Archive for January, 2010

Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear, by Caroline Parkinson

Posted in Review with tags , , , on January 23, 2010 by comicmole

This review was originally written for REDEYE magazine.

‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ by Caroline Parkinson, 12 pages, A5 black and white stapled single issue, £3.

Before I start on the review I was just visiting Caroline’s website to check if she had prices listed for her comics and wow this comic is an oldie!  It was drawn in 2005!  By the looks of her sketchblog (linked from her website) she’s still drawing, but I can’t help feeling I’ve somewhat missed the boat on this one, even if I did get a copy provided for review.

In another interesting internet-based development – I’ve just found that the comic is free to read on Willie Hewes’ old short-webcomic-hosting site, aptly named ‘Webcomic Shorts’.  So if you’re curious about it but see no way of getting your hands on this hard-to-find issue, you can still read it! (the wonders of modern technology)

And so before I stumble upon any other stupendous finds, to the review!

In ‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ a young girl called Li gets sent out shopping in the market, but when the greengrocer’s is shut and she is pointed in the direction of some likely-looking trees on the East side of town, she finds more than she bargained for…

This issue is a standalone side story to the author’s main ‘Dusharbi’ comic project, which revolves around a mobile library that serves villages in an Eastern desert.  ‘Do Not Feed the Bear’ is a neat little one-shot that wraps itself up tidily within the page count.  This comic could therefore be enjoyed on its own without needing to buy any of the rest of the main series.

The best thing about this issue is the way it is presented.  The peephole in the front cover gives a handmade feel, the library stamps on the inside front cover and the advertisement for the travelling library on the back cover point to this being a series with a lot of personality.

However, having seen these elements before reading the one-shot story inside, I was a little disappointed that this issue wasn’t about the library itself.  I think, in the end, picking up issue one of the main Dusharbi comic might be more satisfying than a short side-story – however, this did succeed in getting me interested in the series in general.

The artwork has no glaring problems and I could understand everything that was going on.  Some of the smaller panels may have benefited from having less detail though, in order to help the pace of reading.

It looks like the grey tones that the comic is shaded with were originally laid down with marker pens, which was then converted into screentone-style dots before printing.  This results in some areas of muddy mid-grey tones.  The detailed linework here would probably benefit more from some simple, flat areas of screentone that provide some contrast but allow the linework to speak for itself.

The comic consists of black and white printed pages with a black and white lightweight card cover.  The pages are stapled together.  Printing is clear and easy to read, with no smudging.

‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ is a neat one-shot side story to an intriguing main saga about a travelling caravan in the desert. The presentation of this comic is quirky and fun, although hearing about the caravan that is only hinted at here might have made for a more satisfying read.

More of Caroline’s work can be found on her website.  This comic is free to read online at Webcomic Shorts.

A review copy of this comic was provided.

‘Between Worlds’ Part 1, by Anna Fitzpatrick

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by comicmole

Between Worlds Part 1 by Anna Fitzpatrick, 56 pages, A5 perfect bound booklet, IndieManga, £4.00, rated teen 13+

First-off, this review focuses on the black and white print version of Part 1 of Between Worlds (as detailed above), but there are other ways to read this comic too.   There is a full-colour, larger format, special limited edition printing of Part 1 available from IndieManga for £15.00, or if you can’t wait to glue your eyeballs to both this Part and the beginning of Part 2 then check out the full colour webcomic version of Between Worlds on DrunkDuck (you can also leave comments for the author there on a page-by-page basis if you want to).

It is cold on the night of the aging King Bergen’s birthday, and a light snow has started to fall.  A grand speech has been planned, but as the King prepares to give it he is taken ill.  It seems that one of his four Knights, the female soldier known as Lynx, is tormenting him in his dreams.  Lynx herself however is confused.  Is the King simply suffering paranoia brought on by old age, or is something more sinister afoot?

Immediately upon starting this comic I felt pulled into its world.   I could almost see my breath in the chilly air and watch the snow float by.  There was also a creeping sense of melancholy brought about by witnessing the aftermath of the old King’s fall from virile youth to confused old age, and perhaps his nation with him.

Within this nation resides the protagonist, the Knight Lynx.  She is somewhat reminiscent of Oscar from Rose of Versailles:  a female soldier who holds a high rank and seems to be successful, but comes across as an isolated figure who doesn’t completely understand those around her, and whom no-one can become particularly close to.  She is an intriguing character, obviously very capable but perhaps harbouring a hidden weakness or pain.

We don’t get to learn an awful lot about her though as, although Part 1 is long compared to a lot of small press comics, it very much reads like a prelude to the main plot of the series.  The pace of reading is also relatively slow, so over the story’s 36 pages plot events only begin to unfold.  This is not a criticism however, as like many readers I appreciate an author giving their story the time it needs to unfold at a pace that suits it.  Just like the period manga series ‘Emma’ by Kaoru Mori, I can see a lot of readers enjoying the attention to detail and inclusion of quiet moments here.  The only thing that worries me is that the story seems like it could be quite long, so I hope that the creator keeps producing material and that ‘real life’ doesn’t get in the way, like it can do with longer side projects.   Here’s a reason why, so we can see more artwork like this:

This page is from the webcomic version, but in case anyone is worried that the painted pages might turn out muddy in black and white they actually hold up very well.  I can’t get a good scan of my copy of the comic without ruining the binding, but I’ve mocked up a quick example of colour vs. black and white with some astounding Photoshop wizardry:

As you can see, the tones on the page are well balanced for retaining their impact in black and white, and the book is balanced nicely like this throughout.

After those examples I’m not sure if there’s anything else I really need to say about the artwork.  As you can see the comic is digitally painted in full colour for the webcomic and special edition versions, and desaturated to greyscale for the black and white edition.  The painting style has an organic feel, with important elements being picked out in either very dark or very light linework where appropriate to the background colour.  Highlights such as snowflakes or points of light add an ethereal and fantastical feel to the world.  Some pages of the comic seem like they had more care taken over them than others however, with some devolving into a sketchiness that is perhaps a little too uncontrolled to hold up to the rest of the book.

On the right above is the A5 black and white edition of Between Worlds Part 1, next to the larger special edition version.  Both books are very well presented.  The black and white version has full colour covers and is trimmed and perfect bound into a neat booklet, rather than stapled.  All of the text in the comic is clear and easy to read, tho perhaps a little large in the special edition version.  Digitally produced text bubbles stand out rather a lot from the more natural feel of the painted pages behind them, but personally I would rather be able to read a comic clearly than be bogged down by less readable hand-written text.  Colouring the text bubbles slightly in the colour versions of the comic is a nice touch that helps to integrate them with the look of the page behind.  Perhaps hand-drawing the speech bubbles themselves though might have helped to link them to the page a bit more successfully.

As well as 36 pages of story, both the normal and special edition books of Part 1 include several pages of interesting extras.  All in all the books each have 56 pages, of which 12 are extras.   These include many concept sketches and a two-page mini comic called ‘Juno’s First Day’.

Between Worlds Part 1 is the beginning of a story with a lot of promise.  A feeling of melancholy and uncertainty in the nation of the old King Bergen is reflected in the introduction of the isolated protagonist, the Knight Lynx.  And apart from a few rather rushed looking pages, the organic, otherworldy style of illustration makes this a comic to seek out and enjoy.

The best way to immediately read some Between Worlds is by visiting the webcomic.  And to see more of Anna’s artwork, why not visit her website, or art blog?

A review copy of this comic was provided by the publisher.

A New Year, A New Schedule!

Posted in Other on January 6, 2010 by comicmole

Happy new year all!  My new year’s goal for Comic Mole is, rather than having a flurry of updates and then nothing for a month or two, to pace myself to one update every two weeks and try and keep to a steady schedule.

Its unfortunate that I probably can’t manage anything more frequent than a bi-weekly update schedule, but such is life I guess.  I know I’d rather read a blog with a slow but steady stream of updates to one that randomly dumped loads of stuff on me then went dead for weeks at a time!

Actually, it has been suggested that perhaps I could cast about for folks who might like to do a guest review or two.  If anyone likes that idea then please get in touch!  You would need to be able to write about as well as me (e.g. you don’t need a degree in English or anything, but people should hopefully be able to understand what you’re on about ^_~ ).  If anyone were to jump on this idea then their work would be added in between my bi-weekly updates, thus taking us to the dizzying heights of weekly updates every now and then! (if anyone would like to re-visit anything I have already talked about, that’s fine, multiple opinions on things are always welcome)

My first review of the year should be this weekend, once I’ve had a chance to type up my horrendously old fashioned analogue notes into magical digital form.

And with that, I shall bid you farewell until the weekend ^_^