Review: Robot 13, Vol. 1: Colossus!

Robot 13, Vol. 1 : Colossus!Robot 13, Vol. 1 : Colossus! by Thomas Hall (author) and Daniel Bradford (Illustrator)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Robot 13 is an adaption and extension of the legend of Talos, the mythological protector of Crete. In the opening pages Robot 13 has been pulled from the sea in a fishing net, with no memory of himself or his past. He is also innately capable of speaking the language of each of the people he meets. Essentially he is interchangeable with Jason Bourne from the film series. As is the nature with epic heroes of Greek Mythology, his mere presence seems to call forth powerful mythological creatures to challenge him. Him must fight them in succession, leaving a wake of destruction and casualties.

The design of the character Robot 13/Talos is whimsical, kinetic and absolutely infused with personality and energy. Daniel Bradford poses Robot 13 in alternately subtle and heroic postures. He is the best part of every scene and your eye is drawn through color and composition to his face. The textured backgrounds and nearly paper cut-out treatment of the sun and moon have a beautiful graphic style which is very complimentary to the Robot 13’s character portrayal. The human characters are inconsistent and often unpleasant, and most unfortunately the mythical creatures are overly crude and disappointing. The blocking of the scenes feels off and releases a lot of the energy and emotion.

Thomas Hall’s writing is very stilted and awkward, although as a translated work it is difficult to tell where the fault lies. The dialogue balloons are digitally placed and feel disconnected from the art in style and composition. The text and background colors are matched to the characters which is a nice touch, but difficult to read for the cyclops. Although the writing does not hold up to the artwork it is more of a distraction than a detraction, and the book is still worth recommending based on strong concept and character work.

I backed the project on Kickstarter and it can be purchased through Blacklist Studios‘s website.

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Review: Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus

Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus
Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus by P.C. Martin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Sherlock Holmes: the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic stories, “Young Sherlock Holmes” film, the brilliant contemporary BBC series “Sherlock”, and the older Brett and Rathbone versions. I also love the derivative series; “Psyche”, “Monk”, “Murder She Wrote”, “CSI” and on and on. I love the mystery, and the application of observation and intelligence to solve the unsolvable. I like to follow along and either assemble the clues or note the moments when Sherlock gets on the trail. Even if I don’t know what he knows, you can see the reaction, when something has caught his attention. So I backed the kickstarter campaign for Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus.

I dove into SH:LotN with two incorrect assumptions which lessened my overall enjoyment. The first incorrect assumption was that it was an original mystery, instead it is an alternate telling of The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, although significant alterations were made near the end of the story. This was not a deal breaker, as I mentioned, I love the show “Sherlock” which has done exquisitely detailed remakes of several classic Sherlock stories. The second incorrect assumption was the incorporation of steampunk would provide a mash-up of genres. Sadly the steampunk influence is quite sparce. Instead of a damaged leg Watson has a mechanical arm; instead of using a handsome Sherlock drives a motorbike; the submarine from the original story is specified as Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, but apart from these substitutions it has little impact. Where steampunk gets its interest is in the details, the cogs and pistons, steam and complexity. All of that detail is missing and makes the steampunk aspect a thin veneer.

In the end Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus was okay. P.C. Martin has wonderfully captured the voice and pacing of the classic novels and has some nice flourishes, but there isn’t enough new or original to recommend over The Bruce-Partington Plans by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Review: reMIND: Volume 1

reMIND: Volume 1
reMIND: Volume 1 by Jason Brubaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crippled Peaks is a sleepy harbor town. The composition of landforms is quirky and feels like a small, magical place just over the hill and out of reach. It is relatable but just slightly off; you sense an element of the fantastic just beneath the surface. As we pan back through the village it is teeming with character and history. We are introduced to Sonja as she maintains the lighthouse. Everything about Sonja reads as strong, intelligent and capable. She is our touchstone. When she accepts these strange happenings as fact, we have no choice but to follow. This allows the story to expand exponentially without breaking our suspension of disbelief.

We get several introductions to Victuals (ostensibly Sonja’s cat). The events of his story could be told as horror or thriller, but Victuals’ loose fun energy keeps the adventure in the fairy tale realm. Every complex facet of Victuals personality is rendered with humor and meaning. You know, even as things get dire, that he will stumble, luck or will his way forward. The first volume ends on a cliff hanger, but it is inconceivable that you would stop here.

For my thoughts about second half of the adventure and impressions of the physical books and printing you can check out my review of reMIND: Volume 2.

You can also read my brother’s reviews of reMIND: Volume 1 and reMIND: Volume 2 on Jaffalogue.

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Review: reMIND: Volume 2

reMIND: Volume 2
reMIND: Volume 2 by Jason Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

reMIND: Volume 2 continues to deliver beautiful artwork and character design all the while expanding the scope considerably. We see beyond the lizard and human civilizations to something greater which impacts them all. We learn of the depths of the deceit and betrayal within the lizard kingdom and the truths of the modern religion. Perhaps too much is thrown in too fast because without Sonja’s perspective I started to loose my immersion in those moments. Near the end a character which I previously found disappointing revealed themselves to be very compelling. I was frustrated to miss seeing that character’s arc resolve, but I suppose leaving you wanting more is the whole point of serial storytelling.

I backed this project on Kickstarter, and received the two hardcover volumes with the slipcase. Each book is beautifully bound with embossed cloth spines and high gloss covers. The pages are full color, heavy glossy stock with excellent color, gradients, rich blacks and fine linework. The slipcase has a subtle tone on tone print with UV ink lettering. Absolute top quality publication.

For my thoughts about character design, setting and the first half of the adventure you can check out my review of reMIND: Volume 1.

You can also read my brother’s reviews of reMIND: Volume 1 and reMIND: Volume 2 on Jaffalogue.

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Review: The Squidder

The Squidder
The Squidder by Ben Templesmith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was a backer for The Squidder on Kickstarter, so the version I read is the complete hardcover graphic novel published by 44Flood rather than the IDW hardcover collected trade. Ben Templesmith (writer and illustrator) described it as a “director’s cut” which indicates that it may have some additional content. The physical book itself is beautiful with wrap-around cover, high quality heavy satin finish stock, UV ink highlights on the cover, and just overall quality product. Many of the pages seemed just a touch out of focus, like the plates weren’t perfectly calibrated which was especially distracting when the dialogue was either red on black or green on black. The art (and the story) are like a fever dream. Moments of clarity in a disorienting haze of stimulus. Templesmith works with ink on paper and all the coloring is watercolor. It cannot be overstated how mesmerizing the effect can be. The combination creates nuance and subtlety; and infinite variation of tones within a single frame. The colors are natural earthy shades, rust and patina. The mood they set are the backbone of the storytelling. Most of the ink illustration is loose and energetic. There can be a very kinetic feel to it, but as often as not the action is lost in an explosion of ink and paint. The anatomy of the characters are fluid and inconsistent, but as many are squid-like I guess that is to be expected. I haven’t really discussed the story yet, and mentioning it this late makes it seem like and after-thought, but that is probably appropriate. The Squidder is a murky, post-apocalyptic, ronin folktale. His wife and child are dead. He is the last warrior standing, facing an impossibly strong enemy. There is a magical MacGuffin which makes our hero the one man in all of creation uniquely suited to save his world. It is as paint-by-numbers as the actual painting is not. I think Templesmith just wanted to have a Lovecraftian story where he could paint really cool epic scenes with a lot of tentacles.

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