Review Day Tuesday: Shadowbinders, Book 1

shadowbinders headerShadowbinders, Book 1 is one of the few books I picked up at Intervention Con over a month ago. Before I go into my review, let me talk about what the story is.

The book I got is actually a collection of the first four chapters of the webcomic Shadowbinders. The story follows Mia, a 17-year-old high school girl with average teen girl problems… until she receives a gift from her grandmother. The gift is an old book full of drawings and a ring, both of which belonged to her late grandfather. However, when she tries on the magic ring, she’s whisked away to a fantasy world – the same world shown in the drawings of the book!

Now, before I read this, I did not know what to expect, really. I didn’t even know who the target audience was. I mean, the art looked relatively friendly to everybody, but I didn’t want to make assumptions – I’ve seen relatively child-friendly art illustrate blood and gore (thanks Hunter x Hunter).

With that said, Shadowbinders is actually pretty safe for everyone to read. This is what I would call an all-ages series, even with one or two innuendos and one scene with someone getting stabbed. It’s not even all that graphic.

Anyway, the set-up is sort of cliched, but the world is at least imaginative. It has a steampunk aesthetic with crazy types of animals and fun magic that is easy to understand. Even the action scenes are fun, and thankfully they’re easy to follow. So many artists can make an action scene unreadable in comics, but thankfully that is not the case in Shadowbinders.

The story and characters are…slow to develop. I didn’t really get invested in the characters until the end of Chapter 2. I do, however, want to stick around with this series to see how it goes.

I did have the chance to talk to the artist of the series at Intervention Con (the writer was out at a panel). I remember when I picked up this book, he expressed what I like to call, “The Artist’s First Book Lament.” I suffer from this, as well: it’s when an artist looks at the first book and goes, “AUGH, the art looks so awful! I’m glad I improved, but geez!”

Since he said that, I’m actually pretty excited to read the rest of the series. I want to see where it goes and see the progression of the art style. As fun as it is, I can see it only getting better.

So have you read Shadowbinders? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you have any suggestions for comics or books to read, please leave them in comments as well.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Friday.

Review Day Tuesday: Bartez

bartez book cover

Bartez is a comic I found at Intervention Con, mostly because the author, Ryan, was right across the aisle from me. I never heard of the project before that weekend, so I bought a copy of the book. Once the convention madness died down, I finally sat down to read it.

And you know what? I like it.

Is it life-altering? No. Is it fun? Yes, and delightfully silly to boot.

The story follows Jimmy Barton, an average guy who works in IT, who still hangs out with a lot of his old high school buddies, and lives in the town he’s always grown up in. He’s also a bit of a quitter – he tries new things, but he never sticks to them for very long. Tae Kwon Do? Wrestling? Parkour? Nope, nope, and nope.

That is, until he discovers one of his old friends was murdered by a rogue member of a secret society. And now, Jimmy might be next on the murderer’s hit list! Will he be able to actually stick to something and learn how to save himself?

The book I read is the first volume in a series, but I don’t know how long the series will be. It’s a series I want to read, though! Now let me tell you why.

bartez by ryan peraro and gale williams

bartez by ryan peraro and gale williams

The art, which seems (very) influenced by the likes of Bryan Lee O’Malley and Vera Brosgol, is sharp, clean, and easy to read. In an art style like this it can be easy to make the characters look alike. Thankfully, the artist (Gale Williams) does a wonderful job creating unique character visuals. I could tell Jimmy apart from his friends, and even the ladies look varied and stylized.

The action scenes are sporadic, but are drawn very well. I look forward to seeing what future action scenes in later volumes will look like!

The writing is, at the start, slow. The writer definitely takes his time developing the characters and scenarios, which isn’t a bad thing. I appreciate the slowness a bit because in too many comics nowadays people are rushing to get to the action. In Bartez you’re supposed to see what life is like before things get crazy. And Ryan Peraro does a great job showing everyday situations.

Once things start getting crazy, Ryan has built up the characters and the scenario enough that you believe what happens in the story. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

And you know what? The art and the writing work fantastically together in this comic. There are two creators on the project but it feels like one unified voice. That, to me, is wonderful.

If you want to read Bartez, they have the comic online and in print. My vote? It’s worth the $10 to get the first volume.

Have you found any comics worth reading? Did you read Bartez? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow with new artwork.

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang: A Review

Image courtesy of MTV-Geek News


Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers is a fantastic read.

This volume (which is paired with Saints) follows Little Bao, a dreamer of a boy who is eventually drawn into rebellion against foreign forces, who seek to bring Christianity to China (among other things). The events that follow are a retelling of the Boxer Rebellion, a significant historical event.

With subject matter like this, it can be pretty easy to be historical and dry, or have artwork that’s dark, sinister, or brutal. Yang’s work is none of that.

The art is vibrant and the colors are well-chosen: in the story, the commoners who join the Big Sword Society are possessed by the spirits of China. The spirits are colorful and vibrant while the peasants are in dull, muted colors. The character designs are delightfully simple but unique to each and every character. While the landscape of the story is simple, that’s fine – the focus is on the characters, as it should be. In stories about war, it’s important to know the people that fought in them, even if they’re not big names.

The pacing throughout is brilliant. There can be several pages to a slow and thoughtful scene, but when the action happens, everything is bold and fast. The design of the panels is simple enough that you can read the story easily and not get lost (which is important to note, because there are an awful lot of comic artists that try layouts to be artistic – Marvel’s SIEGE, I’m looking at you – and instead it becomes an artistic mess. Boxers is not that work).

Ok, so obviously the artwork is great, but what about the writing?

It. Shines.

The art is simple and classy to let the writing shine through.

This story is still posing deep and thoughtful questions in me three days after I’ve finished it. Questions like, What is worth fighting for? What would you sacrifice for the future? Love? Others’ lives? The concept of yourself as an individual? What is fundamentalism and how does it transform people?

If you haven’t read this yet, you should. Go get it on or at your local library (that’s where I got mine. I have no shame).

P.S. I have yet to read Saints, the companion book to Boxers. That review will be coming up soon!