Staff: Harrison Perry, Claudio Muñoz, Emmanuel Ordaz, Greg Sorkin
Monks, and gorgeous art, and cliches oh my!
Ok, let’s talk about Nova Zen today. I see this sort of comic a lot these days. It fits in this category of indie comics that have art good enough to be in a mainstream comic (or better) but the writing isn’t up to snuff.
Let’s talk about the good first. The art, particularly the cover art, is second to none. We have a realistic very vibrantly illustrated character with a compelling shaolin monk inspired character design… that we never see in issue #1. The overall style on the interior pages is downright beautiful with full color illustrations, excellent use of panel layout and overall composition. There is a ever so slight cartoonish feel (some of the monks have exaggerated facial features) but it’s merely a hint and it helps differentiate the style of the artist (in a good way). If I had to nitpick (hey… that’s why you are reading this right?) there are a few scenes where there are some oddly lumpy muscles and some variance in proportions (but nothing major).
Now let’s talk about the writing. I know this is a first issue but… man I wish it was as good as the art. It rushes through its own source material is just bland. It’s like the writer took every Kung Fu and “chosen one” storyline cliche and just tossed them in a blender. Basically a guy from “somewhere” shows up at a monastery grasping the hilt of a magic sword (I assume it’s magic) and the monks start chattering about how he is the “chosen one” because of a “prophecy”. The guy wakes up and takes it pretty well and we get some vague exposition about how he needs to save the world. See, if we had SOME (and I mean ANY) insight into what this prophecy was, who said it, what it pertained to, or what the guy (named “Nova”) is supposed to do it might have been a good plot hooke but instead we are told vaguely that he needs to “save the world”. There is no SUBSTANCE to it. We aren’t compelled to want to know more because this is so stock and we have no specifics whatsoever. We are then run through some very stock “monk things” including a martial arts demo, some meditation, and painfully simple explanation of a “cosmic energy”. Then we meet some stock bad guys whose only defining characteristic thus far is that they are bad. I mean we LITERALLY have a character say, “this is immoral” and the other one say, “Yeah I know but we are going to do it anyway”. I guess, on the whole, it just feels derivative of other works. (We also have a spelling mistake on page 14 (“he we are, don’t be worried.”) and a few awkward lines sprinkled over the whole comic.)
There is also this weird failure of logic in the comic. Like we have a guy meditating with Nova who suddenly informs him that he is late to meet with his next instructor- why! They weren’t doing anything so why does he suddenly have to rush! Or the martial arts master says Nova looks “a little scrawny” when the guy is built like a house (like one step below a Rob Liefeld character). The master also orders him into a horse stance and, despite knowing nothing at all he just drops into one (also- page 13 has a little white border on the left side).
I feel like this comic wants to mimic a lot of great martial arts stories but doesn’t know enough to actually give it any substance. We have a stock, ill-defined, prophecy about a guy with no memory who trains with some monks with an ill-defined set of mystical beliefs/powers, who will protect the world against an ill-defined threat. I mean there isn’t a lot to work with here as a reader. Like, I like the artwork. I really do but there just isn’t any substance for me to grab onto. When you have the means to tell a story it is your obligation to tell one with a purpose. However, I can tell that this team has a lot of passion and really loves their source material and I really want to see them succeed. They obviously have a much larger story to tell and I really wish they would toss in a few more proper nouns and character traits for the protagonist.