I recently opened up my review blog on the Tapastic Forums, and received dozens of requests! We’ll have reviews for months XD
This first one is by creator Infected Blood, a completed sci-fi/military-action/romance comic called The Green-Eyed Sniper – A Sho(r)t Story. It also has a Tapastic mirror if that’s more your jam (it was mine, despite my general aversion to Tapastic reading format, for reasons detailed below).
The Green-Eyed Sniper – A Sho(r)t Story (hereafter TGES-ASS, for ease of typing and my own infantile amusement) is, as I said, an interesting combination of genres. If I had to pick I’d say it’s primarily a lesbian romance/drama about a sci-fi sniper named Sekhmet (oh wait, maybe the titular sniper is meant to be Shanti? Sekhmet feels more like the MAIN character though…oh well). TGES-ASS (Ok fine, just TGES) predominantly focuses on her relationships with the other characters as she runs from a dark, war-crime torn past. The setting strikes me as being potentially post-apocalyptic, but may just be dystopic sci-fi, it’s kind of hard to tell and the About sections don’t shed much light on it, leaving it either intentionally or unintentionally up to the reader to decide. Ah wait, after MUCH searching and peeking at their next comic project in this world, I can confirm that the setting is a near future dystopic parallel Earth. So hey, my intuition was mostly right!
Also, I’m like 83% sure that “Sho(r)t” is supposed to be a play on mixing Shot and Short. Maybe 84%.
Also, as I mentioned before, this is a completed short story, so a preliminary round of applause for producing one start to finish! Mad props.
TGES is designed to be a short story, and as such has already been completed. This is a bit odd for me as a reviewer since I could spoil the ENTIRE plot and not just catch you up to speed with the plot SO FAR and let you continue on as new episodes come out. So, be warned, I’m probably gonna spoil things.
TGES is divide into 3 parts, 2 short (~10 pages each) and 1 long (~70 pages). I’ll talk about each part separately.
In Part 1, we meet Sekhmet and Shanti as they fullfill an assassination job against a target, a war criminal whose name doesn’t really matter. What matters is that then Shanti receives her next target: Sekhmet. Sekhmet, we quickly learn, is a war criminal of the highest order.
In Part 2 we briefly have a confrontation between Shanti and Sekhmet, with Shanti refusing to kill Sekhmet, who then professes her feelings for Shanti. But alas, Shanti is already in a relationship with another woman, Blitz (we’ll meet her soon). Sekhmet knows this, having decided to profess her feelings and then try to kill herself to end her misery.
Parts 1 and 2 were brief, single scenes, but Part 3 is much longer and have several scenes across years of time. We see a small bit of Sekhmet’s history, essentially when she first met Shanti and Blitz, as well as have a LOT of love-triangle drama. Ultimately, Shanti breaks up messily with Blitz and decides to be with Sekhmet, but we end on a major downer when we learn that Shanti’s boss is still going to enforce the hit on Sekhmet.
So I know that TGES is a short story, designed from the get go to be brief and often more artistic in terms of how much plot is shown and why, but I personally was not wowed by the plot. A lot of that is personal bias and wanting to really dive into and develop things, whereas TGES kept things very brief and shallow. We as readers are TOLD a lot of events and backstory and etc instead of shown, and many things never get explained. Honestly, the first time I read through this I was convinced that there was a Part 4 to come, but no, it just ends on what I initially thought was a huge cliffhanger. The creator IS making a new comic set in the same world, I believe set in Sekhmet’s past, due to start on March 8th, 2017. Unfortunately in terms of TGES’ plot, I feel that it is severely weakened as the stand-alone it is intended to be when so much information critical to understand it won’t be revealed until a later comic project is published.
Overall, the core plot of TGES was the resolution of a love-triangle, with other setting elements tacked on in incomplete and unsatisfying ways that in my case mostly served to distract from the core love-triangle. Add to that the fact that it didn’t meet my expectations going in what with the title and intro (the only intro/tagline is “The story of a sharp shooter with a target she would rather miss.” I’m guessing after the fact that Shanti is the sharp shooter mentioned, and shooting Sekhmet being the target?), and I’m left feeling… unfulfilled.
TGES has only 4 characters, the aforementioned members of the love-triangle and Sekhmet’s robot, Assisstant. You unfortunately can learn more about them from the Characters page then you do reading the comic. Again, much of this is because TGES is short, but the creator has larger goals for the world and characters. That larger character development, like the plot worldbuilding, struggles to come through in the compressed narrative. We learn, or rather are told, a lot about the characters, but not enough for me to feel like I understand them. Sekhmet deciding to shoot herself came as a shock because her character motivations and private grief had not been established. Shanti’s decision to switch lovers from Blitz to Sekhmet similarly came off feeling rather abrupt, and had to be explained in detail after the fact, because when it occured I had none of the emotional underpinning that would have validated it.
Of all the characters, my favorite by far was Asssstant, because everything I learned about her robotic snarky self (yes, I’m biased, it’s true) I learned by reading and watching her interact with the other characters, without being TOLD about it in narration or didactic dialogue.
Blitz is mostly one-dimensional, that dimension being “angry/naggy/jealous (ex)girlfriend”, and we don’t get to see her grow from that. I’ve already mentioned my problems with Shanti, and my biggest complain about Sekhmet is that everything she does is based on a backstory that isn’t part of this story.
I know that short stories are just that, short, and that it’s difficult to introduce and let characters grow in that short time, but Asssstant shows that it can be done and that the author knows how to do it. I just don’t feel like the other characters got the same treatment. The only growth we get to see for the girls is the change in their relationship status and subsequent emotional state. And even much of that growth appears to be invalidated by the final update. There’s something artistic probably about love lost and tragic romances and stuff, but it’s not resonating with me.
Some of the dialogue, like Assistant’s I posted above, is quite entertaining. Much of it however feels forced/unnatural and awkward. Part of that is because of the underlying characterization issue, where the words they say come across flat since we don’t have a great connection with the characters themselves. The conflicts and resolution of the love-triangle for me lacked emotional weight despite the words themselves being heavy.
The lettering for the most part was perfectly fine. Nothing that impressive, but the font used was legible and fit stylistically, the use of bolds and whatnot to emphasize things worked well. The speech balloons compesition and placement however were often suboptimal, not flowing nicely. For example, on this page:
You can see that the balloons are quite irregular in shape and their placement requires some optical gymnastics around the page. It’s not always a problem, but enough that I noticed it.
I am not an artist, and this is way better than I can draw, nor do I have the best artistic vocabulary to describe what I think are problems, but I’ll try.
First, there are some anatomy issues. Proportions, mega-defined muscles, awkward posing, etc. Hands are especially hard to draw, I hear from my artist friends, and that often shows, with the hands varying between extremely simplistic or oddly and I believe (med student anatomy guy here) incorrectly framed. This thumb for example has too many knuckles:
A bigger issue for me is inconsistency in how characters are drawn. Evolution of design from beginning to end is to be expected, but the characters often looked different from page to page or even within the same page. Many a comic gets away with very simplistic art without much detail as long as it is internally consistent within its own style and characters. TGES is highly detailed, with a lot of excellent crosshatching and other techniques to shade and provide contrast and texture. But I almost feel like it would be better served by simplifying the details to find an artistic style the artist can consistently deliver.
Panelling and Visual Storytelling:
I covered some of this before under Lettering, but the panelling was adequate. I’m not the biggest fan of the hand drawn panel borders, but can recognize it as a stylistic choice to give the pages flavor. The borderless panels run into a bit of an issue at times when whatever is drawn is cut off sharply at the edge. In the absence of the context of the border in can sometimes make whatever crossed the gutterline look odd. I’m also not a fan of speech balloons overlapping panel borders and going off into the gutter. But, overall, decent.
At the beginning of this review I recommended using the Tapastic mirror, and have linked to it with each of the pages I shared. This is because the Infected Blood parent website is a bit of a mess. It’s the hub of all of the creator’s work, which is good, but it lacks a good comic reader, which is bad. It looks like it doesn’t have a comic theme installed, just a standard blog post theme, clicking “Older posts” to load more pages, etc. The black on black on black theme isn’t the most visually appealing, and the large/tall banner at the top of every page requires a fair amount of scrolling down to see what you’re looking for. If the creator plans on using their website as their principal site, I really recommend an overhaul and redesign to make it more reader-friendly. Until then, use Tapastic, which while has it’s own issues, is functional.
TGES-ASS (had to do it one more time, got too serious in there) is a completed short story in what promises to be a larger comic world made by this creator. The premises of the world and plot are interesting and have obviously been thought out a lot by the creator based on the extra tidbits mentioned on the site, but the simple narrative of THIS story left me wanting more instead of being satisfied at the end. The art has issues but the creator has obviously learned a lot from it that will carry forward well into their next project. If the next story in this world makes use of lessons learned and gives the setting, plot and characters room to flourish, I’m confident it could be quite good. Eventually, I imagine TGES as being a side story in what will ultimately be a larger comic project and world, and as an early comic project it does that job well.
Overall, a decent comic, and the creator deserves to be proud for completing it.