Sunday, April 6, 2008

Comic Review Number Two

AndreZero lent me Pax Romana by Johnathan Hickman. He didn't say anything about it except that he'd like to see what I thought of it. So, here's what I think of it.

It's purty. In places, it 's darn purty. Check out this cover:

Isn't that nice? Bit like Kent Williams from Wolverine/Havoc: Meltdown (which, unbelievably, I cannot find an image for!). However, the interior art is also a ot like Kent Williams. Is this a bad thing? Kent Williams was good, right? He was, and he also knew how to pace comics, Mr. Hickman, not so much. Williams, in Meltdown, used an interesting technique: when there was a flashback, he'd take the action out of the standard comic frame and do gorgeous multi-layer set pieces with dialog floating on top of it. In Meltdown, as an accent, it worked perfectly. In Pax Romana, not so much. This is because nearly every page is like this AND the dialog is set in sans-serif type. Any designer will tell you, bodies of text need serifs to link the words together to help the eye connect the words. So, sans-serif type, poorly laid out, plopped on top of gorgeous set pieces, looks like this for twenty-eight pages:

Hickman also breaks up the action with spreads like this:

It's the minutes of a meeting, for crying out loud! Sweet Enemy really didn't like this and stopped reading immediately. This is really lazy writing. He could not pare the story down to it's elements, as good comics should, so he fills it full of text. There are, in the middle of the story, set pieces with lengthy character biographies. Seven of them of varying lengths. Yawn.

The story? Oh, yeah, the story. I managed to figure out that it has the potential to be a good story. In 2035, the the dying Catholic church, working with scientists from CERN, use time travel technology to send mercenaries back to ancient Rome to help Constantine defeat his enemies. Pretty cool. Hickman, however, makes it boring. The characters are all stiff and have less life than a Mignola drawing. Check out the decisive battle from issue two where the mercs fight the armies of Licinius and Maximinus. What should be at least a page of action is this sorry thing:

Sure, it's purty, but stale, flat, motionless purty. Even if you haven't read Scott McCloud's book, you should realize that a battle (especially one that is the pinnacle of the issue and the entire point of the first two issues) should have at least a little action.

There is also a writing issue. The dialog is as flat and lifeless as the art. Mr. Hickman must not have read the lines out loud, because people don't talk like this. Especially hardened mercenary officers talking to their soldiers who have already (one would hope) been briefed on the mission:

So, I cannot recommend this comic at all. It is ambitious in story and scope, but it is a half-assed production at best. Quickly written and lazily plotted.

Now, so you can harp on my comics (and speaking of ambitious scope and quick writing), I've begun posting the final piece for the Weekly Challenge (with Ann, Murray and Queeg). The final challenge in the multi-part is The Conflict. Since, showing the epic battle would make no sense without the story, I've decided to do the story. I've got two pages inked, four more penciled and a further four plotted. I am pushing the envelope of my writing, drawing and plotting abilities. Pushing it hard. I also have a three week deadline (two, now), so this is moving fast.

I might be able to pull it off. The first concession is to work at small size (5" x 8.5") rather than full (9" x 13.75") and reduce. I'm also inking quickly, but it seems to be working okay. One thing missing, however, is a title. so it is called The Unnamed Comic

Listening to while posting: Closer by The Tiny (on


Don Snabulus said...

Wow, you got an advanced copy of the 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide?

Oops, I guess that was a comic book instead.

The art is good, but yeah, I would have to agree on the text. He has Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World" beat hands down for verbosity.

Swinebread said...

Image goes back to it's roots!

AndreZero said...

The sad thing is, I SOOOOO wanted to like Pax Romana. I mean the plot synopsis is a can't lose.
The catholic church sending mercenaries back in time to kill anyone who stands in the way of their dominance of the world? I guess The Lord does work in mysterious ways!

The "meeting minutes" sections don't really add anything to the plot either. Just a bit of "oh, and here's another conundrum to keep in mind" type of stuff. Although I did like the debate about going back in time before the crucifixion being blasphemous.

Hypatia said...

Holy Jeebus..or something.

I hate it when a great idea w/such potential is poorly's so clear what could have been.

About the San Serif thing-I actually prefer San Serif in most of my writing I submit to various looks cleaner to me.

I will keep in mind what you said about Serif keeping the words together though, I'd never thought of it that way...It does look a bit off-putting in a comic.