Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blogging through a (comic) book: Bad Island pt. 2: My Reaction

So last post I gave some background on who Doug is and some of his work. Now I'm just going to go through the book and comment on the things I see. This is probably only interesting to people who've read it, or have a vested interest in Doug's work.

Bad Island - Doug TenNapel.

Ok, right off the bat I have a gaggy problem. His last book, Ghostopolis, while not his worst is in the running for the worst, was the first to make use of an entirely digital process: digital inks, digital colors, digital pencils. Some artists can pull this off, but that talent is so rare that I can't think of one off the top of my head. Ashley Wood? Close enough.

The problem is that so much of the force behind the ink is lost when you go digital. In Jacobus, two strokes convey an entire mood. In this, it takes all the ink, the color, and then the dialog before I really get the mood. It's so much less powerful and meaningful.

And then the color's flat. Just do black and white.

And now I'll actually read words from this book.

The robot designs are cool. Very Gear. The dialog is iffy. So far it's just a stream of madeup words. That's something I can do without. The scientists look like knockoff muppets, but it works.

Even though this book is all digital like his last one, the inking looks way better than Ghostopolis. Ghost's inking reminded me of me at first year art school trying to figure out photoshop. Dead Island is much more sophisticated. There's that.

I'm not far in (this blog while you read thing is taxing), but so far it's a story about a race of marklar who recently got free from another race of enemy marklar. The marklar need to get some marklar from some marklars to power their giant robot marklar. While doing this, evil marklar swoop in and there's violence. The other story is a family getting ready for a trip to Florida, or something (who voluntarily goes to Florida that isn't full of arthritis?). The kids are stereotypes - sullen untrustable teenage son that doesn't want to go, and oblivious daughter obsessed with her snake - and generally, I have more empathy for the scientist marklars. I have no idea who the main character is. Probably Reese because he has to learn a lesson about responsibility. And then welcome Jaysus in his heart.

Also I can't find a reference for Florida. I think I made that up. But it still stands: Florida is awful.

Page 22: sad Dreamworks face.

Only on page 27, but I just realized a lot of Doug's work (in fact, maybe all except Gears and Creature Tech) rely heavily on character's with father issues. I both like this and think it's a crutch. Like: because most heroes do have father problems stretching all the way back to ancient mythology through modern day. Crutch: because EVERY one of his protagonists is a dude with father issues. There's no variety there at all.

P. 33: the issue of the main character is further confused by the fact that the mother has a vision of marklar scientists forced into slave labor. Maybe Doug's going for an ensemble story? That would be new.

P. 37: girl asks if her dead snake went to heaven. Maybe kids ask that. Maybe severely churched kids ask that. By the time I was severely churched, I was too old for that question. Instead I asked the abstracted: do animals go to heaven. Just curious, but does anyone know a kid that asked that?

Scratch that: my wife did ask that. Apparently it's a real question. Good to know. I figured it was a TV trope that people bandy about and eventually it becomes a real thing by the ubiquity of its presence on TV.

P. 40: God's balls. Their boat just got destroyed and the family's reaction is sarcastic quips. This rips me up and down both sides. I understand that fiction isn't reality, and in fact, I would vehemently argue against the validity of realism, but it's absolutely meaningless to make all the characters that respond to devastation to do so with flippancy.

P. 44: No grown man is that inept with matches. Humor fail.

P. 48: A plant from the first 10 pages of the story about the mom being a botanist pays off. She has a greenhouse. Similarly, there was a plant from the beginning from the mom about how no one, "wants to go on this stupid trip." In time, dad's father issues will be revealed.

Doug's creature designs in this one are pretty cool. They just saw this pink 3 eyed naked crow looking thing. Very Neverhood-esque.

P. 82: Somehow the guy who can't manage to work a matchbook managed to rig up a trap sophisticated enough to catch an alien looking monster.

P. 83: Apparently the alien feels scaly, like, "Reese's athlete's foot times ten!" Oh lols. Oh wait. The opposite of lol. How about we just say it's like a lizard, eh?

I want to linger on this point for a second. It's a common misconception in writing to think that if you make up a bizarre analogy ("like my athlete's foot times ten!") that it creates a more vivid image than saying what it's actually like. This abstraction is neither vivid or funny. In descriptions, be concrete and specific to be effective.

p. 84: Reese's reaction to an anthropomorphic tree grabbing his leg is, "out of my pants, creep." No one in this story has funny reactions, or even ones that make sense.

P. 86: Reese cuts off one of the trees arms. The dad says, "Cutting the vines only makes it stronger." How does he know this? This is the first limb of the story to get chopped.

P. 89: The little girl slept through the tree and alien attack. Dad says, "She's got the right idea." None of that makes sense. Maybe it's supposed to be commentary about the faith of a child or something, but I reiterate that it doesn't really make sense.

P. 98: The giant robot battle marklars from the first page are actually some sort of ancient alien gods with the tiny muppet marklars living in small societies on their backs. That's actually a really cool setup. Wouldn't ya know... the oldest marklar deity has a son, and that son's angsty too! And everyone knows that ancient alien city gods don't use contractions.

P. 100: The robot gods eat monstrous animals for energy. This is a really cool idea with some very profound implications. I'm interested see how it pans out.

P. 158: The plant with the little girl's proclivity for animal collection paid off in the form of an alien armadillo that shoots barbs when it sneezes. That sentence got away from me. The plant paid off when the mother of this pup frees the family from certain doom. Nevermind that the brother kicked the creature into the forest. This feels a little deus ex machina.

P. 160: Well, at least the large mother creature only rescued the family from doom so that it could murder the son. That's good.

P. 180: There it is. Dad trusts son now.

P. 188: I figured out the plot. But I'm not telling. Also, I'm 30 pages from the end. Not that impressive.

P. 189: Balls. The plot I just figured out means that the son alien deity is a metaphor for Jesus, on account of the Father (to keep his people from being enslaved) says, "don't ask me to sacrifice my son."

P. 218: Huh. That metaphor didn't get anymore complex than, "Please don't make me murder my kid." I'm glad.

No comments: