The Legend Of Harapan

SUB004008The Legend Of Harapan

Staff: JT Campbell

Overview:

It’s got a talking lion but it’s much cooler than Narnia.

Review:

Alright so today I’m looking at The Legend Of Harapan. Cover’s got a lion so that’s a good sign. Let’s jump on in.

The first thing that we are meet with in this comic is an eye-killing cursive note. I get that it was meant to look “hand written” (it even uses a vintage paper texture) and it fits with the style of the comic… but Christ I wish artists would stop using this particular set up. Mage – The Awakening’s sourcebook had this same issue- cursive is NOT easy to read. I mean this wasn’t even particularly keened cursive, but still- not a treat for the eyes. If it was just ONE page in the comic I think it could have been forgiven, but it keeps popping up.

However, once we get past those pages we are treated to a very unique and colorful art style and some very easy on the eyes text. One thing I’ll note here is that while the art seems rather simplistic (kind of like a kid’s illustrated book) but it is actually very well executed. It takes a lot of skill to give so much expression and life to simple creatures and there is no lack of detail here. There is a great use of dynamic posing here and the way they use panels is top notch (example: Page 13 has a rabbit jumping across two panels to indicate movement). They also have a good grasp of visual storytelling, allowing events to transpire without dialogue but still conveying understanding.

To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to get a story about talking lions when I opened this PDF- but I don’t think I was disappointed. It’s not some kind of furry thing (hey- if you like it, more power to you. Not my cup of tea though) so it didn’t bother me all that much. Kind of got the Narnia vibe from it instead. The story itself is pretty linear but it’s not insultingly so. You can kind of call what is going to happen (this is not an M. Night Shyamalan story) but I don’t know if this is a really an issue. I get the idea that this is kind of geared to a younger demographic? At the very least it’s not going to attract the same audience as like Sin City.

Overall it was a fun little read. It’s just over 30 pages and you don’t feel cheated on anything. It manages to set up a good little story and I think there is a lot of potential in the way this could play out. Definitely worth a read.

Metrics

Art: 6/10 (Very well done. Expressive yet simple.)

Lettering: 3/10 (Good overall but some NASTY cursive pages)

Plot: 5/10 (Solid.)

Novelty: 6/10 (Novel artstyle. Took some risks, some paid off, some did not.)

Overall: 5/10

Link to Site

Link to Buy It

Advertisements

Life & Death in Paradise

Life & Death in Paradise

Staff: Nigel Lynch and Matthew Clarke

Overview:

Miami Vice meets a gang story in a way that will rock your world.

Review:

Alright so I got a comic for you all today that you’re gonna wanna read. It’s called Life & Death in Paradise and it’s downright fantastic. I should start this off by saying that it’s definitely got a mature tag on it for a reason. Anyway…

Oh my god- this is so refreshing artistically. It looks like the 90s vomited on a comic page and it’s wonderful. I know that’s not the most professional way to put it- but I absolutely love the visuals this comic has. It’s got a kind of urban, Miami Vice, look to it. The real glory of this comic’s art is the little details they put in the background of every scene. It makes what could be a pretty boring setting (some guy’s basic apartment for example) into an expression of who the character is (he’s got a PS3, he’s watching pron, there is a sheetless mattress for a bed, a shotgun placed near him on some cinder blocks, there is an refilled Mt. Dew bottle, etc). THIS is a perfect example of how a comic’s visual element can be used to tell us things about the character without exposition. I learned more about the people in this room in two panels by the junk in their room than by the entire dialogue of other comics. I get who they are. Another fantastic thing this comic does is use non-character elements to inform us visually of what’s going on. For example, we have some guys with guns running and in the corner of the panel a frog is jumping out of their way. That little frog is a visual que for the way they are moving. They didn’t stealthily walk into this place- they flipped the corner and hammered their way down the street, not paying attention to (or maybe caring about) the frog. You’ll forgive me for the way I’m gushing about this but this is like a fine meal here- everything is working visually. I want other indie writers to go and read this comic to understand what fantastic artistic direction looks like!

The lettering is crisp and clean without being “smooshed” (yes… that’s a technical term 😉 ) or taking over the scene. There were a rare few instances when the comic had some of the lettering rather close to the edge of the dialogue box, but never enough to really threaten being unreadable. I like how the comic lets the action speak for itself a lot and only uses dialogue like real people would. One thing that was kind of hit or miss was the use of slang/accented language. While it was effective in creating a cohesive vibe and making the characters feel very real- it made it hard to decipher what was being said sometimes.

If there was one thing that wasn’t as strong as the rest of the comic it was the plot. While the story and topical choice was fine, it was the lack of a central set of characters that threw me off. We are kind of given a situation and then shown the execution and impact from a few different angles. While this is successful, I don’t know if it was the best choice. I didn’t get as invested in any particular set of characters or an individual so that kind of weakened a few scenes that could have been stronger.

Overall this comic was a goddam joy to read. The bright, complex, visuals meshed perfectly with the way this was written and the topic at hand. I haven’t come across something so competently illustrated in a long time and it’s nice to see some new ground being covered in terms of tone/subject matter. This is a must read.

Metrics

Art: 9/10 (Learn something from this comic guys)

Lettering: 6/10 (Very clean with a few minor mistakes)

Plot: 6/10 (Complex, fun, and new)

Novelty: 7/10 (Covers a lot of ground in tone, subject matter, and visuals)

Overall: 7/10

Link to Product

The Man in the Moon

The Man in the Moon

Staff: Alden Leeke

Overview:

A fun little Cthulhu romp.

Review:

Ok so I gotta say, this comic does not have professional grade artwork. No where near it. I mean it conveys what is going on pretty well, but it doesn’t really do it any favors. Christ, they even life-traced some images (example: Page 8) and attempted to draw over it.

I did like how the comic used a novel approach to dialogue bubbles thought. Each image is flanked by “torn off” pieces of paper with the dialogue written on them. Unfortunately, it is all very roughly done and doesn’t look very realistic (even within the context of the medium). Furthermore, the lettering gets very close to the edge and has relative inconsistent placement in regards to the piece of paper it’s written on.

The plot is pretty simplistic but it seems like there was a lot of love in its inception. It’s a kind of apocalypse story that involves some Lovecraftian elements. It feels a bit rushed and the pacing doesn’t really work. It’s kind of cranked up to 11 the entire way though so it all feels very boring (“It’s a tsunami!” “Then Religious War”!). It all smells of a very green writing staff. While they really want to incorporate elements of Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s mythos- they fail spectacularly to grasp the tone that made his works so phenomenal. Tossing a few tentacles in a story doesn’t make it Lovecraftian. It’s about suspense, horror, mystery, and twists- not blunt set pieces of world destruction.

Metrics

Art: 2/10 (Some traced, some just poor)

Lettering: 3/10 (Sloppy and inconsistent)

Plot: 3/10 (Wasn’t bad. Wasn’t memorable.)

Novelty: 4/10 (At least they put Lovecraft in it. Nice idea with the dialogue balloons.)

Overall: 3/10

Beatrice is Dead

Beatrice is Dead

Staff: S. Zainab Williams and Robert Burrows

This is going to be a fairly short review. 100% disclosure: I did not get though the entire comic. I got about 30 pages in and I couldn’t read further. I have been reading a LOT of really dark comics recently and I don’t feel I can objectively review this comic’s tone or theme as a result. It’s really tasking on the psyche to read so many of them. Thus this review will not include a score at the end.

The art in this comic is downright gorgeous, stylized, and fitting to its dark tone. I loved how the incorporated non-illustrated page elements as part of the graphic design (like a business card, etc). However, something that really bothered me was the text avalanche on the “book” pages. Comics are a visual and literary medium. It really destroyed the overall flow of the book. I’ve seen successful illustrated novels but tossing 5 pages of text 10 pages in then interspersing it throughout the book is not a wise choice. Those pages felt very cheap and there were some good visuals I’d like to have seen. Watchmen did this fantastically with the “Tales of the Black Freighter” subplot in the book and their little inserts. This just felt like they ran out of art budget. Let me also add, in closing, that this book had a good premise going for it. It just didn’t grab me because I’ve been reading a lot of other dark/gritty comics recently.

Deep/Dark Comics Rant

Ok so I’m gonna soap box here for a minute. Please pardon my little rant.

 

Dark =/= good, deep, or even emotional.

 

Some comics REALLY suffer from this. I think I’ve made the statement “it has really well done, thematically appropriate, stylized art that fits the dark tone of the comic” a half dozen times recently. It kinda of bothers me. Like why do people think that doing some hyper stylized, unbelievably dark tone automatically makes a comic “good”?

 

I think it takes a lot more skill to craft a comic that has an upbeat or neutral tone. The Captain America movies did a fantastic job of portraying an heroic character in a shitty world and still kept it upbeat! “Life sucks”. Congratulations, you’ve discovered what every 8th grader has. Harping on it for 64 pages while you tell what would otherwise be an interesting story doesn’t lend gravity to a story- it detracts from it.

 

I get that HBO and other contemporary media sources kind of made this a “thing” but if I have to slog though ANOTHER dark “twisted” or “grittily realistic” indie comic I’m going to go insane. I’ve really done a million of them. Doing this doesn’t make you “unique”. It makes you trite. It’s not fun to read and doesn’t make me want to come back for more. It’s like a punishment from the comic gods. I guess I need to add that to my list of “so often overdone genres of indie comics” right there next to ill-thought out superhero comics with no substance 😦 .
Ok, sorry. I had to get that out of my system. Now back to reviewing gritty, twisted, dark, indie comics…

Noir City

Noir City

Staff: Cody Walker, Richard alerius, Allen Byrns

Overview:

Well… it IS a Noir Comic.  Crazy art style.

Review:

Today we’ve got Noir City and it’s a, you guessed it, noir style murder mystery. So grab your snub nosed pistols, trenchcoats, and fedoras because we’re going to jump headlong into this one!

Truly wonderful and bizarre art style. Looks like a grunge texture was applied as the background on each page. This comic’s artwork is hyper stylized. Sometimes we get scratchy stick figures (when appropriate) and other times we get some goddamn beautiful artwork. Don’t take any part of this to mean that the art is anything but top notch. The use of textures is innovative as they switch up to fit the panel and even the pencil stroke borders around the panels plays to the overall aesthetic. Another cool little thing of note is that the color palette shifts between “then” and “now” rather than just some other little trick. The artist also has a great grasp of the basics (anatomy, composition, dynamic motion, etc) and that really helps what would otherwise be a graphic design nightmare. The only bad side I can see is that the artist didn’t draw all the pieces I think. There are some stock images or something (example: the car and door on the spread on page 5 of the PDF, the lips on page 10, etc). It’s a real shame but I’m not 100% sure it wasn’t intentional.

One thing I will note is that the text is a bit blurry and rather small for the panel size. Even zooming in it is still very hard to read as a result of the font choice and the rasterization issues. It was a real pain in the butt and I had to zoom in pretty close to make it out.

The text, when I could read it, was excessively grim and dower. Then again, with the super-dark color pallet, the deformed art style, and a title like Noir City- what else could I possibly expect? I think detect a bit of a Frank Miller fan as some of the dialogue has his fingerprints all over it (most notable Batman Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, and Sin City). The thing is though, and I’m going to be the biggest comic hipster here, but it seems like this style has been done to death and it almost seems derivative. The writing in this comic never really clicked with me for some reason.

The plot was fun. It was the typical set up, down on his luck man finds himself thrown into a mystery he didn’t want or ask to be in. We get some hints about his past but ultimately we are left with more questions than answers by the end of it. I don’t know if that’s bad characterization or good mystery writing (if I had to guess- the latter). The story is very tight and it seems like it’s going somewhere.

Overall I was a big fan of the art but I don’t know if I really cared for the writing style (glum almost the point of parody), or the lettering made this a really hard read. It’s somewhere between a good comic and a better mystery novel but I don’t know if it makes a smooth transition to the medium. Anyway, check it out!

Metrics

Art: 7/10 (A few good pieces, but a lot of rough stuff)

Lettering: 2/10 (Tiny and blurry)

Plot: 4/10 (Well written but somewhat derivative)

Novelty: 5/10 (A new take on artwork and you don’t see many noirs)

Overall: 4.5/10

Link to Site

Things You Might Have Missed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So since not everyone is a huge comic nerd I thought it would be fun to put together a little “what you might have missed” guide of sorts. If you’re a Marvel fanboy, you probably know all this and more. I’m sure I’m missing a few things here but here were some of the highlights. I know I normally just do reviews on this site but I figured this would be a welcome entry 🙂

Oh yeah, this post is going to be spoiler-tastic so stop reading if you haven’t seen it.
Batroc
That dude who hijacks the boat and has that awesome fight scene with Cap? Yeah, that’s Batroc the Leaper. Old Marvel villain. Super cheesy but it was cool to see him. I was kind of wondering why the guy could LEAP so far until I figured out who he was 🙂

 

Brock Rumlow
You know that random SHIELD agent they gave a bunch of screentime to? The one who lead the strike team with Cap? Yeah, he is Crossbones. Another Cap villain. The end teases that he is alive.

 

Bruce Banner
Yep, they name drop the big green guy during the scene with Fury getting “almost killed”.

 

Agent Sitwell
This SHIELD agent has popped up in a lot of the Marvel movie universe. He was in Thor, had a cameo in the Avengers on the Helicarrier, and Agents of SHIELD. He’s the bald dude with glasses.

 

Dr. Strange
Yep, you hear them namedrop the man behind Dr. Strange (Stephen Strange) in that comic in one point in the movie. It is when Sitwell tells Cap that there are “dangerous people out there” like Stephen Stranger, etc, etc, etc.

 

Wargames
Yeah… that was a wargames reference Black Widow made.

 

The Chitauri Scepter
In the end credits interjected clip we see the staff Loki used during The Avengers being tampered with.

 

Falcon

Ok so it’s not a “what you might have missed” but the Falcon in the comics is like a product of the 70s (check out the disco-tastic costumes he has worn). Of note, he was the first African American superhero (Black Panther doesn’t count- he’s not American). He had a pet falcon named Redwing, he was a pimp who had his memories altered by the cosmic cube, and had a random flight suit. At one point he got Black Panther to hook him up with like cyber wings and stuff. I actually like the reboot quite a bit- but I think he was a little shoehorned in there.

 

Kill List
So I didn’t get to see ALL the names on the list of people the automated helicarriers were targeting as dangerous people- once the DVD hits I’m sure we will see some interesting names on the list but I DO remember that Tony Stark and the President (in the Marvel movie universe) being listed.

 

Black Widow
So there was a few interesting lines from her in this movie. She keeps talking about how she’s adopted too many different personas in her life as a spy and she doesn’t know who she is anymore. This is kind of fun because, in the comics, she was basically brainwashed and psychologically conditioned and doesn’t really have a clear memory of her past. I wonder if that’s still in play.

Also cool little side note from The Avengers: Hawkeye and her become romantically involved in the comics and that is one of the reasons she defects from Russia to the USA.

 

Baron Von Strucker
That dude with the monical in that end credits is Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Another Avenger villain.

 

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
Finally, the big one in the end credit scene is Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They are two big-name mutants (Magneto’s kids) and some of the earliest members of the Avengers. There is a story behind this though. Since Fox owns the rights to X-Men movies, Marvel can’t put mutants in their movie. The ONE catch however is that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch showed up in the Avengers a lot. This means they fall into both categories and thus Marvel can use them in their upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. The end scene credits suggest they are going to get their powers from experimentation by Baron Von Strucker’s guys and might involve the infinity stones or at least Loki’s chitauri scepter.

Fun fact, Scarlet Witch hooks up with a living robot known as “The Vision” after joining the Avengers and is responsible for the weirdness that happened in the “House of M” storyline.