I heard writer Bob Frantz speak as part of a panel discussion last night at the Tidewater Community College Literary Festival and his enthusiasm and ability to engage the audience is strong. He's a well-known radio personality in the area, one of the co-hosts of the Mike and Bob Show. I'm not sure his purpose was clear, which actually felt completely OK. I think his main points were to sell his comics, but perhaps emphasized even more, was that anyone can make comics. This latter part is definitely true. The question is, can anyone make engaging comics? The covers are dark and gritty and grabbing, but that's mostly it.
A lack of developed characters is probably the biggest flaw of this self-published comic series from Primal Paper Comics, a small conglomeration of comics creators in the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia. As I read the first issue, I simply did not care. Our heroes are a band of what?...mercenaries? in a post-apocalyptic future, taking place 41 years after some mystery incident. Not much else is revealed.
While the artwork is mostly strongly detailed and energetic, the action on the page is too frenetic and sometimes so much that I cannot follow it well. I don't know if color would help convey the action more clearly, or if it's occasional poor layout, as some panels seemed cramped and lack a field of depth in which the battle is occurring. I imagine the artist, Alexander Singleton, will improve over time and look forward to work that might be better paced, whether that's on the writer, the artist, or the pair of them.
Definitely on Frantz, I don't enjoy the third issue ending with the protagonists in one place and then all of a sudden are in another locations in media res, with no explanation of why they went from an underground hovel city to what appears to be a farmhouse in a field of wheat or overgrown grass. It reminds me of why I stopped watching some FX series (re: Nip/Tuck) that ended with a cliffhanger only to not resolve said cliffhanger.
41 reminds me of something I would have written when I was about 12, influenced heavily by action and sci-fi movies I'd watched repeatedly. In most panels the characters are on missions, toting guns around, shooting guns, running from, asking questions about a vague enemy who readers only learn more about in the fourth and final issue in the arc, before the series goes on hiatus, leaving me with little knowledge of this universe and even less desire to read on. A lack of indicia makes it difficult to know when the book was published.
There are a few other items I'd nitpick over, such as inconsistency in character voices. At least two characters don't speak in contractions and sound stale and formal, then all of a sudden they do, within the same issue. And in issue two, it seems the characters' necks are all of a sudden all super long. What's that about?
I have a copy of the first issue up for grabs if anyone might like to give it a whirl, despite my review. The only reason I was able to read the entire series, which I didn't want to pay for because I didn't find the $2.99 spent on the first issue worth it, is because a colleague bought the entire run. Not a good first exposure to comics.
My next review from Primal Paper, which will be positive, is of Mike Federali and Drew Moss' Baku, a supernatural western with a really cool premise. All of these comics are available through their website, and some are available view local comic shops such as Local Heroes, Heroes and Villains, Amazing Fantasy, Comic Kings, and...shivers, Atomic Comics. All of these stores are awesome, except the latter, which is only slightly awesome for carrying local creators' small press works.