Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Indie Comic Review: Darkest night- Act one

Cover to Act One

‘Darkest Night: Act One’ represents a drastic change in direction for ‘Billy Demon Slayer’ creator Hayden Fryer. As soon as you open to the first page the comic quickly asserts itself as Fryer’s most polished and mature work. Where Billy was playful, funny and fast moving ‘Darkest night’ is instead serious, brooding and slower paced. Fryer really takes his time to establish the setting and key players in this tale of love, death and revenge and it shows. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are grounded and the art is a wonderful interplay of black and white.

'Darkest Night-Act One' features
top-notch visual storytelling

This first act of ‘Darkest night’ is very much a slow burn. The story focuses on Carlie and Caleb two teenage lovers who break up just before New Year’s Eve and that is pretty much the crux of the plot. In this first act Fryer really takes his time to develop his two main characters and the tension between them. It all feels very much like a set up and at this stage it’s hard to tell where the actual plot will take the characters.

The real drawcard of this book is Fryer’s fabulous art which really comes into its own. His mastery of layouts, using empty space and his balancing of the black of the inks and white of the page is nothing short of breathtaking. His drawing style has been very much refined and the amount of detail he manages to cram into each panel is impressive. It’s just a pity that the heavy use of digital effects, especially blurring, tends to detract from Fryers otherwise sharp pencils and inks.  

Overall ‘Darkest Night: Act One’ is enjoyable but uneventful. The actual plot doesn't move much in its 28 glossy pages but as it is only part one of three its unfair to judge the plot at this stage. What can be assessed is the dialogue, art and visual storytelling, none of which can be found wanting. 

‘Darkest Night: Act One’ truly is a polished gem of an indie comic from a very talented indie creator. Can’t wait for the next instalment Hayden!  

'Darkest Night: Act One' is available for purchase from: 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Game Review: Need for speed: Most Wanted

Rating: PG
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: EA

It has been a long time since I last picked up a ‘Need for Speed’ game. By a long time, I mean 8 years. I was just an awkward pimple-faced teenager when I fell in love with the high-stakes street racing of ‘Need for Speed: Underground’ so it seems oddly fitting that I should review the latest offering in the franchise, ‘Most Wanted’, as a socially awkward pimple-faced adult. I am happy to say that this latest instalment is as addictive, fast paced and downright fun as I remember the past games being. ‘Most Wanted’ really captures the overall spirit of the franchise putting emphasis on a feeling of constant motion, over the top-street racing and epic police chases.

‘Most Wanted’ is an open world racer set in the fictitious city of Fairhaven. A visually diverse city, Fairhaven is plagued with a highly organised street-racing scene dominated by ten infamous drivers each in possession of one of the game’s fastest cars. As a new driver on the scene your mission is to defeat all ten, take their cars and become Fairhaven’s most wanted driver. That is literally as deep as the story gets. It’s delightfully minimalistic and is more about providing the player with an objective then an actual story. I personally found it refreshing to play a racing game that was not trying to force some sort of half-baked narrative down my throat.

The game play is more or less your standard arcade racer fare with the addition of open world elements. Think drag races, time trails and circuit races all punctuated by intense police chases. You get to drive to all your race locations and when you finish racing you just keep on driving. This means that if the cops intercepted your race they will continue to chase you until you lose them in Fairhaven’s labyrinth of streets.

This is a game encourages you to be a reckless rev-head. A mere five minutes into it and I was going 100 in a 60 zone, flying past speed cameras, and crashing through billboards. Indeed this sort of driving is actually rewarded by the game through ‘speed points’ which are used to unlock upgrades for your vehicles as well as races against Fairhaven’s most wanted. With the exception of the 10 cars belonging to the most wanted, new cars are unlocked by simply finding them in the city. This not only serves as a great incentive to explore, it also means that even at the early stages of the game you have access to an impressive selection of cars.

Racing in ‘Most Wanted’ is exactly what I expected: fast paced, cinematic and surprisingly forgiving. This game is strongly rooted in the arcade racer genre and fans of hardcore car racing sims like ‘Gran Turismo’ will probably scoff at the unrealistic physics and vehicle handling. The racing is reasonably simplistic putting an emphasis on drifting around corners and flooring it on the straight. You will find yourself crashing often but with no penalty for totalling your car, it all feels inconsequential. The same can be said for the police chases. With no penalty for being ‘busted’ there is little incentive to participate in the pursuits which can take upward of 5 minutes. In this way the game’s accessibility is also its Achilles heel. That said this accessibility is what I loved about the game. You really can dive right in as a complete novice and have a great time.
Need for Speed most wanted is nothing short of an excellent and cinematic arcade racer with stunning visuals. What it lacks in racing depth it makes up for in graphics, presentation and an overall smoothness of game play. Criterion have thoroughly succeeded in making a racing game for people who don’t like racing games that delivers an instant pay-off of speed and adrenaline.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Web comic round up: 2.0

Hey guys been pretty busy with the 'real' world recently and by that I mean getting distracted by shiny things. An by shiny things I mean to say I proposed to my girlfriend, she said yes, and now I am slowly drowning in a sea of wedding preparations and financial 'responsibility'.  WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!?!...So if you are wondering why this blog's been empty for just over a week that'd be why!

Anyway without further ado here is another mildly amusing web comic round up I managed to whip up, enjoy!

The adventures of Superhero GirlFaith Erin Hick’s ‘Superhero Girl’ delivers a cute, quirky and very Scott Pilgrim-esque take on the Super hero genre. The comic follows the 20-something year old ‘Super-Hero Girl’, a deadbeat superhero who can’t seem to get a break. The concept and delivery are all pretty straightforward and admittedly not exceedingly original. However Hick’s artistic and writing skills turn what could have been an average comic into an exceptional one.

Hick’s is a veteran of the web comic scene, previously doing long running series such as ‘Friends with Boys’ and ‘demonology 101’, and it really does show. The art is exquisite and is all hand pencilled and inked a rare treat in this age of Photoshop. The only downside to this comic is its recent irregular update schedule, supposedly updating Tuesday’s the comic has been untouched since August this year. With that said it’s currently sitting on 100 comics so I’d highly recommend putting aside a spare hour to go on a superhero girl binge.  

Warbot in Accounting:-The name pretty much says it all for this one. This highly sadistic web comic follows the adventures of Warbot – a two ton killing machine who somehow finds himself in the fast paced world of corporate finance. What I thought would be a violent comic full of robot rampages manages to deliver Dilbert style humour usually at the expense of poor Warbot. With only 15 issues this is a practically small web comic and will only take about ten minutes of your time to read. Worth looking into if you enjoy dark office based humour.

Favourite strip: The All Nighter

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Web comic Round up

Hey guys thought I'd give you a quick low-down on some web comics Iv'e been checking out recently: 

Blow the Cartridge: ‘Blow the Cartridge’ is a weekly comic strip by former game designer turned web comic creator Cameron Davis. Humour is video game centric, with a focus on old games (and by old, I mean everything from street fighter 3 to Civilization). Instead of inside jokes about the 'game that came out a couple of days ago', Davis’ comics are relatively easy to follow with  a quirky often pun based humour to them. The comic updates weekly and in my opinion is worth checking out once to twice a month.
 Favourite stripSamantha Fox Strip Poker

The Gutters: It always surprises me how many people who read an enjoy comics do not know about ‘The Gutters’. Written by career web comic creator Ryan Sohmer (Ryan also writes Least I could do and Looking for group) and illustrated by a rotating roster of artists, the Gutters delivers consistent and hilarious commentary on the comic book industry. Easily one of my all time favourite web comics, Updates Wednesday’s and it worth checking out  weekly.
 Favourite strip: If Batman was on 'Lost' 

Chainsawsuit: Kris Straub’s Chainsawsuit delivers his funny, off beat and often bizarre take on the world in three glorious panels. Most of the time the strip hits it’s mark humor wise, although every now and then it goes on tangents that are a bit hard to follow. Straub’s cartoon figures are cute and instantly recognisable as his creations. Comic updates three times a week but only worth checking out once a week.
 Favourite strip: The Fontalist

Monday, 22 October 2012

Indie Comic review: Billy Demon Slayer season 2

In many ways Hayden Fryer's 'Billy Demon slayer' is the embodiment of the Australian indie comics scene. It’s bold, edgy, tongue-in-cheek, unapologetically Australian and most importantly was born from a love of the comic medium. And it really does show. Billy's been alive and kicking for 10 years now, at this point I would like to point out that's longer than most marriages, and his chainsaw wielding figure is a constant at Sydney pop culture conventions. Also he has chainsaw hands.

Set in the Sydney suburb of Walksville, the Billy Demon Slayer serious chronicles the supernatural  adventures of teenage Anti-Christ William Damon who spends most of his time fighting the minions of hell. After the first 5 issue story arc, as collected in Billy Demon Slayer season 1, ended with billy killing Satan, god and even leaving heaven in flames you could be forgiven for assumming Fryer hadn't left himself anywhere to move story-wise. You would be wrong though.

Season 2 sees Billy unknowingly caught up in the grab for power taking place in hell, now known to its demonic denizens as underworld, after the timely demise of the devil in the first story arc. The book opens on the surprisingly serious 'Blades of Marduk' prelude and then this seriousness is completely shattered when issue #1 opens to a naked Billy accidently being summoned by a group of cultists while he was taking a shower.

Indeed this story is full of the haphazard humour that was so great about the first story arc. Oddly enough even with the presence of nibbles the demonic hamster, season 2  features a more serious and darker tone then than its predecessor. Everything has a surprising amount of emotional weight to it and the story is much less tongue in cheek.

It’s somewhat of a new direction for the comic, but it works well and adds a longevity to the universe and character that were previously absent. Parallel to the writing, Fryer’s art has also evolved to become darker, more serious and just more fine-tuned in general. In many ways his art is reminiscent of Manga, featuring lots of shading and use of greys. His art is bold and has a distinctive semi realistic/semi comedic style to it.

To call Billy season 2 energetic would be an understatement. It's faced paced, all action and in just 7 issues Fryer manages to deliver an epic multi-faceted storyline that Marvel would spread over 20! He really knows how to keep the reader interested.

Overall I found Billy to be funny, original and not afraid to take risks when it comes to story direction, most of which pay off.

Billy Season 2, as well as all the other comics by Hayden Fryer and the lovely folks at Siberian productions can be purchased at:

Why I review Indie Comics differently or Credit where credit is due

If you are a regular reader of my blog (if such a person exists) you may have noticed my reviews, and particularly comic reviews, all share a certain format. I also have a habit of being quite cynical and I am not beyond nitpicking at everything from page layout, to the choice of font.  However you will notice when I review Indie comics I take a very different, more complimentary approach.

Some people may see this as going ‘easy’ on indie comics, but it is really about focusing on a comic’s strengths without riffing on its flaws. Don’t get me wrong if I think an indie comic is horribly written I'm not going to say it’s well written, I will probably instead offer some carefully worded constructive criticism. I also won’t give indie comics a rating out of 10 as I really don’t think it’s fair to slap a number rating on what is usually someone’s labour of love.

So why go ‘easy’ on indie comics?
For starters, it is not a ‘pity’ thing. It’s ‘holy crap’ you had the skills, self discipline and drive make this comic. Awesome. who cares if it's not perfect. You got off your arse and did something creative and original for no other reason than for the love of comics and creativity. That deserves a massive Kudos. 

From a logistical perspective, a comic put out by one of the big publishers (Such as Marvel or DC) usually have a team of at least three people minimum, usually a writer, penciller and colourist, not to mention the support staff  who handle the lettering, layouts and all the publishing aspects. In contrast to this an indie comic usually consists of one to two people an artist and a writer (often their one in the same) who have to negate the mine field that is printing deals and photoshop fonts...not to mention funding the dang thing!

So it's fair to say that releasing an indie comic is no small feat, that in itself is worthy of recognition. S please keep that in mind whenever you read any of my indie comic reviews. 


Monday, 15 October 2012

What Iv'e been watching

Walking dead-Season 3: So glad this show is back and still as scary as ever! The season premier had all the emotion, action and character development anyone could have asked for as well as ending on one hell of a cliff hanger. On a side note I am falling in love with Glen all over again. Kirkman You’re’ a genius.

Arrow: So the CW's largely hyped Tv adaptation of DC Comic's Green Arrow has hit our screens and it was about as average as I expected. The acting was horrible, the dialogue was terrible and nothing was even explained properly. It seems their trying the same formula they used for Smallville which goes something along the lines of: DC character + Hot actor = television gold for the lowest common denominator. There is nothing clever or original about this show, but for some unexplainable reason I feel compelled to watch the next episode.

Parks and Recreation: With season 5 currently airing I thought I'd finally go about watching parks and rec and managed to get through 4 seasons in a week and a half. This is either a massive credit to the show or just a disturbing reflection on how much Tv I watch... Easily one of the smartest and surprisingly heart warming comedies on Tv. Takes about half a season to get into but it is totally worth it.

Digimon: Was feeling nostalgic so decided to go back and watch one of my favourite cartoons growing up, Digimon. Surprisingly it is on par with how I remembered it and have managed to churn through the first 70 episodes rather quickly. Season 3 is standing out as the best season so far.