The Lightbearer

The Lightbringer

Staff: Kyle Simon, Jamie Me, Blake Wilkie, and Gleidson Ribeiro

Overview:

Next up is “The Lightbearer” by LOD Comics. It’s got a beautiful cover, it’s got something to do with the antichrist (I try not to read much in the way of summaries), and I’m ready to jump in with both feet!

 

 Art:

So the artist is a detailed, realistic, style. It’s professional grade but not in the style of the standard “big two” comic companies (which isn’t good or bad)- it’s beautiful and well done. Couldn’t ask for better. This is some hand drawn goodness. It gets downright artistic (like, hang “I’d hang this on my wall” level good) and even a bit abstract (in a good way) once we get into it. I don’t know how well someone of a more traditional ilk could have handled this. It’s tonally appropriate, well done, and compliments the tone. There are some WICKED COOL character designs and they use their visuals appropriately to further the story. They have some great dynamic posing, the perspective is great (some *ahem* nice use of shadows too), and the penciler clearly had an idea for scene composition. (Bonus note: check out some of the cameos on page 15)

There are a few oddities (page 6 has some weird quality issue across the guy’s waist, the light on earth stick out too much and seem to be above the clouds, some weird expressions like on page 11) but they are a drop in an ocean of good quality.

 

Layout:

The lettering is fine, which is the best praise you can give lettering. It should be unobtrusive, legible, and used only when needed. Full marks for that. There is some fantastic use of panel transitions here. Like… best I’ve seen in an independent comic. They are downright inspired (see page 4 if you have any doubts). It’s also worth mentioning that they make good use of it throughout the entire book!

 

Writing / Story:

A good comic writer knows when to write and when to let the visuals speak for themselves. Damn- they nailed this. Some of my favorite works are dialogue light and this don’t disappoint. The premise is simple, mysterious, and moves at a solid pace. I was engaged the entire way though, and am totally looking forward to the inevitably awesome smackdown that’s going to happen in issue #2.

 

Overall:

Overall- this is a must buy. It’s solid, fun, wonderful, and bizarre. I have absolutely no idea where this rollercoaster will end but I want to go along for the ride. They got the right writer and the right art team for this. Seriously- give this a look!

 

Metrics:

Art: 9/10 [Solid, hand-drawn, goodness. 1 or 2 minor hiccups]

Lettering/Layout: 8/10 [Lettering is legible. Layout is awesome.]

Plot: 7/10 [Can’t wait for #2]

Novelty: 7/10 [This is some weird, bizarre, fun, stuff.]

Overall: 7.75/10

Buy it Now!

Mirai

Mirai

Staff: Hamish Downie and Kaho Takamura

Overview:

So I’m looking at Mirai today. This is a straight up manga style comic by Hamish Downie and Kaho Takamura. It’s not my usual fare for this site (though I’ve read my fair share of manga) but I’ll give anything a shot once.

Art:

The art is professional grade for manga-style artwork. It’s black and white but that doesn’t detract from this too much. The character designs are fun. There is an odd use of materials or textures that sometimes seems really out of place (see the plane’s nose cone on page 3 for an example- and yes I get it’s supposed to be made of an odd material).

 

Layout:

One thing I’ll notes is that the compression on this comic is terrible. There is a lot of artifacting on the pages. I’ll also note that it appears that some of the art assets, particularly the dialogue balloons seem copy/pasted as they are (pixel to pixel) identical. This was also clearly written in Japanese first then translated to english for a second printing. That’s fine but it brings up some odd text placement/flow in the dialogue balloons at time as they are clearly trying to fit English words into balloons sized for the Japanese text. This means there are times when the text needs to be made significantly larger or smaller than it should be (or would have been for an English release) at times. This, in addition to the artifacting, makes it really hard to read (see bottom left of page 5). I had to keep zooming in and out to read it.

 

Writing / Story:

The plot is a little weird and, I’ve read weird plots before, but I’ll admit I had to go back and re-read a few pages to understand what’s going on. I still am only like 75% sure I got it all and I’ve reviewed like 70+ indie comics. I think a lot of it is due to the transitions and pacing. The transitions are very jumpy and not a lot of explanations are given (see end of page 9 to start of page 10) or establishing information given. The pacing is very odd- we get a lot of time devoted to some scenes and altogether skip over others (like the trip back to Japan).

The same can be said of characterization. We are told a lot of things, rather than shown (see page 12 for a rather blunt example). At one point a character fights like hell to return to Japan from a trip to Australia but then we have a tiny panel where she is scolded for trying to go to Australia.

There are lots of plot elements thrown at us that don’t really get fleshed out. We have a relatively realistic world but then we are introduced to planes “made of rice crackers, fueled by sun-flower oil, and love”, a subplot about a grandmother, a not-well-explored line about a mouse who the protagonist saved, a plot about an Empress that literally only fills half a page, something about winning a Karuta tournament, a robotic cat, and then shrinking. Like the first half was able for a reader to follow but then we just get into some rather dramatic lack of cohesion. It’s like the writer started out with a plot then realized they were running out of pages and just kind of starting throwing random things out to get all of it into issue #1 for some reason. If it was all one thing (“plants as technology”, “an exploration on the implications of life-like robots”, “environmentalism taken to an illogical extreme”, “magic garments”, etc) it has the potential to be a decent premise… but it seems like everything was just kind of tossed in the blender and nothing is explored. At all. Like, that list I did earlier? You literally have about as much information as the reader does about them. They are just kind of shown, as things.

The whole thing is just kind of a mish-mash that probably made sense to the author and might be better explored in subsequent issues but this was just a painful read. What they need to figure out a bit more solidly is pacing and tone. It might have behoved the author to start with the introduction to the Japanese cast (see page 10) and then, though flashbacks (even if it wasn’t in the first issue) explore the protagonist’s background.

 

Overall:

So, a lot of people will probably be willing to give this a higher rating than I will because the art is very pretty, the characters adorable, and it’s an English manga. I grade art and writing separately. If you imagine this comic with poor art- it’d be a trainwreck of a plot. I really dislike giving poor scores, particularly to passion projects, but this one is one to skip.

Metrics:

Art: 7/10 [Better than average.]

Lettering/Layout: 1/10 [Artifacting, text issues, reused assets.]

Plot: 1/10 [This is a mess.]

Novelty: 3/10 [Lots of ideas. None of them explored.]

Overall: 3/10

Link to Patreon

Nothing Man #1

Nothing Man

Staff: N.S Kane, John Rhodes, Steve Sprayson, Abbey Smith, Victor Munson, Acacia Munson

Overview:

A fairly generic superhero comic with a glimmer promise still to come.

Review:

Hey guys, ScottyG here with another review. Today I’ll be looking at Nothing Man #1 by Scattered Comics. As you guys know I’m big on superhero comics and I frequently see superhero comics devolve into mimicry rather than originality and I’m hoping this one avoids that trope So, let’s jump on in.

 

Art:

The art’s solid. While the character designs are a little generic but there is a lot of detail in the panels. This comic is full color which is kind of cool to see on something like this. I don’t know if I’d call this the best art I’ve ever seen, but it does it’s job and effectively conveys the story visually. Later in the comic, we get introduced to some more interestingly designed characters and some of them have very unique designs but off the bat the initial characters we are introduced to are fairly generic. I did like some of the risks they took, particularly with the fire crossing panel boundaries to visually convey that they are linked and, simultaneously, that the fire is engulfing. There are some minor anatomical discrepancies on characters on pages but I’ve seen worse; you never get characters confused visually.

The lettering is decent but in a few places ends up squeezing the dialogue a few times either by placement or simply not making large enough boxes. This isn’t a major faux pas and is largely just something a critic who pours over dozens of comics would pick up.

 

Writing / Story:

The dialogue in this book is mostly expositional rather than exploratory; that is to say that it doesn’t really do much for the story, just restates what is being communicated to us visually. If you took it away, you could still understand what was going on. This is a good example of a strong visual narrative in a comic and, at the same time, shows a distinct lack of utilization for the literary aspects of the comic. Creators often forget that comics are a hybrid medium- that the literary and visual aspects need to be in tandem rather than simply supportive.

A side note: the narration bugs me. It comes off as rather pretentious and amounts to really kind of a superficial statement. It also starts off as retrospective narration and ends up kind of switching to scene relevant dialogue at times.

The story itself is pretty generic and cliche. It’s about a Fabio-haired dude who wakes up in the forest with no memory and super powers while being chased by the military. However, the setting shows signs of promise. The later parts of this issue establish a kind of fun paradigm between humans and superpowered individuals. Essentially that supervillians run have taken over and now run Paradise City after a clash between a legendary hero and them. It’s a fun kind of totalitarian set up where we are introduced to some, sure to be relevant later on, creatively designed villains.

 

Overall:

Overall, it just barely escapes being that a super generic comic that I hate. On the one hand, it falls into a lot of traps that small publisher independent superhero comics often do (relying too much on the reader’s existing knowledge of superhero tropes, trying to do the big publisher thing with a large line up, etc) but on the other hand it actually tries a few new things. I don’t think this will be the number one, top selling, most engaging, industry-redefining, superhero comic run of the ages- but I think you could do a lot worse (actually… I’ve seen that many times so I KNOW it can be a lot worse).

 

Metrics:

Art: 7/10 [Pro level]

Lettering: 5/10 [Decent]

Plot: 4/10 [Mostly expositional dialogue]

Novelty: 5/10 [Reliant on cliches, except near the end]

Overall: 5.25/10

Link to Buy

Grand Opening

Grand Opening

Staff: Jensen Rong and Hojin Chung

Overview:

Trippy, wonderful, adult humor.

Review:

So today I’m looking at Grand Opening by Jensen Rong and Hojin Chung. It’s got a bit of adult humor so skip it if you have virginal sensabilities. Now- I don’t want to spoil the pure, weird, joy you’ll get from this comic so I’m going to encourage you to go and read it before even reading the review. If you want a mini review, “It’s good and damn funny- go read it.”. However, if you need more- let’s jump on in.

Art:

The art is very simplistic and clean with a distinctly eastern vibe. It’s great for the concept and looks solid throughout. Now keep in mind that “simple” doesn’t mean “bad” or “unskilled”. In fact, I’d argue that a clear, clean, concise art style is harder to pull off than a more freehand style and this owns it’s style the entire way though. If it has a weakness the lettering is a little over-simplistic and raw, even for this comic’s art style. Sometimes you can also kind of see the “seams” of the comic showing (a repeated use of a digital brush here, an awkward pose there) but unless you are really a critic you’ll just roll with it.

 

Writing / Story:

So this comic made me laugh on the first page. That’s the hallmark of good writing if there ever was one. It’s basically the reason that I reviewed this comic rather than the 15+ other comics I’ve got stacked up in the review queue. Grand Opening has a very fun, twisted, sense of humor and it goes all out with this. It’s equate it to like Adventure Time or maybe something that belongs on Adult Swim and that’s pretty high praise. Honestly- if there was no art to this I’d still have read this. Good writing transcends medium and I wish people would understand that. The art in this augments the strong writing and illustrates what’s going on. It’s a great use of the visual medium, using dialogue when required and skipping it when actions would visually complete the scene. I’d give you a breakdown of the plot but it’s very trippy and out there- half the fun is the absurd journey it takes you on and telling you what happens would spoil it.

 

Overall:

I know this is a short review… but it’s a damn good comic. I often have far more to say about turds than I do about diamonds and make no mistake- this comic was an absolute joy. I’ve read LOTS of bad humor comics and was starting to believe that this medium wasn’t as conducive to humor. However- this one has opened my eyes and shown me the light. Can’t wait to get my hands on the next one- this is required reading.

 

Metrics:

Art: 8/10 [Pro level]

Lettering: 5/10 [Decent]

Plot: 9/10 [You’ll laugh your butt off]

Novelty: 9/10 [Insanity. Just insanity.]

Overall: 7/75/10

Link to Website

Spoiler Free Iron Fist Review

Iron Fist share much of it’s DNA with the Daredevil series. They could be brothers or maybe cousins but Daredevil was the one that went to college and got a job that it worked hard to make pay off. Iron Fist is the one who saw how well Daredevil did and tried to follow in its footsteps without understanding the finer points.

the-last-dragon-bannerWhat it wanted to be was a 80’s kung fu movie like the Last Dragon, Big Trouble in Little China, or even like 90s action movies that were not as gritty like Only the Strong, Die Hard (I know it was ’88), or even Iron Monkey. What it ends up being is like a b-grade action 90s action movie, ironically, like the original daredevil (when you see the chick with the spider stuff, try not to imagine her in a bad 90s flick).
At it’s best, and that’s near the end of the series (a trend with a lot of the Netflix series), it’s a fun series about Danny and Connie running around New York, one with a glowing fist and the other with a katana, fighting a bunch of thugs in suits. When it remembers to be about mystic kung fu bullshit, it borders on being great. However, and I suspect this is either a directorial issue or budget constraints, we don’t get much of that (sorry). The series doesn’t follow the ethos of “show, don’t tell”. Rather than get a single scene of teenage Danny running around the streets of K’un-lun we have to hear Danny telling us about the stew some monk made. I can count on 1 hands the number of scenes we had even NEAR K’un-lun. This kind of brings me to the meat of the problem with Iron Fist- the Meachums and their talking.
(MINOR Spoilers in the following paragraph. Nothing past the first episode.)
The Meachums, as you find out in the first episode, are the Rand family’s best buddies and also kind of co-founded/co-ran Rand Industries. Skipping past all the spoilers- they are boring. They should have been, at best, a B-plot. They add some depth to Danny and his background but, overall, I actually got bored a few times with them. I get Danny isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack (I’ll get to that later) but, and this isn’t a spoiler, just about every time Danny trusts the Meachums they screw him over. Like… habitually. Like, it’s their religion or something to mess with Danny- even in his childhood- and he is like oblivious to this. They are literally in the plot only to cause problems for Danny that he is only tangentially involved with. Now, I only bring this up because there is WAY MORE INTERESTING STUFF HAPPENING and they use the Meachum stuff as very badly disguised padding.
(Minor spoilers end)

Now, the guy who plays Ward Meachum, Tom Pelphrey, owns every damn scene he is in. Guy came up as a soap opera actor and just kills it. He chews the scenery at every opportunity he gets but his plot really has no weight or connection to superhero stuff. Hell, David Wenham who plays another Meachum also kills it. They both easily outclass Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick, which is ok because they are decent in their own right.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’ve heard the cries of “Danny Rand should have been Asian!”. No, he shouldn’t have. This is a story deeply set in New York, centers on a lot of big business white guys, and the fact that he’s the perfectly expected poster boy for a fortune 500 company (what you’d expect) works for him. White dude doing Kung Fu is half the story in this case. One thing I was thinking, while watching it was, “I… dunno. Might have been a bit racist to recast the ethnicity of the only martial arts superhero thus far as asian.” Now, if they had- it would have been fine. They did it with Colleen Wing (Well she was… kind of part Asian) and nothing exploded. Wouldn’t have ruined anything, they could write around it, and (as I’ve expressed above) this series didn’t dig deep enough that the change would have ‘ruined it’. (Related note: Know who’s killing it in a role that I’d normally assume would be cast as a white dude? Daniel Wu in Into the Badlands. Go watch that.)

Image result for Colleen Wing daughters of the dragon
There ARE high points. Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing is a fun character who adds a lot of credence to the series that wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t. They did a solid job on tackling childhood trauma and the visual representation/narrative impact was well applied. Some people didn’t dig the fight scenes- I really did. They don’t have a lot of spinning backflips and focus a lot more on quick parries, competent countering, joint manipulation, and even some great scenes of groundwork (which you never see!). When it remembers to be about kung fu antics- it’s awesome. Monks and meditation, spiritual new age woo, guards that are oddly armed with martial arts weapons, grand duels- it’s a lot of fun.

Finn Jones- you did a passable job. Unfortunately you were not who we expected. Krysten Ritter was a tour de force, Mike Colter brought the material to life in a sophisticated by quiet way, and Charlie Cox was probably better than we expected. Finn… was ok. This series needed a guy who lived and breathed martial arts. They got a guy who STARTED his training for the show. Not a guy who was in love with it and then happened to be cast. Go rewatch the old Green Hornet show- Bruce Lee was on display in every fight scene he had (I mean… it was campy stuff but he was clearly in love with it). Finn Jones… well he looks good with his shirt off and seems to “get” the slow stuff like tai chi and meditative poses. He’s not a natural and it shows. As an actor- he does ok. He never really hits home but they could have made a worse casting choice.
Overall, this series suffers by comparison. It’s a SOLID show. Please, if you take anything away from this, take that. It’s a show worth watching but when you imagine what it COULD have been and when you compare it to the other Netflix Series? It’s a let down. So? B+. I’d watch it again (and will with my wife) and I’m looking forward to see Danny back in the Defenders. He’ll be a good balance to the others and there were a lot of good plot points that will set up the Defenders series this fall (expected).

 

ScottyG’s Verdict?

7/10- give it a watch