Friday, March 1, 2013

Review Me Twice- The Lesser Evil Pt. 1

I really like a lot of things about this book.  I like that it's in black and white.  It's very stark and makes it interesting because a lot of graphic novels are done in color.  I also like that a lot of the characters are very... alive.  They're stopped, but often in mid-motion, which gives you a good sense of how they move and act, outside of their words.  Sometimes I feel like GN characters are posed for every frame, but I never got that sense in this book.

However, some of the assets can be downfalls.  While I liked the black and white motif, it was very hard to tell the difference between characters for most of the GN.  It was very dark and shadowed and really made the whole thing harder to read. 

The drawing in it was definitely talented, but I feel like Smith's talent lies more in the backgrounds than the people.  There were some amazingly detailed drawing of cities and ships and all sorts of things.  And while I did like the "mid-motion" feel of the characters, they were also very blocky in a way.  (If you ever watched the show Reboot as a kid, Smith's characters drawings were very much the same feel, as if they could only move in certain planes.)  It doesn't necessarily take away any from the book, but it does encourage that "I can't tell the difference between characters" problem.

The story line is good too, though not my particular cup of tea.  It's very political and really shows the power struggle going on in this universe.  But the drawing gets in the way of this story line.  Since it's so hard to tell the difference between the characters, it doesn't help when you have so many of them.  And names weren't used that often, making it that much worse.  I do LIKE the story line however (and would probably appreciate it lots more if I were politically inclined at all.)

While the concept of this graphic novel was good, I feel like these are a few, but vital, reasons that are keeping it from being great.  Also, a side note, if you're going to read it, pick up a hard copy of it.  I think part of my "hard to see" problem may have derived from the fact that it was an e-copy of the book.

One of the most important things in designing/writing a graphic novel is layout. (Remember yesterday?) The juxtaposition of one thing to another makes all the difference in the world. Choosing whether to use a wide shot or a close-up or cropping certain things can be difficult. But Shane Smith does this very well. Many of his pages use the same format (four wide-length, short-height panels of equal size per page) but this gives the more impact to the pages that are different.

I agree with Cassy that his drawing forte comes in backgrounds, not in people. I sometimes got a weird Uncanny Valley vibe that you get from emotionless faces. (Sometimes I heard the dialogue in my head in the Xtranormal voices. That's not good. It's robotic and distracting.)

There was a great mechanism closer to the end of the book where a character is using a letter to express his feelings and also explain the next few steps of the plot. It was much better than, for example, just going through the motions of the narrative ("we went here then we did this then this happened and I told someone how I felt about it"). That was very well done, I thought.

This is absolutely not my type of fiction. I never would have picked this book up on my own. Yes, I like space settings, but not so much the political story lines. (I admit it: I don't like Star Wars. Sorry.) That said, it wasn't bad. It's a cohesive story with well-built characters (in the literary sense, not the visual sense, as I mentioned before).

I would like to take a brief moment to thank Shane for sharing his book with us. If you have published a book that you would like us to review, email us at ReviewMeTwice [at] gmail [dot] com, or tweet us @ReviewMeTwice.

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