Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Naivety Incarnate

Today's comic, Naivety Incarnate, is a beautiful example of what a dramatic comic can be. Touching, culturally relevant, and instantly relatable it raises the genre far beyond the exaggerated teen soap operas often found online. Learning that the comic is written strip by strip only added to my admiration of the writing, there's nothing that suggests the comic is flying by the seat of the creator's pants - likely due to the fact that the comic is based loosely on the author's own childhood.

The archive is by no means insurmountable by this point, I read through them in one sitting, but the story is far enough along to draw you in. The plot unfolds through the eyes of Antonio, a young student in a new school, as he navigates through the uncertain waters of a dysfunctional family and intolerant society. The comic in no way feels heavy, however - touched as it is by Antonio's innocence.

The artwork is realistic, and the expressions carry the emotion of each scene well. Most strips are in full color, though occasionally blue-grey tones are used to create a sense of evening hush. Presented in comic page format, the pacing is controlled nicely in both writing and with panel presentation. We're occasionally reminded that some dialogue is translated from Spanish, but as it's indicated by " < framing > " I don't think such reminders are necessary and seem to pull the reader away from the story a bit. Backgrounds are well integrated and show a good understanding of perspective and depth.

Over all, Naivety Incarnate is one of the best dramatic comics I've come across. I look forward to watching it develop and hope there will be a book in the works

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Templar, Arizona

Before we begin, let's just get this out of the way - Templar, Arizona doesn't have anything to do with a particular geographic location. This isn't the story of a town, it's a story of some very interesting characters, location aside. Might as well be Las Vegas, Nevada... only those backgrounds would be a serious bitch to draw. I mean, damn.

Now, on to more substantive things.

There's no question that Templar, Arizona is character driven. Replace any one personality with another and the entire story would fall to bits, instantaneously creating another comic entirely. That the creator has written such a tight tapesty with such dynamic characters is a testament to her skill. Occassionally I find myself thinking "I believe I'm supposed to like this person, but gods help me... I can't stand them". I'm not offering that insight as a criticism, however, but rather as a compliment - the characters are so real that they are liked and disliked according to personal taste, regardless of the creator's intent, or one's personal opinion of the general story line.

The artwork is simply exceptional. Both realistic and recognizably styled, Spike floods each comic with a fluid and eye catching sense of movement and personality. The character designs exhude personality in every aspect - down to not only the clothing they wear, but how they wear it. Facial expressions work with the dialogue in such a manner that you're instantly given a sense of both tone and inflection. So much so that I even imagine the vocal quality of some characters to be grating - something my mind usually prevents against in lesser works. Every portion of the comic blends visually, from the backgrounds to the word bubbles.

Updating three times a week Templar, Arizona is a truely professional work and well worth the read.

Yes - I forgot to post again, and the review for Girls With Slingshots is still being written. Don't worry, I'll figure it all out this weekend.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Somewhere in San Francisco

Described as a parody soap opera, Somewhere in San Francisco is a relatively new comic with just over 50 strips. I'm going to give this one a Web MA rating for language and adult situations, so no little eyes. At least none that can read.

Artistically, I love the watercolor feel of the strip. The outlines and details have a sketchy look to them, giving the comic a casual sense. The backgrounds are wonderful and set a nice stage for the characters, which are made the main focus. The word bubbles have an angular style to them that keeps them tight against the text, but they can sometimes give the dialogue an unintended angry slant.

The writing is a bit... chaotic. The plot moves in jumps and starts and the pace is much too fast to allow for any sort of connection with the characters. The character development is a bit, well, undeveloped. More often than not, characters are completely unfazed by happenings that would have devastated most individuals and their flippant demeanor in the face of these life altering challenges is a bit hard to take. Sex is likewise treated to this odd blend of chaos and flippancy.

Over all, I'm just not sure how I feel about the comic. I understand that it's a play on soap operas... what I don't understand is if it's meant to be taken dramatically or humorously... or both. If it's meant to be humorous, I'm missing the joke; and if it's meant to be taken dramatically, I'm missing the connection. One way or another, I'm missing it. Having said all that, however, I think one simple recommendation would do wonders for the story - [i]slow down[/i]. That's it. Just take it easy a bit. There's no need to have a plot twist in every comic. In fact, each of those plot twists would pack the punch of a dozen if only we were given the time to really care about the characters.

It's certainly possible that this just isn't my kind of comic. Perhaps if I had actually watched a soap opera since sitting at my grandmother's feet during her "programs" I would feel more connected with the plot. Regardless, head over and check it out - you just might find that you like it.

The Flowfield Unity

Readily reminiscent of repetitive pop art, The Flowfield Unity is one of my favorite comics. Introspective without being cold, intelligent without being pretentious, this simple black and write strip captivated me immediately.

The artwork is simplistic but more than adequate to carry the intent of each strip and looks as though it's completed entirely with black Sharpie markers. No small feat for some of the darker strips when the absence of black creates the outlines of objects within the panel. While the artwork isn't amazing, it's really the artistic nature of the layout and composition that makes the strip visually appealing.

More than the art, of course, is the writing. Typically rhythmic, sometimes even to the point of rhyming verse, the writing has a ponderous nature. Occasionally the strip runs on highly intellectual puns, more often than not it's fueled by introspection, memory, and imagination. I often find myself reading over the archives and allowing my mind to wander with each strip, using them as springboards for my own wandering mind.

The Store seems to be down, though the creator is kind enough to offer scribbled in books for sale to anyone that contacts him. The Extras Page is unfortunately similarly bare, though more freebies are promised and requests are kindly solicited. Um... okay, the links page is also blank; though there are a number of links in the Friends section. I have full faith, however, that the state of web site affairs is temporary and only due to a pending redesign. Admittedly, I'm biased.

Mr. Gregory also has two animations available through YouTube: The Corporate Machine and My Black Dog. Both animations are worth watching and I hope he'll produce more in the future.

Without a doubt I believe The Flowfield Unity is one of the best webcomic finds on the net. Of course, that could just be because I'm a huge nerd.