Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Friday, January 11, 2008

A Review: Rogue Angel #1

How's this for nifty! I got sent a review copy of IDW's Rogue Angel! I almost never get sent review copies, so this is mildly thrilling to me. :-) I've decided thus to try my hand at a review.

I'm going to warn you ahead of time, I'm not a professional critic or reviewer, I have no aptitude for visual arts and very little knowledge of the technical aspects of comic book creating. So as reviews go, this is going to be the substantial equivalent of cotton candy. Which shouldn't shock any of my regular readers at all. :-)

I'm going to admit ahead of time that I've never read any of the Rogue Angel books. For that matter, it's probably been at least a decade since I've looked at a Mack Bolan book. So I'm not going to be able to judge on the quality of the adaptation or of the original material. I'm going to look at this as though it's a brand new franchise. Because to me it is. :-)



I have to say, I really like the design of the main character. I'm not really sure how practical all that long flowing hair is for an archeologist, but, well, that tends to be one of those things that I'll write off with an "it's comics". I admit, I tend to be annoyed when the lead female character is supposed to be some kind of fighter but looks flimsy enough that she'd break her arm lifting her sword. Annja is both remarkably tall and fairly athletic looking. I also like that she's dressed fairly normally. We get a fair bit of cleavage shots, but I think the tank-top/khaki combination seems like a natural wardrobe choice for the character.

I wasn't going to comment on the comic as an adaptation, but I've noticed it's fallen into a trap that I think is fairly common for prose-adapted-to-comics, (or prose-writers writing their first comics). We don't really learn anyone's name. Ultimately, after a few panels of conversation we get a couple of first names in conversation, but after reading through the entire issue, I still don't know what Annja or Rashmi's surnames are. It's a small detail, but I think it's fairly important to have a name.

I tend to attribute this sort of thing to the prose-to-comics shift because in prose, we get the names as soon as the narration starts. It's a non-issue and we can jump right into the story. In comics though, without the steady stream of narration, I do think it's important to establish a name, a full name, right away.



I really like the Annja's best-friend (sidekick?) character. Rashmi's cute. I like the turn-about of a character from India being interested in the "exotic West" rather than the other way around for once. I think it's fairly easy for adventure stories, especially archeology themed ones, to exoticize and inadvertantly dehumanize other cultures. I like her design as well. She's primarily dressed like any American post-grad, but the heavy hoop earrings, thick bracelet (which tends to disappear in some panels) and torq type necklace are nice, quick visual indicators of her home culture without being too "LOOK FOREIGN CHARACTER!!!" about it. She looks like a lot of young Indian students at my school. And her infatuation with Mark Twain is a nice bit of quirky individuality that doesn't cross the line into annoying obnoxiousness.

I'm posting this panel just because I really liked it, I think we all know what this is like:



Also, in a nice change from a lot of stories/series who gloss over the academic foci of the lead characters, we actually get a fairly legitimate sounding area of interest for Rashmi. Her archeological focus, the old West and how the roles of people of color have been neglected for the "mythic culture of white men on horses", sounds like something that I'd really like to read about.

I also like that there's a legitimate reason that Rashmi asked her friend for help. It seems like a lot of time in these sorts of stories, the lead character has no real reason to be in the location before the surprising violence breaks out. In this case however, Rashmi has a real quandary even before the violence breaks out.

Annja herself is an interesting character. Like a lot of adventure leads, she's more taciturn than her talkative comrade, but I think the use of captions is fairly skillful. They're not as over-saturated as I tend to expect from prose-to-comic adaptations, but instead are used fairly sparingly. I don't know how much of the narration is from the original book and how much is written just for the adaptation, but each narrative line seems to be carefully chosen for maximum evocation. We do get a fairly strong sense of the character's personality in each line and none of it feels wasted.

I'm not very good at judging action, but I found it easy to follow at least. The flow of action is fairly hard to confuse. And I really like the transparent-to-solid effect of the magic sword. I also like that Annja seems to have some skill with fighting, but isn't perfect at it. Competent but not perfect is a good thing.

As far as it goes, I think the comic is a fairly nice opening. I'm still not entirely sure what's up with the magic sword, but it sounds like the origin story's coming up in the next issue. I do think I've got a reasonable understanding right now about who Annja is, which is a plus. (Though I'd still like to know her surname.) The friendship between Annja and Rashmi is believable without the need for forced declarations. They interact like old school friends who may not be in contact as often as they like, but still genuinely like one another.

The art is cute and expressive. A bit cheesecakey in some respects but not over-the-top. I think I like this comic. I'm looking forward to the next issue.

6 Comments:

  • At January 11, 2008 6:41 AM, Blogger running42k said…

    Very good review. For a first timer you hit it out of the park.

     
  • At January 11, 2008 6:43 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Aw. It's not my VERY first review. I think I average about one a year. :-P But thank you.

     
  • At January 11, 2008 7:32 AM, Blogger Centurion said…

    In the two panels you posted she looks like Laura Croft a bit, except she has a sword instead of guns.

     
  • At January 11, 2008 12:27 PM, Blogger Ragtime said…

    Re: Names

    I can never remember them. When it is put in the first panel, or whether I'm introduced to a person at a cocktail party. I would consider it the first early sign of dementia, except I was the same way when I was six years old.

    What helps me, though, is to not tell me your name until I know something about you. "Hi, I'm Ashley" doesn't tell me anything except "Somewhere in the world, there is a woman named Ashley who, if I remember correctly, has brown hair."

    Wait until after we are talking and I find out that you have a mental inventory of every single episode of "Bewitched", can quote dialogue, and have very strong opinions of the relative merits of the two Darrens, and there's a somewhat better chance that I'll remember, "Oh, yeah! That's Ashley who has a Bewitched fetish!"

    Therefore, I usually assume that the name was mentioned on page 2, and I forgot it. It won't stick with me until the second or third issue anyway.

    I do, however, appreciate books with a "Cast of Characters" page at the beginning.

     
  • At January 11, 2008 3:58 PM, Blogger Palladin said…

    Thanks for this, I have seen the ads for the novels in Sci-Fi Magazine, but like you have not read them. What I was looking to buy it for was to support someone I became famillar with on ComicSpace, Renea DeLeiz. I was going to pick it up blind, but your review helps me now not feel so unknowing about the book.

     
  • At January 12, 2008 3:16 AM, Blogger Your Obedient Serpent said…

    On the long hair thing:

    Speaking as someone whose fieldwork often puts him outdoors and in the sun (when I can land a job that lets me DO fieldwork), I can say from experience that long hair helps protect your neck and ears from the sun. That's why you see all those shaggy-looking paleontologists on the Discovery Channel.

     

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