It’s been a bit of a quiet this week. Apart from the whole it being CHRISTMAS thing.
There have been a few comics out, Bone Parish from Boom Studios!, Man Eaters from Image Comics and a new Superior Spider-Man from Marvel.
But I have only read one new comic this week; Go-Bots #2 published by IDW Publishing and written, drawn, coloured, lettered by Tom Scioli.
For a full review of Go-Bots pop over to Monkeys Fighting Robots where I give an over view of what works and what doesn’t (plug, plug!). In my opinion, there is a lot that doesn’t work. I was fairly restrained in my review because that’s my job; it’s not about ranting and spewing forth hatred, like some ‘reviewers’ I could mention (but don’t wish to filthy my blog with). A review should let the potential readers know what to expect and, to some degree, whether it works or not.
Go-Bots has some wonderful moments, Scioli loves to play with his packed layouts and occasionally uses the constraints of the comic book medium to his advantage.
Unfortunately, I believe that his dense pages and over scripted narrative hampers the storytelling and diminishes the characters to such a point that we, as readers, know nothing about them. There is a deliberate two dimensionality to the art work that is also, unfortunately, reflected in the characters.
Plus, the massive text filled speech balloons drown the panels and almost obliterate the images entirely. Take, for example, the following page:
The top half of the page is packed with speech, most of which is exposition outlining two plot points; the difference between the two fractions of Go-Bots and the destination that the characters will be heading. That is a lot of text to establish only two worthwhile narrative points. The speech doesn’t tell us anything about the characters because it’s all so matter of fact, so monotone; there is no distinctive character voices. What the speech does do successfully is take over the panels. The cast’s faces are squashed to the bottom of the panels and any establishing shot of their location is totally lost. In panel 12 the view point switches and gives you the impression that they are stood up high. This impression is shattered four panels later when the chase sequence starts and the police cars/Go-Bots are suddenly on the same level as A.J. and Hunter.
If you take away the text you can see just how much of the page the speech takes up. Some of the panels on the first two rows are virtually empty.
Now, I understand that in some circumstances there is a need for a lot of exposition to move a story forward however the way that it is incorporated into a page layout can make the difference between a well-paced, engaging story and a text heavy chore.
To compare, look at this page from Tales from the Crypt #33, a story called Lower Berth.
As was the tradition with Tales from the Crypt stories, they were often text heavy with a continuous narrator explaining what was happening from panel to panel. This resulted in caption boxes on most panels along with additional character speech. In this example the caption boxes are mostly large, panel long boxes with several sentences per panel.
If you take away the lettering you are left with some obvious spaces, but unlike the Go-Bots example above, the panels are still rich with information and excitement. Even without the text you have establishing backgrounds and character moments. You can still follow the story from panel to panel and learn something about the characters and narrative. The top half of the Go-Bots example is devoid of narrative or substance without the speech.
If you compare the two pages’ side by side, with and without the lettering you can easily see the difference; one of these pages is a success at storytelling, the other is not.
If you are that kind of person who would like to compare the actual word count per row; Go-Bots has 68 words in the first row, 74 in the second and 31 in the third. It then has two rows with virtually no speech. Tales from the Crypt only has three rows but manages to cram in 97 words in row one, 79 in row two and 48 in row three. Over all Go-Bots has 175 words on the page, Tales from the Crypt has 224.
The point I’m making is that there is nothing wrong with heavy text pages as long as the text serves the narrative and works with art work to move the story on. The main problem with Go-Bots is that it suffocates the images within the panels and reduces the environments so that they are almost none existent.
Go-Bots #2 has some highlights and if you remember owning the Go-Bot toys back in the 80’s than by all means pick up a copy of this, you may enjoy it. However, I found the storytelling to be lacking and the absence of any real characters made this a comic I could easily pass on.