Stargirl

Stargirl

Staff: Brandon Rhiness, Brittni Bromley, Przemyslaw Dedelis

Overview:

A space opera that manages to put me to sleep.

Review:

Alright so today we are going to do Stargirl. It’s a scifi that looks like a space opera and I LOVE me some space opera so let’s get into it!

Starting off, the art is well done even if it is not professional grade. At times it looks like there might have been a compression and/rasterization issue on some of the panels but overall it’s a solid effort with a lot of life to it. There are some great use of perspective in here, showing some real talent, though the colors are a bit simple. However, that’s kind of ruined with a few sloppy panels that lack the details of the others and it stands out. There is also this odd coloration on some of the skintones of the characters. It’s like it had shadows that were just drawn on with a low-opacity brush and left unblended. The effect is that they look more like odd 2D skin blemishes rather than adding depth. Perhaps the best way to express it is that this comic has great linework but the color is not on the same level.

The lettering could really have used a professional edge to it. There were plenty of poor choices and they were made on a most basic level. There are small things like always fitting a bubble into a panel rather than allowing it to merge the border, cramped lettering, inconsistent spacing, etc but there were also large things. An example is located right on the cover where a light colored font in the subtitle gets lost in a bright white starburst.

We get some expository dialogue and the writer falls into the trap of using his words to explain rather than letting the visual aspects of the comic illustrate what is going on. On the flip side, there is a lot of fun dialogue in here (particularly between a character and a humanoid dog) that is a cut above some of the dryer bits we get. A lot of the pages are really dialogue heavy and don’t really progress the plot. It felt like I was waiting for SOMETHING to happen.

The layout of the comic is pretty solid and it has some fun paneling showcased. There is this odd use of a really large panel in the middle of the comic (not like double size) that is a bit disruptive and I’m not really sure why it couldn’t just fit onto a single page. However, on the whole, it’s pretty well laid out and they play with panel/perspective enough to keep it interesting.

I’m not sure how to phrase this delicately so I’ll be blunt- I was really bored by this comic until the very very end. They spent a lot of time working on these characters, fleshing out their personal life, but it just kind of stays there and doesn’t move for about 25 pages. We get small victories until then, but it feels more like a time waster. And the worst part is that very little adds up to the end result- they could have summed up 90% of what was said in a few pages and it would have had the same impact on the story.

All and all I don’t think I’d recommend it. I love space opera stories and this doesn’t make the grade. It has some fantastic linework and the components of a real solid story are laying about- but they were not deftly assembled into a compelling narrative.

Metrics

Art: 3/10 (Good linework, hit & miss color)

Lettering: 2/10 (Sloppy and inconsistent)

Plot: 3/10 (The pieces of a good story are here but it left me bored)

Novelty: 5/10 (It’s new to me! Draws from some other established tropes but that’s ok)

Overall: 3.5/10

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I Am Michael Watcher

I Am Michael Watcher

Staff: Brian Hawkins

Overview:

A psychological thriller that falls kinda flat.

Review:

I Am Michael Watcher by Brian Hawkins is next up in the good ol’ review queue. I know a few other reviewers have done this one (check out a few over at GoodReads or on J53518’s review on YouTube) but I skipped reading/watching them for this comic to make sure I could formulate my own opinions. So that being said, let’s dive right into “I Am Michael Watcher”.

The art, to be honest, reminds me of an art student. It has a lot of texture and detail in SOME things. It lends itself to this cliche where there tends to be the characters involved and some object to give us perspective but other wise we are only treated to an uninspired background. There are some occasional minor oversights in terms of perspective but nothing super major, however the death by a thousand cuts is often worse than one fell blow. It all adds up to feeling like this was drawn by an art student rather than some kind of professional. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing impressive. There are also some very ugly facial expressions that suffer from accentuated realism that gets applies to a character’s face when the artist is too focused on the facial details (example: see the bottom right panel of page 10). I’m happy to report however that the lettering is just fine and looks quite professional.

The characters, when we finally get to them, are pretty lively. I like the down to Earth take they have on college life (and relationships during college in particular) and the personality they exude. I don’t want to say that they dwell too much on it- but I felt like saying, “just get on with it already” a few times. The dialogue walks the line between unnecessarily explanatory (“I don’t know who this is?” “My roommate”) and relatively realistic dialogue between two people.

While the pacing suffers, it isn’t a bad story overall. It has enough there to keep you guessing but it didn’t invest me in the world/stakes as much as I’d hoped. Maybe I’m jaded by CSI and Law & Order, but it felt a little contrived at times. That’s not to say it doesn’t have good points, it really does real quite well and it’s worth the read (maybe TV is just a better medium for murder mystery?). If it has a flaw though, it is that it really is one of those comics that crawls near the end (for the second half of the comic) and rushes in the beginning. You can tell the direction it is going but by the end of it you are just flipping pages to make sure you are right.

Ultimately the only word that comes to mind with this comic is “harmless”. It’s not bad, but I don’t think it will make it to be top of 2014 list either. I feel like the comic could have been made better by cutting the page count in half (example: The entire struggle on the first pages could be done in three or four panels relatively well) and moving the plot more in the first issue. An increased reliance on visual storytelling could have also benefited the piece and allowed it to retain an air of mystery. As it stands, they spell everything out with painful detail in heavy dialogue.

In conclusion, it’s worth a read if horror/mystery is your thing. I’d recommend you give it a read but suggest you buy the first two or three issues if you are going to get into it.

Metrics

Art: 3/10 (Unpolished)

Lettering: 5/10 (Spot on)

Plot: 4/10 (Pace is a slow and you can call most of it but it’s still good)

Novelty: 4/10 (Nothing super new. Enough to keep me interested.)

Overall: 4/10

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Last Breath

Last Breath

Staff: Sam Eggleston, Jason Baroody, Josh Oakes, John Hunt, Kim Eggleston

Overview:

Hard hitting space survival story that is competently executed

Review:

I love a good scifi and today’s entree is “Last Breath” which as a crying astronaut on the cover so- hey, I guess this is my cup of tea. This is a KickStartered comic and I’m always glad to see delivery on those. Anyway, let’s jump in.

This comic opens with the iconic space race and mainlines us some concentrated backstory that expands the timeline of the space race into the future. I am glad to see that they didn’t go to hardcore into the scifi (no giant robots, alien invaders, etc) when they begin with such a historically grounded premise.

I gotta say, the art is spot on for this comic. It’s pretty standard high production value American style comic art. It has realistic proportions and even though it’s a scifi that takes place in the future (no that distant though) it still looks very recognizable. I really dig the way they use expansive starfields behind the character to stress how alone he is.and how little they make him look for a lot of it. The lettering is also standard comic book fare for comics and that is to say it was legible and differentiated internal dialogue and spoken dialogue well. The thing with lettering is, when it isn’t a problem it’s good (it’s SO easy to mess up).

The writing is done primarily through internal narration for the first half, which again, lends itself to the “lone survivor” vibe it is going for. There is no one to hear him, so he talks to himself. I don’t want to spoil a lot of this comic (it’s VERY well written) so I’ll leave it at that.

Plot wise, again I am not looking to spoil this so my hands a bit tied, but it is something not to be missed. It reminds me of Apollo 13 a little bit and I say that in the best possible way. There is some very good characterization, though after a point we basically are left with two characters in an impossible situation. They don’t got into the geopolitics that is evidently going on in the background (then again, this is the first issue) and the plot kind of flies by as the pacing picks up to a rocket’s pace by the end. A defter hand might have slowed it a bit near the end but then again it could have ruined the action a bit.

All and all this is a solid comic and you should pick it up if only for the production value and premise. Not to spoil anything but it’s a near-future, hard science, survival story with man facing off against the environmental dangers of the exploration of the moon. It’s competently written, engaging, with some great art to boot. The backers for this KickStarter will NOT be disappointed. Give it a read! 

Metrics

Art: 7/10 (High grade)

Lettering: 6/10 (No complaints)

Plot: 6/10 (Good with a little rushed pacing near the end)

Novelty: 6/10 (Hey- it’s new to me)

Overall: 6.25/10

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The Believer

The Believer

Staff: Larry Morgan

Overview:

Generic superhero doesn’t begin to cover it.

Review:

So today I am reading The Believer by Larry Morgan for Electro-Magnetic Press. I actually got a physical copy sent to me for this one so I’m a little out of my element (I normally do PDF based reviews here) but that doesn’t mean much. I see a few crosses and some superhero goodness so lets jump in!

The first thing about this comic is the character design and to be honest, it is not very inspired. He looks like someone was made on HeroMachine.com and doesn’t have anything super defining about his appearance other than the cross over his head and heart (oh yeah and on the bottom of his boots too). It gives me the “BibleMan” vibe and in the worst possible way. The cover has him with a variety of colors and an asymmetrical “v” shaped neckline that extends over his heart and down his arm in blue. This might translate well in a color comic, but we have a black and white comic and this is just left white (like the rest of his suit) and kind of comes off as an odd out of place line at times. He also has this magically disappearing cape that is sometimes replaced with a shield and sometimes just not there (it varies from panel to panel).

The art in this comic is decent at times but at other times it is downright terrible (see Midnight Man’s hand on page 7). It’s obviously drawn by something with talent as the perspective and profiles are spot on. Part of me things it is partially traced or drawn by multiple artists because some parts are excellent and others are unforgivably bad. The jarring differences are blatantly apparent and causes a very weird disconnect.

The art also suffers a bit in the details, foremost in musculature and the background. The background of most panels are left white and I lost what was happening because I lacked any sort of visual cues as to what is going on (example: When a character is falling I was not sure if they are just standing funny or falling). And since the story jumps so much it’s nearly impossible to follow what it is going on at time. Images also clip beyond their stroke sometimes (example top right panel on page 5) which makes me wonder how these were drawn (like like vector artwork?).

The story reads as generically as possible. I really hate to use the word, “generic” because generic superhero stories are a pet peeve of mine. They feel like cheap knock offs and try to use the same tropes used by writers of established heroes and it always falls flat unless it is in parody. The story here is that there is a generic hero, with generic powers, who fights genetic villains, in a generic universe that wouldn’t be out of place in a major publisher (except without as much history, depth, background, continuity, etc). I kept waiting for this to turn out to be a joke or a parody but it wasn’t. It just kind of read like a recap of a generic superhero universe that I wasn’t invested in. I’ve seen that song and dance a thousand times before. There is so much exposition crammed into the front had of the book that only a miracle could save it and the second half of the book is basically a fight scene between two characters. It doesn’t advance the plot much, it doesn’t tell us who these guys are, the set up is weak, and honestly- it is just really stale.

One thing I did like about it was the ending. It gave me a glimmer of hope for this character. It was a single pearl in a pile of mud though. However, even then the execution was flawed. A good twist, like they pulled at the end, needs build up and context. We are never given a hint or reference that this is something that could happen or how out of place this would be in the world (despite all the exposition in the front half of the book). If you pull a twist with no investment or build up, it doesn’t work. It’s just random.

The dialogue is dry and comes off like a parody of human speech. Most of it is exposition or explanation of things. People hardly talk- they make declarations or attempt one-liners. It feels like the characters are giving us the cliffsnotes version of the story. If the staff slowed down and gave their characters time to develop and impress upon us who they are it might not have been as bad but they rush it. We basically get what could have been two or three stories in one comic and only a few pages per story. Each of them could have been pushed into a full issue to give us time to really get into the nitty gritty of this big universe.

All and all I am really disappointed in this comic. There is obvious passion, forethought, and a bigger story trying to be told in this comic that the skill of the writer can’t execute properly. In the hands of a more veteran writer this might have been a great plot with an amazing twist but instead it’s a forgettable comic with a slight shrug on the last page before you close the book.

Metrics

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

Lettering: 4/10 (Sloppy and inconsistent)

Plot: 1/10 (Rushed and bland)

Novelty: 1/10 (So painful it generic)

Overall: 2.25/10

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