Thursday, May 08, 2008

Radical Comics (Not So Much)

A couple of weeks ago I picked up two new comics on the rack from Radical Comics. The titles were HERCULES and CALIBER and feature some work by some great talents whom I'm a big fan. But I have to admit that it was the pricing of the comics that lured me in and not the packages themselves.

HERCULES is a great comic concept and is ripe for the comic book format - so much so that it seems that just about every publisher has a version of the character somewhere in their library. What makes this Hercules different however is the "300" approach to the story. This Hercules is certainly a man-warrior of his time with all the pluses and minuses that implies. He isn't necessarily a gentleman - he's violent, brutal and yeah, unforgiving - but there is an appeal there.

That is, if you can get through the haphazard storytelling of the pages within. Images sort of blend together and if you hold the comic five feet away from your eyes you can't tell what's going on! Text is poorly placed and the story doesn't flow from one page to the next. I would have said it was a "technique" to mimic the chaos of battle, but the panel placements are equally confusing for scenes that are "calm."

The Hercules comic features a cover by Steranko, but for the life of me I would have shot the proofer who accepted this print job. The printed cover is waaaay too dark and doesn't accurately reflect the image I'm posting here. It's muted and well, ugly. That plus the gloss coat makes for a dark and unimpressive package that doesn't pop off the shelf.

The same problems that appear in Hercules also appear in CALIBER. A confusing story that is a remix of the Arthurian legendfor the "westerns audience" is made moreso by the poor placement of word balloons. My head had to bob up and down IN THE SAME PANEL to read the conversation between two characters that btw had too much text in the first place.

So if I was soooo disappointed with these why did I pick them up? Well, they were each a dollar and that lowered the bar sufficiently for me to try them out. When the price goes up for the second issues I won't be there because $2.99 or $3.99 is too much to pay for stories that don't work. Even if they are sandwiched within glossy cardstock covers.

Radical is in need of a radical reinvention of its product if it's going to survive.

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