Thursday, December 4, 2008

P-Brane: The Green Man

P-Brane: The Green Man - Chris X Ring, Jesse Heffring, Pawel Pogorzelski, Angus Byers. (graviton publishing). This is probably the first graphic novel I have read that has a photographer and a director listed in the credits. This is also the first comic That I received a review copy for. The goal of my blog is surprisingly far removed from receiving free stuff, or ever making any sort of money, but I love free stuff and am not allergic to money by any means, although you might think I am by how quickly I get rid of it. When I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of the book I said sure, I will read anything I can get my hands on and I will post my honest opinion on my blog.

I was excited about getting the book, but nervous for a number of reasons. I was worried that I would get it and hate it. Another thing about me is that while I can certainly be snarky and mean if I want to, I don't believe in being mean. I think being civil and good natured is a better way to go. I don't like reviews that call names, I don't like reviews composed of obscenities and wildly negative hyperbole. I am sure I could write one, but it's not what I am going for.

I got the book pretty quickly, and was excited to dive into it. I started reading it and I had great difficulty doing so. I really didn't like it. I thought the dialog was pretty terrible, and the art was like a wall keeping me out. The cover art is great, and the cover image is used once in the story, but my first viewing of the photoshop processed photography-as-comic-art made it seem completely inaccessible to me. I have become quite a fan of stylized art in recent years, but it just seemed like dark blobs on the page to me. In many cases I couldn't make out what was being shown, and the characters seemed surprisingly inconsistent. At that point I put the book down to let some time pass out of fairness to it. Yesterday I picked the book up and started at the beginning again.

This isn't a terrible book. It's pretty good actually. I had time to get used to the art, and while I do not flat out love it, I applaud the experiment, and in the end it did not keep me from getting into the story. I have no doubt that they will continue to refine the process and when they do this again, it will probably suffer from less of the issues I felt it had. For the most part this served as decent and workable art. It's entirely black and white, but due to the way it is processed it makes it so that in many cases the characters don't look like themselves from one panel to the next. Worse offenses than that are the panels where you have no real idea what is happening because of how the black space runs together, etc. or the ones where it looks like a picture that has just been photoshopped. Sometimes in comics I think that too real or too 'photo referenced' can be a negative thing. At it's best its like good Sin City style art, at its worst it can be a bit like a copy of a copy of a photograph.

I am not sure if this next part will make sense to anyone but me. I consider that the writing is pretty good, but the dialog is terrible. There is a TON of really bad dialect written into the dialog with 'dat's and 'dem's and the like. Some of the story is way overly wordy with too much 'tell' and not enough 'show'. That being said, it's a pretty decent story for the most part. I am not a fan of the very last chapter, but otherwise, for the type of story it is, it's pretty neat.

Now that I have that out of the way, here is what I see as good:
  • fantastic cover by Vitaly S Alexius
  • good concept / interesting premise
  • good panel design and layout
  • extremely ambitious project
  • excellent progression in the story. The sense of building intensity is conveyed well
  • chapter 6 is particularly good visually
  • It was an enjoyable read for me.
I really do like the idea behind the production. I think it's a neat idea, but I wonder why this approach was better than having the entire thing drawn in the style of the cover. It definitely has a distinct look to it and conveys a mood of it's own and a tone for the story. In the same way that it was undertaken like a film, it does suffer from some poor 'cgi' effects in places. The effects and the jets and space ships just seem really out of place with the look and feel of the people in the scenes. I imagine that that is an aspect that will be refined more in future undertakings as well. I certainly applaud the creator's vision with this project. I also appreciate it's scope. In the interest of fairness, and since this review may seem to skew a bit negative, here are some links to explore for a broader picture of things: An article with some good pictures showing the process, a super positive review, another super positive review, the companies site with videos, etc.

The story itself builds very nicely. We have a main character with slightly green skin and no memory who quickly finds out that he has abilities beyond normal folks when he thwarts a mugging in an alley. He also goes on to learn things while he sleeps, build amazing devices, discover others like himself and speak with and bargain with powerful aliens for the fate of humanity. I really liked how when we first meet him He takes out some small time muggers, and then things progress to him taking out a mob hitman, a group of pedophiles, and eventually a 'Bin Laden-style terrorist leader, all the while learning more, and progressing more to what will be his big mission. I am not sure I would buy this, but I am certainly not worse off for having read it. There are some very good bits in it, and a lot of potential and room for improvement as well.


ChrisXR said...

First off, thank you for your review. The points you make, positive and negative, are helpful. P-Brane is indeed experimental. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we thought of using photographs in order to to keep costs and production time down. Neither Jesse or myself are graphic artists, so we would have had to hire someone. What I found out is that while artists will put in great amounts of time for themselves, they expect a decent wage when doing it for someone else (go figure!). Secondly, we wanted a cinematic feel to the story, so the photographs fit. One thing I found encouraging from your review is that when you got into it (perhaps over the photo-shock) you liked it. We believe the noir mood created using b&w photographs enhances the storyline.

Chris X Ring

Talkin Bout Comics said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it. As someone with a lot of plot and almost no graphic art ability myself, I applaud that you took things into your own hands and put together something very distinctively your own. I look forward to seeing more.

There really was a degree of photo-shock for me. The second time I picked it up I had no issue getting into it, and my opinion of the art was different from the first time I picked it up.

Anonymous said...

They sent you a review copy, too? Apparently they know a good reviewer when they read one.

Perhaps you're right about my review. It may have been a bit on the softball side, as I was reluctant to pick on the flaws of what was obviously the first effort by a motion picture company to break into the world of comics. I absolutely agree that the dialogue was frequently cringe-worthy. You've inspired me to pull my punches less when P-Brane II arrives.

I actually wrote back to them with an offer to correct their various spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax mistakes, at which point they assured me that my copy was only a galley and that the final product had been corrected.

Talkin Bout Comics said...

I was stunned when I got the email, but I am glad to have had the opportunity.

I felt the same as you about not wanting to be too harsh on a first effort of such an ambitious sort of project. I tried to make my criticism as relatively gentle as possible (I am not one for harsh or mean spirited reviews) and point out what I saw as the good points as well. Also, it really was better the second time through. I am hopefull that it will only get better as they keep perfecting things.

I linked to the really positive reviews for the sole purpose of giving benefit of the doubt, etc. I really appreciate your commenting here!