Comic Books Archive

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Comic Book Review: The Kid With The Cubed Fro

Summary Judgement:  I suppose the best word to describe this comic book is sloppy.  Very sloppy.

Story and art by: Martin Jackson

NB: Issue #1 of The Kid With The Cubed Fro was submitted to me for review earlier this month.

I’ve done a lot of hand wringing while trying to decide what I do with this review.  On the one hand, Mr. Jackson was kind enough to send me something to review.  At the same time, there are severe, almost crippling, problems with his comic book.  I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this issue reads more like a first draft than a print edition.  Much as I loathe slagging off the creative work of an individual, I think criticism is an essential part of helping to improve art.  Therefore, I decided to go ahead with this review with the hope that Mr. Jackson would take these words as genuine feedback, rather than an attack against his artistic vision.

The Kid With The Cubed Fro offers an interesting if absurd concept in its first issue.  The Kid, whose name we never discover, transfers to a new school.  Therein he runs afoul of a bully named “Ralp” and meets a girl named Zenubia.  Ralp is your run of the mill ass-hat.  Zenubia is a bit of a tomboy.  The Kid, himself, is a mystery save for the fact that he is written as a character who is too smart for school.  As The Kid bemoans the school cafeteria’s lunch, semi-sentient globs of meatloaf start to fly through the air.  Naturally, these meat cells form a giant meat monster.  Zenubia and The Kid take it upon themselves to defeat the meat monster through the construction of their very own vegetable patty golem.  The first issue ends with the monsters brawling in the cafeteria as aliens land in the school playground but only after the meat monster eats and shits out Ralp.

I’ve always found that a good comic review should ask two questions: how is the art and how is the story?  In examining The Kid With The Cubed Fro’s story, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t one.  Its cliffhanger ending aside, the issue is vacuous.  There’s no conflict other than the aforementioned monsters’ brawl.  The characters themselves seem bereft of depth, in the literal and artistic sense of the word.  Even the dialogue doesn’t really work. In one instance, The Kid speaks at a level that seems befitting a PhD candidate, but a page later he’s as articulate as an Alaska governor.  Any temptation that I have to forgive these problems is summarily quashed by a litany of spelling mistakes, misplaced apostrophises, missing words and the various grammatical liberties that are taken throughout the issue.  Even the issue’s preamble, which serves to eulogize the late Gerald Lawson, a prominent African-American video game designer, is bloated with typos.  Perhaps the whole production is just too Dada for me to understand.

Then there’s the art.  I wanted to perceive the comic’s unique visual style as a nod to minimalism.  Unfortunately, it becomes very obvious very quickly that the style is, well, sophomoric if we are going to be polite about things.  The backgrounds look like crude sketches rather than proper environments.  In one instance the perspective within a panel is so bad that The Kid’s finger is drawn as long as his head.  This sort of inattention to detail is so blatant that it leaves me wondering about what sort of standards Mr. Jackson sets for himself as an artist.

The entire issue presents itself with a vibe of something that wasn’t quite ready to be seen by the world.  Although one very funny joke about school lunches and Jamie Oliver proves that Mr. Jackson can turn a phrase, this lone noteworthy panel is lost amid questionable writing, constant exposition and inconsistent art.  I suppose a younger audience might laugh at the issue’s singular poop joke.  However, I suspect even a middle-school aged person would turn their nose up at the typos and unremarkable drawings.  While I wish Mr. Jackson success in his artistic endeavours, The Kid With The Cubed Fro is as far from being viable as a comic can get.

Overall Score: -3.5


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Comic Book Review: Freelance Blues

Summary Judgement:  Freelance Blues offers a hilarious concept that pairs the banalities of modern under employment with the slaying of evil monsters.

Written by: Ian Daffern and Mike Leone

Art by: Vicki Tierney

Before I get to the review, I should address a couple housekeeping issues.  For those keeping score at home, this review is post #100 on the Page of Reviews.  Regular readers will know that I’ve been dragging my feet on putting this post together.  There are two reasons for the delay.  One part is that I’ve only now pulled myself out of the mental quicksand that is marking undergraduate papers and exams.  The other reason is that I’ve been trying to come up with a subject befitting a centennial post.

I know 100 posts is nothing special when it comes to writing for the internet.  Still, I wanted to do something to mark the occasion.  By about ten this morning, I decided that come hell or high water I would write something today, even if it amounted to a review of the first episode of the new Doctor Who season.  It turns out that the mail gods had something different in mind for me.  You see, a few weeks ago I dropped my name in a raffle box at the Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention.  For my time, I won a free issue of Freelance Blues and a stylin’ t-shirt.  Never one to argue with providence I decided to dedicate post #100 to this clever indie comic.

Be forewarned that while I love reviewing books, I’m not the best judge of art, Art or “art” so kindly forgive any rookie mistakes when I get to talking about the comic’s visual aesthetic.

Freelance Blues is the story of Lance Bunkman.  On the surface, Lance seems like a bit of an aimless drifter.  He goes from one job to the next, never able to “make it work”.  Of course, this isn’t necessarily Lance’s fault.  Could you stay at a job for very long if it turned out that your boss was the physical manifestation of the Hindu god of destruction?  For Lance, fighting evil goes beyond the thankless self-sacrifice that burdens the poverty-stricken niche of super heroes.  Every defeated monster on Lance’s resume represents another session of pounding the pavement to find a new job.

There’s something immediately cathartic about Freelance Blues. It’s obvious that writers Ian Daffern and Mike Leone have worked some right terrible jobs in their lives.  However, there’s really nothing in the issue that would constitute whinging about work.  Despite the soul sucking nature of Lance’s jobs, I couldn’t find a single panel in the first issue where he is complaining about his lot in life.  In his more reflective moments, Lance desires to understand why he is the only person that ever rises to the occasion when senior partners start eating their clients.  As I imagine that most people have had a day where they feel that they are the only person who cares about their work, the sympathy that Lance’s character generates nicely compliments the outlandish nature of the overall concept.

The story’s balance between pathos and parody is further accentuated through Vicki Tierney’s excellent artwork.  Black and white images contrast the sterility of the modern workplace against the destruction of its tedium through monster attacks.  The monsters themselves are doubly clever as caricatures of the places where they have installed themselves.  Case in point: I certainly felt like a drone within a hive mind when I worked at a call centre.  I’ll say no more on that note lest I spoil the gag.  The consistency of the small details within the book are also worth mentioning.  From the motivational posters on the walls of the break room to the grain of the laminate floor in Lance’s house, every panel seems to get the same level of attention as the one that came before it.  While I may not be a comic expert, I’ve read a few where the artist cuts corners on the more mundane elements of a page.  Kudos to Vicki Teirney for keeping the bar set high.

At $4 an issue, Freelance Blues seems priced on the mark for a well drawn and well written 24 page comic book.  While the concept initially struck me as a bit out of left field, its execution on paper is outstanding.  Freelance Blues is smart, allegorical and quite in tune with the fact that too few of us get paid for plying our natural talents, even if that skill set extends to killing monsters.

You can read the first issue of Freelance Blues for free at www.freelanceblues.com

Overall Score: +3.5