Project Savior

Project Savior

Staff: Craig Johnson

Overview:

Today we’ve got another artist/author creation in the form of Project Saviour #1. It comes to use from Craig Johnson who is credited for story, art, colourist, and letting. I often say that these combos don’t lend themselves to a great comic but I’m looking to be proven wrong! I’m going in blind so I’ll be as surprised as you are!

 

 Art:

The art is this weird blend of beautiful and amateur. It shows that one can do a lot with a little and I actually kind of dig the attempt. It’s not like jumping off the page at me but I enjoyed it for the most part. Some pages are worse than others (see page 8 vs page 13) and that really hurts; it shows a lack of care in some places where it should be.

 

Layout:

Font is fine though a more careful hand in terms of text layout within the boxes could have helped. It clips the edge of the dialogue balloons a lot and a more practiced layout artist could have helped them nipped that in the bud. They should also look into the diamond format for text; it helps it fit better into dialogue balloons and would have helped with the high number of hyphenated work-breaks.

 

Writing / Story:

The dialogue is pretentious as all get out but it fits with the dark tone. It sounds like they took a page from Frank Miller but not in the good way (though there is very little Frank Miller I like). It’s all about being tortured with terrible purpose and the like but we don’t get much in the way of relatability or comprehension. It’s basically just one big brody fight with a bit of broody backstory wedged in the center of it. It’s REALLY not my thing; its supposed to be “dark and gritty” and that’s about all it gets across; it’s dark and gritty to the point of near parody and doesn’t have the substance to back it up. It commits the “say, don’t show” sin pretty hard; we are TOLD the villain is literally on par with Hitler but the most we see is that he blows up a building and corrupts a cop. A more deft hand could have give them a more effective establishment but don’t get any meat on the bone we are thrown. We don’t even get the protagonist’s name and we get a little bit of their backstory but nothing on what their powers are, what their personality is, or anything like that. I don’t know, it feels empty where it should be full and full where it should be empty.

 

Overall:

I honestly didn’t like this. I don’t know why people keep sending me dark and gritty comics, it’s right there on my submissions guidelines, “Dark/gritty comics don’t excite me.” Even putting this aside this was a bit of a painful read. The visuals were fine and matched the dialogue but it was just so “edgy for the sake of being edgy” it fell totally flat for me. I dunno, if it’s your thing give it a read but otherwise it’s a pretty forgettable comic.

 

Metrics:

Art: 4/10 [Visuals were good but amateur]

Lettering/Layout: 5/10 [Minor lettering issues but readable]

Plot: 2/10 [Not much happened. At least I understood it.]

Novelty: 1/10 [Drab, gritty, dark mush]

Overall: 3/10

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The Eternal Elite

The Eternal Elite

Staff: Melchizedek Todd

Overview:

So first up this season we’ve got “The Eternal Elite” from Weapon Press. Seems like the author is also the artist and, if I’m being honest, that normally gives me pause. Sure there are a few talented author/artists out there but they are rare indeed. It typically comes when an artist tries to write or a writer teaches themselves art so they can skip paying an artist. Let’s dive into The Eternal Elite #1 and see if Weapon Press can beat the odds!

 

 Art:

So… remember what I said about artist/authors? Yeah… this seems like that. While they definitely had some skill and some panels are better than others; this is not a professional piece. It’s a greyscale comic with decent linework in some places but others just kind of look sloppy. For example, on page 3 of the comic we have some rather amateurish art of 3 characters watching a fight while the characters fighting actually look decent. There are a few issues with shading, proportions, texture (a lot of it is just blurred effect brushes or just forgetting like on page 9 or switching it mid page like on 11), and keeping consistent proportions, etc that crop up pretty regularly.

The fact that we see some beautiful stuff in here is really a shame because when it is contrasted with some lower quality stuff it stands out all the more. Like page 7 has some beautiful examples of dynamic posing but when taken as a whole it looks off. There is also this kind of stylistic disconnect. Page 7 is a great example of this too: you see a very “clean” style with some of the poses but the top row of panels, middle row, and bottom row all seem stylistically very different (like, same artist, but exploring different techniques). This makes it very hard to keep track of things like on page 8 we have Sau, the protagonist, drawn very differently on two panels (bottom left and bottom right) and it took me a beat to figure out they were the same person (since the characters look so non-human).

I’ve definitely seen worse but this isn’t winning any awards.

Now, more than half way through, we get another story with MUCH better art. If this entire book was just this style it’d get a solid 8/10 but we get some much worse art at the start. A mixed bag doesn’t make it better- just drags it down by comparison.

 

Layout:

I always say a hallmark of a good comic is good lettering and layout and… yeah. It’s serviceable. That being said, “serviceable” and unobtrusive is the term you want to have to describe your comic. The font could use a little more spacing (between letters and between lines) but that’s minor gripe.

What is NOT a minor grip is page 15. Ouch. Really? That is some painful text, a grainy image behind it, and the author forgot a period in their first ellipsis. That’s just sloppy.

They make good use of their panels and even get creative. Sometimes they arbitrarily restrain/clip art in panels but I’m not going to judge them too harshly for that.

 

Writing / Story:

So the first like third of this comic is just a fight/training scene and nothing really gets going until like page 8/25. When it does get going it’s a story about angels and… well a lot of it is about training. It covers some stuff about the war between the angels and satan. It sets up a kind of order of elite angels

Seriously, if this comic talked about training anymore I’d think I was watching a bad episode of DBZ. We get a big exposition bomb about half way in that just drags on and feels like “block text” in a video game; the kind you want to skip. A lot of this could have been summed up more conversationally or shown through action or, better yet, tossed in a recap paragraph at the start of the comic. Seriously- this is a medium that thrives on its combination of sequential visuals and literary communication; having paragraph length speech bubbles with a bust-shot of a character’s head with little or no background isn’t a proper use of this medium. At one point it just gives up and give us some journal entries… which I’d like except this is a visual AND literary medium; more text bombs don’t make things better. Come on dude, I really want to like this; USE YOUR MEDIUM!

The writing, overall, is competent but we still get some headscratchers; lines like (and this is a full sentence with it’s actually punctuation), “Who or what to fight I joked.” It’s grammatical errors like this that make it a little hard to read. There are at least 2 instance of the author trying to use an ellipsis, and only giving us 2 periods. This book really needed an editor or at least another editing pass or two.

The second story in this book is a painful read. Like I get that it’s trying to show a tortured soul but it just comes across as being rather emo or “edgy for the sake of edgy”. It comes off very trite and is more “scripture porn” than an actually meaningful story. I’m not entirely sure if this second character is supposed to be Sau from the first one but, though I’m fairly sure it’s not (unless they changed its design again). Not much happens here except for a fight and a warrior bemoaning their existence. At least they used the visual and literary mediums together in this and we get some pretty artwork.

 

Overall:

So the last pages reveal that this is a Christian comic. I had my guesses but I judged it entirely as a comic (and wrote most of this review, in note form, before seeing that). I’ve given good and bad reviews to Christian comics but… yeah, this isn’t a great one. It gets a little heavy-handed at the end. Part of me wonders if there were different artists and/or writers on this but they just didn’t get credited. It’s either that or this was just one of the most schizophrenic artist/writers ever.

This is a hard one for me. It’s got moments of brilliance but MAN does it fall apart. We get the exposition dump and mismatched art in the 1st story and the emo diatribe in the second. This sucks because the 1st had an interesting setup (if a little over explained) and the 2nd has awesome artwork.

I can’t recommend this one but, if you dig it, more power to you.

 

Metrics:

Art: 3/10 [2nd part has awesome art, 1st is a mixed bag]

Lettering/Layout: 7/10 [Lettering is legible. Layout is solid.]

Plot: 4/10 [A decent premise but is implemented poorly]

Novelty: 5/10 [Angels vs devils but pretty standard. Unique, if not confusing character designs]

Overall: 4.75/10

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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

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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

Villain

villain001_evoluzionepublishing_peepgame_page_01-500x759Villain

Staff: Joshua Metzger, Grzegorz Pawlak, Ryan Burt, E.T Dollman, Marcell Mitchell-Hicks

Overview:

A pretty middle of the road noir superhero comic.

 

Review:

Hey guys- sorry it’s been awhile (I’m a full time graduate student finishing up my last courses). Anyway, today I’m going to give you a brief review of Villain #1 but Evoluzione Publishing Just a quick look at the cover gives us the promise of a solid superhero noir so let’s jump on in.

Sidenote: I did not review the 10 or so pages of “Mongrel” but it looks rather more interesting visually. I may get to that in a later review but it looked so different I would have done it a disservice by combining the two into one review.

 

Art:

If there is a shortcoming it’s in the art. It’s really a shame too. A lot of it is really just downright fantastic- great use of texture, shadow, perspective, and the character designs of the aging characters are really nailed in all their cheesy glory. However some of the scenes feel really awkwardly empty. A skybox left devoid of detail here, a weird visual set up there, an occasional untextured element to a scene that should totally have had texture, and a few other minor things. A lot of the exterior shots look really big and empty. Maybe that was intended to match the tone of the comic but it really just feels… I don’t know. Kind of like poser 3D artwork in that they don’t detail the entire scene- just the few characters in it. I feel like there should be something on the ground in the exterior shots that we are missing. So it’s a real hit AND miss. Like 90% of it is grade A awesome and that 10% tends to kill me now and again. This is probably because of how good the rest of it is that it stands out to me.

 

Writing / Story:

Villain tries really hard to be dark and I don’t know if it needed to try that hard- especially in the dialogue. A lot of truncated slang and harsh language that really seems a little forced to be honest. It doesn’t feel “real” like this was something the person doing the dialogue really understands (throwing in phrases like “caper” next to “amature shit”). It seems like they were trying to mimic a style/tone rather than telling a story and letting it’s style determine the aesthetic.

 

Most of the characters didn’t really grab me. We had lots of stock tropes embodied but not to any end other than for familiarity. It feels like a real tone deaf move to put such two dimensional characters like Guardian in a genre like noir where investment in characterization and emotional investment are such a key.

The comic is rife with things like this. We have a guy kill a girl at one point but he does it… “because he’s evil”? Even if he’s a serial killer, that fact alone isn’t enough to explain his actions. They are motivated by something. There is pathos behind their actions. It’s like they are fishing with no (emotional) bait on the line. It feels like things happen because that’s the way they “happen like that in a noir” (or a superhero comic) not because of good writing or intended development of a theme or message.

Gil, the central character, did grow on me. In the later third of the comic we get some character development for him and it’s damn good. His background is probably the closest thing we have to a real big idea (it’s been done before but it does it well here) and the best representation of the author’s understanding of the genre’s emotional investment requirements.

 

Overall:

Ultimately, with me, this just failed to impress. I’ve read a dozen like this and it doesn’t do anything new with either the noir setting or the characters themselves. I found myself bored by the midpoint waiting for the big ideas to hit and was kind of sad when they didn’t. It’s pretty run of the mill. There is a real lack of understanding of the genres not in terms of appreciation but in terms of implementation. Art’s about average and, while tonally appropriate, doesn’t rise above the skill of its artist. It’s not an offensively bad comic, not by any measure, but it’s not something I’d be looking to snag further issues of.

 

Metrics:

Art: 3/10 [Ok, but lacking]

Lettering: 5/10 [It works well. No issues.]

Plot: 4/10 [The characterization of Gil saves it from being a wash-out]

Novelty: 3/10 [It’s all been done before]

Overall: 3.75/10

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The Not So Golden Age

The Not So Golden Age

Staff: Phil Buck and Joseph Freistuhler

Overview:

Golden aged, public domain, goodness on a whole new level.

Review:

For those of you who don’t know- I’m a huge proponent of the public domain. Short version: creators should maintain a hold on their work for a while then be subject to the market. Forcing DC to write better Batman series (yes- he would be in the public domain were it not for Mickey Mouse and Sonny Bono) because others are writing good stories too is not a bad idea.

 

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that “The Not So Golden Age” uses a number of public domain superheroes in it and shows us why it’s such a positive thing. The comic opens on a trailer park in Reno where 2 heroes and 1 villain, all retired, are living together. Honestly- that’s what got me. Love the golden age, love the setup, love the subversion.

 

The comic also REEKS of nostalgia- fake cheesy toy ads in the front of the book, those golden aged yellow and black narration boxes, that off-white color of the page *sniffle sniffle*, sorry but it’s just so perfect. My inner comic hipster is crying with joy.
But seriously. The tone established in this comic is top notch. I’ve never seen it does anywhere else and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A lot of the shortcomings of this comic can be forgiven due to its total commitment to the aesthetic. Like the lettering is a little cramped… but that is kind of how they did it back in the day.

 

Art:

If there is a shortcoming it’s in the art. It’s really a shame too. A lot of it is really just downright fantastic- great use of texture, shadow, perspective, and the character designs of the aging characters are really nailed in all their cheesy glory. However some of the scenes feel really awkwardly empty. A skybox left devoid of detail here, a weird visual set up there, an occasional untextured element to a scene that should totally have had texture, and a few other minor things. A lot of the exterior shots look really big and empty. Maybe that was intended to match the tone of the comic but it really just feels… I don’t know. Kind of like poser 3D artwork in that they don’t detail the entire scene- just the few characters in it. I feel like there should be something on the ground in the exterior shots that we are missing. So it’s a real hit AND miss. Like 90% of it is grade A awesome and that 10% tends to kill me now and again. This is probably because of how good the rest of it is that it stands out to me.

 

Writing / Story:

The writing however is glorious. A lot of pop culture references you immediately get, some genuine chuckles now and then where you laugh along with the characters, etc. Wasn’t psyched at the use of some chatspeak (WTF) but there was a 4th wall breaking joke I kinda of chuckled at. The reveal at the midpoint is pretty hilarious and the writer did a great job characterizing each trailer park tenant with only a few lines or a single scene (something professional writers often fail at).

There is a second story (the first story being titled A Golden Aged Murder)called “Not Another Death in the Family” (a reference to the infamous Batman “Death in the Family” storyline). It gets a little more parody-ish than the first, which I was not a big fan of. It basically does every sidekick trope out there, does a few parodies of batman poses and lines, and a few parodies of famous covers. I honestly wasn’t as big of a fan of this one as the first. It was a bit shorter and thought I cracked a smile, I didn’t get the same joy from this one as I did the first (too reliant on comic book meta I think).

 

Overall:

So all and all… read the shit out of this book. It’s got charm, laughs, a brain in a robot, and a lady with 47 cats who drinks box wine. What more could you want? Honestly though, this was a lot of fun to read. As a comic fan, I really loved a lot of the throw backs and in jokes (even when they got a little too thinly veiled) and the overall presentation was nothing short of fantastic. Give it a read.

 

Metrics:

Art: 6/10 [Liked it, didn’t love it]

Lettering: 6/10 [Very “golden aged” but had some golden age drawbacks too]

Plot: 7/10 [Genuine laughs. Relied a bit heavily on meta at time.]

Novelty: 10/10 [I loved the premise and presentation. Read for this alone if you must.]

Overall: 7.25/10

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Rok of the Reds

Rok of the Reds

Staff: John Wagner, Alan Grant, Dan Cornwell, Abby Bulmer, Jim Campbell

 

Overview:

Aliens, soccer, piss-drunk celebrities. In that order.

 

Review:

Today’s comic is Rok of the Reds. It’s got some pedigree behind it but I’m kind of setting that aside while I review it (I’ll talk about it at the end). I’m mostly just reviewing it because the first few pages had aliens, colliding planets, and soccer. (Note: I’m American so I’ll be calling what everyone else calls “football”, “soccer”)

 

Art:

Top class. This is a full color one with a lot of love put into every image. From the facial images to the color pallet it’s a gem. I won’t talk too much on this, I normally only do that when there is something wrong, but suffice it to say that it is nothing shy of professional grade. There is a lot of individual characterization put into the face of each person, giving us some real insight visually into characters. They do well with the bigger scenes too- showing a real knowledge of scope and perspective in some key shots that I really enjoyed.
There were a few things I didn’t like. Minor things. A few instances of some more deformed/cartoony proportions pop out of nowhere with human characters (it’s something with some of the eyes I think), some minor proportional issues, and the way they portray lights is a little weird. Nothing that ruins the comic by any stretch- just minor things that bothered me.

 

Lettering / Layout:

These guys know how to layout a page. There is good use of page space and the flow between panels is visually stimulating and befitting the scenes they are in. They had drawn in onomatopoeia, which I like (when the typesetter does it it always looks forced and out of place) and didn’t just do standard page divisions.

 

Writing / Story:

There is some good dialogue here and there. None of the normal nit-picky things. I’m personally not as big of a fan of the pacing. The intro picks up steam but then the next scene kind of drags on bit a bit without a solid connection to the intro. It wraps itself up nicely at the second act but until it gets there it feels rather slow. I suppose it’s meant to be there to give us some characterization for the protagonist, which it does well but I felt it kind of dawdled there. The end feels a little rushed pacing wise but sets up for a good continuing series. This is a comic I wish I had the 2nd issue of because it kind of feels like I have half of a story. It kind of introduces the characters and sets the stage but the plot doesn’t really go anywhere until the last 5 pages or so.

 

Overall:

Art is 1st rate, story suffers from “first issue” syndrome, but it’s saved by a very cool premise.  John Wagner and Alan Grant are the minds behind this (Judge Dredd) and their skill as writers show. They have a real solid grasp of the mechanics of the crafts and I’d like to have seen how the first narrative arc played out before I really give any criticism to the pacing of the comic (again- I only do first issues so I see this a lot and get it). Aliens, soccer, piss-drunk celebrities- it’s going to be a wild ride. Give it a read.

 

Metrics:

Art: 8/10 [Professional]

Lettering: 7/10 [Professional and makes creative use of some elements.]

Plot: 6/10 [Good dialogue, has “First Issue Syndrome” when it comes to pacing]

Novelty: 8/10 [Aliens, soccer, and piss-drunk celebrities. Need I say more?]

Overall: 7.25/10

Link to Product