surprisingly smartly written 18+ indie comic with some quality issues.

Review:

Oh good another 18+ comic. Today I’ll be spying on Spying With Lana: Sweet Nothings.
I’m pretty sure I’ll regret it, but hey- I give everything a chance.

Straight up, the art is good. For one we have a pretty realistic comic and the artist/writer (Sean Harrington) has a very good grasp of anatomy, even if it is the anatomy of a porn star. I gotta say though, when every shot of every character is kind of centered on their massive tits… it’s not really something that screams “awesome artistic direction” in my mind. Then again, this is an 18+ comic. There is also this really odd disconnect between the character’s skin, the lineart, and the backgrounds.Like on page 7 (page 1 of the actual comic) the skin of the man yelling is drawn hyper realistic, the stroke is done with some rough tool, the suit he is wearing is another texture all together, and the background is non-existant. I have this weird suspicious that this guy is tracing stuff or just ripping pictures. Like the wall on the bottom of page 8 is from Google, but the panel above that is drawn. It’s SO weird. Like sometimes it is clearly drawn and sometimes it is clearly not. And when it is drawn there is this odd “manga” style that gets introduced every now and again that is another divergence from the art style. Maybe it is his style? Maybe it is some kind of artistic shortcut? I don’t know. Either way the meshing between all these styles really creates a very inconsistent tone.

The typography is not so good and a lot of care was taken in it. There is a minor rasterization/compression issue on the text (possibly on the whole comic) but that’s not much to complain about.

Ironically, I am going to say the story was actually pretty engaging. Like I went into this assuming we’d get a “pizza delivery” class porno story… but yeah, I was wrong. I sold it short. The basic premise is that a sexy spy tricks three people into giving up their components to a secret invention they were meant to be protecting. I mean there are tits every page or two and some sexy time, but… yeah. Decent. There was some clever line delivery, I actually got a few chuckled out of it and the characterization was pretty solid. If it wasn’t for the tits being shoved in my face every like 30 sec it would have been a solid normal comic, but it has the 18+ label to be honest it would have detracted from the humor. The excessive sex and titts actually kind of play to the kind of humor the comic is looking to portray.

So then there is this weird shift in quality on page 20. Rather than being drawn or use stock images we get a random low quality 3D image as the exterior of a house with some text that is either super compressed or low quality is superimposed over it. Really? I gave you credit for some solid art early on in this review, don’t make me regret it.

Anyway, in conclusion this is a smartly written 18+ comic that really is bogged down due to some poor choices. The artistic disconnect in styles is disconcerting, the compression issues are glaring, and the whole thing could have benefited from a serious upgrade. Otherwise, the writing was good, the plot was engaging, the characterizations were strong. Maybe I prejudged an 18+ indie comic but hey- I’m game to review anything and give it a fair chance.

Metrics

Art: 2/10 (Weird clashing art styles. Generally good. Quality issues.)

Lettering: 4/10 (Solid with compression issues.)

Plot: 6/10 (Actually pretty solid.)

Novelty: 5/10 (A new story to me… and tits?)

Overall: 4.25/10

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