Digital Ash is Comics Bulletin's roundup of non-paper comics — webcomics, online shorts, digital-first releases. Sequential art made of ones and zeroes. Some of it you can read for free, others you gotta to buy.
Elsewhere on Comics Bulletin:
- Singles Going Steady covers the weekly floppies.
- Tiny Pages Made of Ashes hits the small press and this time we covered two print editions of comics you can read on Study Group.
Moth City is a series you should check out for the following reasons:
- It is an engaging story
- Gibson's artwork is fantastic
- It capitalizes on the unique pacing opportunities of digital comics
- It pushes the interaction between reader and creator
- It is free (and who doesn't like free comics)
In his press release for Moth City, Gibson wrote of his series:
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Civil war, when the governing Nationalist Party fought Mao’s Communists, Moth City tells the story of an American weapons tycoon who must solve a brazen murder, before his city’s inhabitants are wiped out by the warring factions.
That's the story, and Gibson tells it well. There is intrigue, great characterization and action here. It's really the full package. As well, if you look at the images running concurrently with this review, you can see that Gibson's art is great to look at: expansive, dramatic, sure of itself. He's doing everything here, from pencils to inking to coloring to lettering — and it's pretty damn impressive.
What really got me excited about this book, though, was HOW Gibson was telling his story.
Many of the digital comics I've read present their story by echoing the traditional panel by panel reveal of their print counterparts. The reader chooses the pacing of the story by first scanning the entire page and then moving on to each panel progressively, pausing where they choose, focusing on each moment in itself. In Moth City, though, Gibson uses a simple slide show format within each panel. This adds a dynamism to his storytelling, one in which he exerts more control over the pacing of his storytelling. In a way, it is almost like a motion comic, but without all the awkwardness inherent in that presentation and that uncomfortable sense of "trying to be something other than what it is" it engenders. There is a naturalness to Gibson's format and it really plays with how the reader interacts with the story.
Characters speak and what they say is revealed as the reader clicks through a panel. Sometimes panels change within themselves, sometimes even a subtly as having a character wrinkle their brow. This adds time and movement, yet erases the pause between images that traditional panel to panel reading creates. The format still relies on the reader to provide closure, but by having the audience engage in that intellectual enterprise within the panel itself, the format adds a new layer to the process.
In a way, through this presentation Gibson acts almost as a film director, insomuch as by choosing how much is revealed in each panel at one time he controls the pacing, but as this is still a comic, the reader is also an active participant in that progression. What this does is separate the digital experience of reading this comic from the kind of experience you have while reading a print book, yet at the same time it enhances the personal interaction a reader brings to the basic medium itself.
It's cool stuff and I wonder why more digital offerings don't follow this format. Reading Moth City takes full advantage of the manner in which Gibson has chosen to tell his story. It engages you in an interactive way and adds a new level to the digital reading experience, providing, as it were, a new layer of intimacy.
Task Force Rad Squad #1
(Caleb Goeller, Buster Moody, Ryan Hill)
Task Force Rad Squad is a comic I've been looking forward to for a while — pretty much since Caleb Goellner (of Comics Alliance/liking Power Rangers fame) and Buster Moody rolled out a Twitter account for the comic and read the title.
TFRS are four young folks who used to battle the forces of evil in Bayside Grove, but evil's been vanquished and everybody's doing their own thing — that is, until one of their own unleashes a new cosmic evil (well, new to them) and the band has to get back together to fight it and stuff.
Power Rangers is all over Task Force Rad Squad with their distinct vehicles, color coordinated costumes and theme-based monster foes but the creative team make it their own with Goellner's uniquely hilarious approach and Moody's art, which looks a bit like R. Crumb grew up watching anime instead of jerking off to giantesses or whatever his deal is. I guess there's some James Stokoe in there, too.
Task Force Rad Squad is a comic you can buy in a great-looking digital form, but it's one where the artwork has a texture you don't often get in digital — or, fuck, most print comics. It's the feeling of something made by two dudes just banging it out because it's a fun thing. Call it garage comics — it's handmade and organic and just a little scrappy. And the hand-lettered words are just as charming charming as the style and linework change to fit the mood. It doesn't feel like a Photoshop layer — this is a comic where the creators understand that word balloons add as much as the art itself.
Hopefully Goellner and Moody roll out Issue #2 soon, because Task Force Rad Squad has an infectious energy and I crave more of it. It's fun comics for cool people who like good things.
– Danny Djeljosevic