The Webcomic Watchman

Monday, October 22, 2007

Review #32: "3's and 7's"

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"He made love like an eagle falling out of the sky..."

[Two song references and this review hasn't even started! I'm on a roll!]
Title: Spades
Artist: Diana Cameron McQueen
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Updates: Unknown

"Your move, Doctor Haus." The man to my right said in a heavy Russian accent before proceeding to exhale a cloud of smoke directly in my face.

"You realize that cigar will eventually kill you, tovarash?" I muttered after I finished coughing from the smoke.

"Forgive me, I keep forgetting to read your Surgeon General's warning on these things." The man waved his cigar in front of my face anyways, and said, "Of course, if one has a death wish, a bullet is much faster and more efficient than death by cigar. Now, are you going to call, or are you going to fold this hand?"

My attention turned back to the two playing cards lying face down on the soft, velvety green table. There were three spades in play already, I only needed one more...

"Tell you what, I'm going all in on this bitch." I shoved all my chips into the center of the table as the assembled crowd around us suddenly oooooed and ahhhed at my play. The Russian nearly choked on his cigar. All the while, I was hoping that whale would jump away from the bluff.

The artist has billed her comic Spades as a sort of "modern fantasy." Usually, this kind of genre mixing is among one of my favorites: seeing the battle of old-school vs. new-style, evolution vs. tradition, spiritualism vs. humanism, magic vs. bullets...and the list goes on. It is difficult to pull off correctly, but when it's done right, it can be quite awesome.

Spades certainly has the makings of a good comic, but as it stands, there ain't much to get excited about. Storywise, McQueen jumped right into the characters without talking too much about the setting they are in. It seems to me that Spades could've been set in Arthurian Camelot (for lack of a better example), traded the guns for swords, and little would've changed from the story.

The story features a guy with one eye, named Kanon, who happens to have amnesia. The only thing he can remember is that his name is Kanon. Somehow, he has the power to fly and to stop a speeding vehicle with his bare hands just like Superman. After 100+ strips of canon (no pun intended), all we've got is that Kanon has teamed up with a pair of thieves, has amnesia, there's an evil snake-headed guy who knows about him and a fortune-telling mage hinting at danger in his path. That's not to mention the long-haired Mr. Hydra, who can't possibly be evil. I have yet to see the twist away from "Generic Fantasy Story X."

As for the artwork: While the drawing of the characters is decent, there is just too much damn shading. Even in chapter 3, which supposedly starts during the daytime, you can hardly tell from flipping through the pages that there's any sunlight at all. In some pages, the background just disappears entirely, leaving naught but a grayish blob behind the character, as if the background were just a luxury for the characters to talk in front of. It only leads to more confusion as to where exactly the characters are in terms of the setting. The coloring does provide an interesting symbolism for the magic that pops up every so often in this world.

Another little bug in this comic are the speech bubbles. Sometimes, it seems that McQueen didn't quite plan how big they should be in regards to the art of each panel, and in some cases the text is so squished it can be difficult to read.

As of right now, I can't quite give Spades the Doctor's recommendation. I can understand not giving everything away too early, but you do have to drop a few clues in the story about the what/where/when/why at some point, otherwise people may just grow tired of being dragged along and stop reading.

As the river card came up, it appeared that I didn't have the hand I was hoping for. But that didn't matter anyway, as the Russian had hit the floor wheezing from all the smoke accumulating in his lungs and folded by default without calling my bluff. As he was escorted out of the room by his posse, I peeked at his hand. Had he called, he would've destroyed me.

"Told him those cigars would kill 'em," I smirked at the dealer as I collected my winnings. Now maybe those collectors would get off my case.

UPDATE (10/25): [The first couple of paragraphs in the actual review were kinda dangling alone out there, so they've been absorbed into other paragraphs for better effect. The gist of the review remains unchanged.]


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