Earlier we promised to review more independent titles. That is a vague and undefined term, as Rokk thinks that anything not published by DC or Marvel is independent. I argue that independent are folks not already in the mainstream industry.
Black Dawn is an independent comic by both our standards. Published by Scare Tactix Graphix. The only ads in it are house ads filling out the page count, and the next issue is promised “to come out in installments throughout the year.”
Writer: John O’ Connor
Artist: Jeff Clemens
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: I, in general, do not like to spoil stories. This goes double for this story. The twist at the end is a major draw. To tease the story, we are following normal human protagonists in a modern day setting, after some kind of “event” has happened. We hear the emergency broadcast system tell us that this is not a test. Our main characters, a family of three, are gathering resources at night, and run into trouble. How and if they survive the encounter, and what other trouble appears near the end of the issue are for the curious to discover.
The Good: The art composition, the choice of panels, layout, and pacing serve the story. Jeff Clemens chooses his splash screens and 9 panel pages well. Clemens’ character designs are distinctive and easy to recognize, and he draws detailed and informative backgrounds. The character’s facial expressions in some panels are as clear and evocative as any in mainstream comics. The action of the fight scenes are easily followed, and exciting to watch.
The character’s dialogue is natural and believable. The story is clear, and easy to follow, with a solid structure and a natural hook ending. John O’ Connor script lets the art carry a significant portion of the storytelling, and pulls it off well.
The Bad: The figure drawings definitely suffer from an unpolished “indie artist” look. In some cases it is done very well, but in other cases the art is uneven and “sketchy” or “rough”. Not helping things is the flat color palette and “fill” like coloring. The book may have been better served going either black and white, or having a dedicated colorist do the work.
In one particular case, there is a two page splash of our female protagonist being surprised by the bad guy. The bad guy’s face is in shadow, which is done by showing an almost completely dark (all one tone) face, with only the eyes and evil grin of the villain showing. This was a case where the art took me out of the story.
The story unravels slowly, letting you figure out what is happening as you go along, keeping information from the reader that the characters know, to make the twist happen. The “f bomb” is used without necessity, other obscenities would have worked as well in its place. The ending, while a good twist, may not be enough to compel the some readers to pick up the next issue.
Overall: Black Dawn is one of the better, truly “independent” (in my definition, that does not include Image, Boom, Dark Horse and their like) comics I have read. The story and art show that the creators have developed and practiced their craft, and put considerable time and effort into the production of this comic. If apocalyptic, anarchic stories are to your liking, this is good, original work in that vein.
As an overall fan of comics, I felt the need to review this book not on an “indie” curve, but as it compared to the mainstream comics from Marvel and DC that I read. I wished that the story could have moved a little faster so we could have more of the mystery to chew on and speculate about for the next issue. I wished, overall, that the art was crisper, but I was impressed that all of the graphics chores were handled ably by one person.
I will be keeping an eye out for these creator’s works, and hope to see more and better in the future. You can purchase Black Dawn directly from Scare Tactix Graphix. You can also check out Black Dawn’s website and Jeff Clemens’s website for more information.