Writer: Robby Bevard
Artist(s): Ben Dunn, Doug Dlin, Robby Bevard
Publisher: Antarctic Press
Halloween at the Feeple house. You can never tell who will show up – a vampire, a witch, a shinigami, a kitsune, a superheroine, or a goblin named Rumplestiltskin.
“Family Ties” is actually a quiet little interlude in the generally chaotic life of the Feeple clan. While Anna Feeple confronts Rumplestiltskin about his intentions toward the ninja thief Sora, her son Ricky, along with Sora, breaks into RNC Headquarters to steal – tea leaves?! Oh, and let’s not forget that Sora is only one of three girls interested in Ricky. And this issue takes one of them out of the running.
Thanks to an ‘In Previous Issues’ re-cap, character id’s, and Robby Bevard’s scripting skill, new readers can jump into this story easily. Not only do you know what’s going on, you also know who these people are. The dialogue very ably defines the nuanced characters. Anna is kind, intelligent, subtle, and fierce. Sora is flirty, hot-tempered, loves her ‘Grandpa’, and is competent and insecure at the same time. Ricky is a nice guy, a bit impulsive, and clueless about girls. These characters quickly become people you can relate to and sympathize with after seeing them in only a few panels.
Though this issue is set-up for at least two new storylines, it feels complete in itself. That’s because Bevard knows how to sculpt a story. There are two plot conflicts. Both are resolved. One completely, but the other in such a way that readers will want to come back to see what happens next. It both satisfies readers and leaves them wanting more. Although the physical action is minimal, we see – and are told – enough to know that the potential for a knock-down drag-out ninja action fest is there. It’s not a question of if, but of when.
Ben Dunn was publishing Original English Language manga before just about anyone else. And it shows. He’s a master of his craft. His lay-outs are clear and uncluttered and flow naturally from one scene to the next. The reader is never confused about where her eyes and attention should be focused. His ‘sound effects’, which are really more directorial notes, add fun, an aural dimension, and a feeling of physical motion to the work.
Dunn created these characters. He knows how they should look and he exploits those looks to get the biggest emotional pay-off that he can in each panel. It can be something as minor as lowering an eyebrow, and yet readers know the character’s whole emotional landscape has changed.
Some of Dunn’s best work is done with the character of Heidi, Ricky’s superheroine girlfriend. Because she wears glasses, much of her face is hidden at times. Dunn compensates by getting readers to focus on her body language. If you check out the party scene, where Heidi is a lonely island in a sea of party-goers, you’ll see what I mean. Dunn’s layout is exceptional here. Heidi is sitting beside the lamp, so that the light falls on her, spot-lighting her despair. It’s a beautiful moment, the black and white nature of the book making it even more impressive.
The final three panels of the book showing Ricky, Heidi, and Sora are also exceptional. The completely silent exchange is expressive, dynamic, and heart-breaking. Even readers unfamiliar with the characters will be caught up in their emotional drama.
Without a great deal of fan press attention, Ninja High School chugs along year after year, providing readers with fun, emotional satisfying stories. From its Samurai Champloo inspired cover to its final tender panels, Ninja High School #154 upholds that proud tradition with an issue that shouldn’t be missed by fans of solid story-telling.
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