Those of you paying an inordinate amount of attention may have noticed that I did a bit of shuffling with the review list. Why doesn't much matter, I had my reasons, but the end result is that this week I will be reviewing a comic that's mostly new to me - Kaspall
It's always a treat for me when I get to take a first look at a comic, especially one for which I haven't been inundated with ridiculous hype. My first impressions are actually my own and that's rather pleasant. Unfortunately, my first impressions of Kaspall were rather confused. However, what started out as bits and pieces of something I wasn't quite sure about transformed into an engaging murder mystery about 45 pages in and I was hooked. A handful of pages later and another puzzle piece was locked in place, instantly converting my earlier confusion into a firm sense of foreshadowing. Further puzzle pieces were instantly recognized as such, pulling me happily along. Yes, I'm a bit excited - it's been a while since I found a new bit of fiction I really enjoyed, let alone one in comic format. I readily admit I cursed aloud when I reached the current page - it's a bit like getting knee deep in a novel and then finding a "to be continued" page half way through. Quite upsetting.
You know what else? I'm not going to tell you what it's about. Go read it, damn it. It's engaging, it's good, and it's beautifully done.
Though it may be a rarity in the webcomic world, Kaspall is both wonderfully written and skillfully drawn. Done in highly detailed black and white, the artistry is just as creative and enveloping as the writing. Rich in variety of textures and environments, the comic has such a natural feel that the alien forms of some characters are immediately comfortable and nothing feels out of place. Body postures, even unfamiliar ones, have a wonderful sense of flow and character and both clothing an scene give a steady impression of distinct cultures. Facial expressions are so well defined that one can even tell when a character is lying. Certainly the framing and pacing assist in such subtle feats, but it's still quite an accomplishment. Structurally, I enjoy some of the panel layouts nearly as much as I enjoy the artwork itself. They're used not only to move the story along as expected, but also do a great deal to create an overall mood and control the pacing.
The website is simple but functional and integrated well enough to be passable. The Cast page is quite complete, and includes the first appearance of each character. The About page is brief, but as with other story comics, I still feel it gives away too much to be read before the comic itself. The Blog feature beneath the comic is typically more about the artist than the comic, and a nice insight it is. A guestbook has recently been added, though I do wonder why the creator didn't take the extra step and install a forum. The archive is nicely arranged by chapter and page, and there is an RSS feed available for those that might forget to check in every Monday when the comic updates.
I know I won't forget.