REVIEWS: A Visitor’s Guide to Dempsey, Theodicy, Sticky, Zombolette’s Floppy, Life Through the Lens

It’s another review medley this week, as I try to plough through my backlog.  Let’s get right down to business!

A VISITOR’S GUIDE TO DEMPSEY #1

Writer: Thom Compton

Publisher: Self-Published

Price: Free

I should qualify this review by saying that, in general, I hate photo comics.  Just the whole concept of them irks me, and so I find a hard time enjoying them, with rare exceptons.  So any photo comic is going to be faced with an uphill battle to win me over.  But I feel that, even when attempting to set aside my prejudices and judge photo-comic A Visitor’s Guide to Dempsey on its own merits, the execution falls very short.  The photography is inconsistent, with creator Thom Compton at points managing some evocative imagery, but too often the actors seem to just be posed in positions that vaguely match the narrative without really doing any acting or emoting to sell it.  Speaking of the narrative, it feels really muddled and unclear, and not in an opaque, mysterious way, but more in a “important information isn’t being conveyed very well” way.  But perhaps the biggest setback of all is the presentation, which is woeful.  In the version I read, at least, many images were squeezed onto the page in a manner that made them blurred or misshapen.  And the lettering was not really lettering at all, looking more like typed-in words put in a text box with a bubble crudely drawn around it… and even then there were instances of misspellings and words being shoddily erased and replacement words crammed into their space.  I was going to skip reviewing this, as I hate writing negative reviews, but I do feel like there’s a good concept here, a kind of anthology series documenting the weird goings on in a small, close-knit community.  But some serious righting of the ship is needed in subsequent issue if the concept is to be redeemed.

VisitorsGuideDempseyA Visitor’s Guide to Dempsey #1 is available to read for free on Scribd.

THEODICY #1

Writer: Chad Handley

Penciller: Fernando Brazuna

Inker: Ryan Boltz

Colorist: Milan Ghibliest

Letterers: John Burton, Jeruvia

Publisher: Self-Published

Price: $4.99

I was a bit wary of this going in, as I felt like it was going to be a Dawkins-type “Oh ho ho isn’t religion dumb?” polemic.  But in fact, writer Chad Handley gives us an even-handed, measured depiction of the role religion plays in the world.  His atheist protagonists compellingly lay out their case against God, but they are presented as flawed figures whose conclusions are cast into doubt.  And while for many it has become easy to present religious believers as gullible idiots, in this near-future world plagued with suffering and tyranny, both believers and members of the Church are portrayed sympathetically, with the need for faith presented as understandable, whether or not it ends up being misguided.  Fernando Brazuna and Ryan Boltz’ artwork varies in quality, with some instances of ropey anatomy or dodgy expressions, and the coloring of Minan Ghibliest is a little flat.  But there are some striking images here, and the comic is held together by a compelling, well-realised story by Handley.

Theodicy1Theodicy #1 is available to buy from IndyPlanet.

STICKY #1

Writer: Dale Lazarov

Artist: Steve MacIsaac

Publisher: Self-Published

Price: $3.50

I have to confess that this is my first time reviewing a gay erotica comic.  In fact, to my knowledge it’s the first time I’ve reviewed any type of erotica.  I’ve talked about comics that featured sex in them, sure, but those were still primarily about plot and character, with any sexual element used to enhance those.  The “gay comics” of Dale Lazarov, however, are marketed as erotica, with the presumed primary goal being to titilate and arouse.  Nothing wrong with that in theory, though going in I had my doubts about whether the comic medium was best suited to such an endeavour in the internet age.  Of course, the other handicap I had is that, as a heterosexual male, gay porn was inevitably going to leave me cold.  The front cover, featuring a young man licking the nipple of a very hairy older gentleman, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, and reading the ensuing comic with cold, forensic detachment just had me asking awkward questions that would probably ruin the erotic mood, “Would an old man really lower his ass onto a dick like that, wouldn’t it hurt his knees?”  “That’s an impressive amount of spunk those two lads just sprayed everywhere, how did they manage to get it on the wall clock?”  I found myself in the reverse of most porn viewers, in that I was keen to fast-forward through the sex and get to the story!  So given that I’m not the intended audience for it as a piece of erotica, and it’s not really fair to judge it through standard perimeters of plot and character, all that remains is to judge it on the quality of the creative team.  And Dale Lazarov and Steve MacIsaac clearly know their stuff.  Lazarov’s script is utterly silent, free of dialogue, but he still manages to convey the differing personalities of both the older and younger lover, and crafts a simple but accesible narrative.  He shows a good deal of trust in MacIsaac’s visuals to carry the bulk of the storytelling, given how much of the interaction and dynamics between the pair is conveyed in the art, and MacIsaac excels here.  It’s actually a very well drawn book, with convincing human anatomy that is not hyper-muscular beefcake physiques as are often seen in comics, but rather lifelike depictions of the male form.  And his heavy inks give the visuals a McKelvie style softness that mean this is a comic with quality production values, where I can recognise the craft behind it even if it’s not for me.

Sticky1Sticky #1 and other comics from Dale Lazarov can be found at his website.

ZOMBOLETTE’S FLOPPY #1

Cartoonist: Scarlette Baccini

Publisher: Bathwater Books

Price: $7.00 AU

Zombolette originally began life as a series of short strips, collected into an anthology released as a graphic novel last year.  This is the first instalment of the character making the leap into the serialised comics format, though rather than the switch in form bringing with it a shift in narrative approach, this issue reads very much like a collection of strips.  This first issue has an episodic structure, made up of three mostly self-contained short adventures for our zombified title character and her giant talking guinea pig sidekick.  Of these, the first is the definite standout, with Baccini displaying a sharp, acerbic wit that puts Zombolette on just the right side of nasty.  The second story is too brief to really go anywhere, but is centred around one admittedly great gag.  By the third part I was feeling a bit tired of the diminishing returns, but by the end Baccini had taken the blackly comic core joke and pushed it to such ridiculously macabre extremes that I was just about won over again by the end.  One thing that remains consistent in quality throughout is Baccini’s lively artwork, her bold, heavy lines and generous ink washes giving her highly-stylised characters a rich, textured feel on the page.  It has its hits and misses, but fans of dark humor and/or intriguingly quirky visuals might want to give Zombolette’s Floppy a look.

Zombolette1Zombolette’s Floppy #1 is available to buy from Bathwater Books’ webstore.

LIFE THROUGH THE LENS #1

Writer: Kent Olsen

Artist: Sabine Ten Lohuis

Publisher: Self-Published

Price: $5.50

The climactic scene of Life Through The Lens involves a heated debate between two film critics over the film they’re reviewing, in an exchange that becomes quite evocative of the comic as a whole.  “The film meanders from scene to scene with no real purpose,” says Richard.  His fellow critic, Jerald, disagrees, defining that the film has an “experimental narrative” and “breaks conventions in all the right places.”  Sadly, it seems this comic is an attempt to do something like how Jerald envisions the film in question, but my assessment ended up being more in line with Richard.  The book claims to be a first issue, but the story doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go beyond a oneshot, with an aloof tone that keeps the reader at arm’s length.  But the major positive for me that kept my interest held throughout the comic was the artwork of Sabine Ten Lohuis.  The delicate, wispy lines and light washes give the comic an energetic, fluid feel, reminiscent of a more stylised Dustin Nyugen.  The characters are highly distinctive, and have a particular vivacity about them.  I shall definitely be keeping an eye open for Sabine’s distinctive visuals in future projects.  I do think it’s a shame that only writer Kent Olsen is credited on the cover, though.

LifeThroughTheLensLife Through the Lens #1 is available to buy from IndyPlanet.

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