Writer(s): Mada Shaye and Vin Shaye (AKA Adam Hayes and Nick Hayes)
Artist(s): Mada Shaye and Vin Shaye (AKA Adam Hayes and Nick Hayes)
US Publisher: www.darkageepic.com Hayes Productions
In a post-apocalyptic future, a city is ran by gangs that respond to a government agency running the big picture. Now, one of the leaders of those gangs is planning an uprising, and there is a mysterious suitcase that plays a crucial role…
In the NYComic Con 2001 standing out was difficult. Your senses are saturated with noises, colors, movement, gimmicks, etc. Now, the guys at Darkageepic made their booth stand out pretty well. They have their marketing down-packed, with all their large posters and cut-out boards.
They were selling their graphic novel Dark Age Vol.1 Dominion and were throwing in a cool Tshirt in the mix.
It is not surprising that the stand looked so good. The two brothers running it, Adam Hayes and Nick Hayes, are pros in the marketing and font design business, and it shows.
I opened the graphic novel to peruse, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the art and coloring really appealed to me.
So I bought the volume and eventually got it home, and even more eventually got to read it (I had a long list of Comic Con Purchases to go through).
The publishers marketing prowess shows in the editing of the graphic novel. It is full of web references, and it links very well with the website itself. The fonts employed are specially appealing and the glossy paper and coloring is something to behold.
I really wanted to love this book. From the marketing, to the flavor of the of the stand, to the tone of the art, all my senses wanted to receive an impact like if I had watched a movie that blended “Mad Max Meets Blade Runner”.
But something faltered along the way. I found myself losing interest in the clichéd dialogs of the characters, and having a hard time keeping interested in what happened in the stereotypical story of post-apocalyptic future with a mysterious stranger figure coming in to fill the messianic role.
I finished, put it aside, and promised myself I would give it another try a couple of weeks later, just in case I was in the wrong mind set when I read it, and was not giving it a fair chance.
I repeat: I really wanted to like this graphic novel.
Then I found myself postponing the re-read of this volume, and having other items in my reading list jump queue in front of it. Yes… that was not a good sign.
I finally got around re-reading it, and I regret to say that my initial impression was not mistaken. At least I was able to ascertain better what elements worked and which didn’t this time around.
The art is credited to both creators of this graphic novel, and I want to state unequivocally, “The art is gorgeous”.
The attention to detail in each panel is enthralling and the color scheme chosen is very appropriate for the mood and tone of the story and does enhance the reader’s experience.
Most pages are a pleasant gift of composition and draft mastery that leaves a good taste in the eyes, page after turning page.
The part I had a problem was the pacing of the script and the dialogs. In other words, the writing part of the story telling.
For starters you have to be very, very very careful when you choose to allocate script-time depicting two guys talking on the phone for what seems like 20 pages (as it happens at the beginning of page 38)… Unless you are a maven at page composition, and at selecting your frames, and unless your dialog is crisp, sharp and fluid, the result would most likely be a waste of 20 pages.
Upon reflecting further, you will realize that it may work well on a regular novel, on literature, but the visual story telling medium is a canvas specifically designed for dynamism and sequential storytelling. The only thing sequential about two guys elaborating and explain the plot during 10 pages is the back and forth between them. And unless you are master of the sequential art and scribe extraordinaire, it is likely you will not be able to pull this off gracefully.
Most of the dialog throughout the novel suffers from limited range in voice.
Most of the characters fall into two categories. The one is the voice that yells:”Don’t fuck with me! I’m da’ man!”
The other is the voice that “oneups” it saying: “Oh yeah? So then why didn’t you notice you were stepping on a dog turd? Ha! Gotcha!”
I tried to justify the lack of plurality in these voices by playing devil’s advocate:”Maybe there can be only two types of dudes in this post-apocalyptic city!”
“Maybe the rest of the guys, the ones with stutter, the ones with accents, the ones with impeccable grammar, and the ones who speak in a different first language decided to stay home, and sit this adventure out?”
And don’t mistake this complaint for a cry of Political Correctness. I am not saying that I want an Asian character or a guy speaking Ebonics. I mean that all the voices where conveying the same level of bravado. All the dialogs were eerily similar.
I did enjoy immensely all the originality this duo of creators bring to the design of the graphic novel, starting with the prologue pages that emulate a website, and even has a legend that later proves useful throughout the book. The footers of some pages have some of these markers and give you hints as to where the action is taking place in this fictional world.
The ideas are pretty sophisticated, the concepts very well implemented, the design very appealing. This is a pleasure of a graphic novel to hold in your hands. I think it even smells good (manly and apocalyptic all in one. Beau Smith would use it as aftershave! (Beau being the most manly-man of all writers I know, the only one that Chuck Norris would consider letting write his memoirs)).
At the end, there is even a glossary and a compendium of gangs of the urban zone depicted in the novel, full of colorful graphics, that conveys the deep level of thought these two artists put into creating this tale of bleak future.
Now truth be told, it is likely I will check out the second volume when it gets released, only because the art merits it, and because there is heart and creativity behind this idea.
I just hope they learn better narrative devices than putting the reader through a 20 page phone conversation between two characters in order to explain plot and context. I do chalk this a bit to the new generations of creators, the ones who have been brought up in the internet age, and for them chatting and texting is as second nature as riding a bike used to be to the WWII generation.
I guess there are young adults out there who grew up in middle class families in urban or suburban settings that don’t understand that the majority of the world population IS NOT YET connected to internet-enabled devices 24/7. But I do expect in the next coming years to see changes in the graphic novel medium to reflect more and more this influences of the internet age. But be warned! We are still decades away (or one decade at least) from being able to fill 20 pages of a comic with a phone conversation and make it generally acceptable to the average reader, without relying in any enhancement on the visual narrative, or any brilliant device on the literary side of the story.