Review of Krillon Kallane, originally posted in 2006
I found it very unappealing to browse through the comics on dA. The dA gallery isn't designed for linear viewing. If I wasn't reading the comics for a review, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading them all.
Get a better way of displaying your product. Comic Genesis is free and made for hosting webcomics.Writing:
The comic starts off with a multiple page introduction to the setting by a "tour guide". Apparently the idea was to immerse the reader by having a character communicate to them directly, but it fails miserably. By insinuating the role of the reader, you're acknowledging that there's a reader at all which means that the world is fake, pretend, just for entertainment. That you're only looking at drawings with speech bubbles, not actual characters. Aside from that, the "tour guide" is barely tangible. Since the words aren't associated enough with a character, they feel too detached, as if they're coming from the comic's writer rather than internally. This might work in a less serious comic, but it's absurd that it's presented like this in a comic that tries too hard to be dark and edgy. The obvious and orthodox approach would be The New Guy, in which an audience is informed about an environment by observing the experiences of a character new to the environment, often by an established character directly explaining it to them. For example, a taxi driver ferrying an out-of-towner around would've been much more effective.
Although, that's in disregard of my next complaint. With a complicated, story-driven comic like this is trying to be, you really need to get things going and create questions in the reader's mind before you go into depth explaining things. You have to hook them, get them into the story. You seem to be trying to do that after the intro (with the interrogation thing) so apparently you understand that, so I don't get why you'd want to use your important first pages for exposition. And, it's not like it's anything that complicated that you couldn't easy show through visuals and dialogue. What I derived from the intro is that the city is dangerous, Vackie is powerful and crazy, and the government is corrupt. It's completely unnecessary, especially since you did the page of Vackie killing the guy and laughing anyways (which I must say was done embarassingly poorly).
Re-reading over the prologue, it seems clear that it isn't necessary at all and that the comic could function fine and be more enjoyable without it. My opinion is to remove it from the comic, but when you get a decent site up for it, put it up on a side page as an extra information kind of thing. So, if someone likes the comic and is interested in it, they can seek out the additional information, but if someone's new they can get right to the more interesting stuff without having to get through excessive details first.
And, as my last criticism of that prologue, the guide's words are very impersonal. It's as if I'm reading a brochure. Dialogue is VERY different from standing writing and you need to recognize that. Different characters have their own word choice, punctuation, talking speed, and other elements. And also, it's highly unlikely that someone would speak perfect English like that, especially in a poor, urban area like you describe.
With the introduction aside, my next problem is that you have a 2nd introduction! You really need to put yourself in perspective. No matter how talented you think you and your artist are, you're still nobodies doing an indy comic. You don't get two introductions, and you don't get two title pages. You need to focus on getting the reader's interest and telling the story rather than emphasizing how cool and special this comic of yours is. I already got through 3 pages of pointless information and a title page with copy+pasted images, that's more than enough build-up and introduction. Just get to the comic already!
The writing in the 2nd intro is alright. It sets the mood well, far better than the prologue did. It's a bit rushed and doesn't take advantage of the emotional and psychological energy inherent in the set-up, but it's still fairly interesting and not nearly as flawed as the previous stuff.
I really don't like how you did a footnote explaining the slang terms. It hurts the immersion, takes the intrigue out of trying to understand it, and lessens the feelings of being introduced to an unfamiliar world. You should it up to the reader to guess at the meaning based on the context. And, the line, "But I've not tasted grey-stone and I'm still alive." doesn't really work within your definition of "to be killed." Just replace the slang: "But I've not yet been killed and I'm still alive." It's the same thing said twice in one sentence. So it should just be "But I've not tasted grey-stone." or "But I'm still alive.", but not both.
More excessive narrated info in the car page. You could really do well to start putting one or two key lines into the dialogue and not be so open with information. I don't see any reason why you couldn't have Brenny or his partner explaining to the other some of the background. It'd be more interesting then reading some narrated exposition. Really, it's always preferable to divulge information in the context of the story rather than through an intangible medium.
Also with the car scene, it's too quick. I would've liked to see more of Brenny's character before he got to his job. You could've easily done 2 or 3 pages of it so build suspense and show more of their personalities. I should really be able to discern something from the page where they're in the car, but there's no substance there. I also found it somewhat confusing, with the apparently narrated part about the toys and the question about if "she's giving you trouble". Just not an effective page writing-wise.
The dialogue in "Cakes' place" (I'll get to that later) is confusing. Particularly the line, "No Johnson no traitors". I realize it's just worded poorly, but that's a problem. For Cakes' rant, the dialogue bubble is clearly pointed at Marko which is very confusing. It took me a while to figure out why Marko was yelling about not being a traitor when I realized it must be Cakes' saying it. The page isn't too bad, but these two confusing elements ruin it.
The next page is a mess because it's set-up as a fast, violence page but you have this huge block of dialogue. It doesn't work that way. If it's a fast page then you have to space out the dialogue so that it coincides with the action. You can't just cram it all into one part, as it ruins the flow. As is, it's practically a monologue, and you have to treat monologues different than standard dialogue. Making the comic longer with more panels would have worked fine. So, don't force too much into your panels, if you need to make a page longer or adjust the composition for the text than do so.
Same problem with the next page, although it's slower. You've got at least
TEN sentences in one dialogue bubble. Comics just don't work that way. It's too visual of a medium to deal with dialogue being that compact. The transition between panels represents time to some extent, and it takes time to say something that long and complex. That's why you'd need several panels to show that much text, or else the page gets congested. There's a flow to comics that you have to go with. Time doesn't stop so a character can talk forever, it keeps going so you have to relate to that as if some quantity of dialogue is an action. Also, this is a significant dialogue that gives insight into the character so it would need to be extended anyways just for dramatic effect.
Overall, the writing just isn't fresh or interesting enough to make me want to read future entries. The story's rushed too much to allow enough character development and interaction to get attached or concerned about anyone. And the monologues that are key to the writing are too compressed to be entertaining and dramatic. I feel as if you're having difficulty adapting to the techniques of comic writing, as if you've exclusively done traditional writing before in absence of a visual medium. Or maybe you just need some time to analyze your script more for weaknesses and just general ways to improve it. Maybe stretch some parts further for more characterization and flavor. You've got a lot of problems here that need to be dealt with.Art:
The art's decent. Better than the writing, at least. I like the use of red and blue amongst the heavy black. It helps give the comic some personality. I particularly liked the first panel in page 6. At times, though, it seems as if the looseness and lack of detail in the lines is used as a cover for flaws and rushed artwork. Although, I mostly noticed this towards the beginning as it seems the artwork has improved since the beginning. So, I don't need to discuss that since it seems you've taken care of it on your own. I'd say that overall the artwork is pretty solid, although it isn't particularly impressive or anything. It's adequate
The fault with "Cakes' place" that I mentioned earlier is your lack of establishment with the setting. All the rooms are barren. There's no background or scenery around the street. The problem is that there's never enough detail around the characters to have any clue where they are. There should always be a sense of location, even if it's just created in one panel. In reality, it's very rare for there to be an empty room, except maybe if the owner just sold it or it was just built, but that's temporary and no one would be there anyways. Basically, decorate your backgrounds, create some kind of setting. You should be able to show something other than characters. So I would say definitely put more focus on backgrounds and scenery and don't just cover up everything in shadows and hope that no one cares that everyone's always in an empty room in some unknown location. Even if it's some dark warehouse somewhere, there'd still be crates and stuff around to give the place some kind of identity. If Brenny and Marko are driving in an urban area then there should be buildings and pedestrians. If they're in the country then you should show the openness. Just in general be a lot more conscious about the location and scenery and backgrounds and less focused on the characters all the time.Lettering:
I'm mentioning the lettering because I see it as a glaring problem. First of all, never ever ever ever use Comic Sans for a dark and edgy comic. Comic Sans is cutesy and happy and carefree. You can get some nice free fonts at Blambot
and other places, but try to pick a font that is somewhat relevant to the emotions and atmosphere of the comic.
Most of the text in your bubbles lacks proper punctuation and/or is placed sloppy. Always end your characters' statements with a period or a question mark or an exclamation mark, as it helps form and clarify the manner of their speech. And exclamation marks help make dialogue more interesting and exciting. Regarding the sloppy placing, the words should always be in the center of the bubble. It will look much neater and presentable that way.
Further, many of your bubbles are excessively large. You want to keep them small so that they cover less of the artwork. Sometimes I see them lengthy with a short bit on a 2nd line. Instead, balance out the lines more so that it'll be more compact and take up less space. This will help with the lack of backgrounds problem. I realize you figured out the benefits of center-align over left-align, but it also requires some careful placement which you should give attention to. And, if your words would be too large for the bubble, then make the font smaller.
Take your time with the lettering and consider how to place it most effectively and in a way that conveys the dialogue to the reader in the best way.Overall:
Both you and the artist need to slow down. You should slow down the story and focus more on character development and exposition through dialogue, and the artist should spend more time on backgrounds and setting. This would be a big step in adding much-needed personality to your world and would make the comic more interesting and entertaining. Get rid of the exposition-packed prologue. And, please, work harder to make the lettering more presentable. Many professional comics have someone just for the lettering, which should demonstrate how important it is.