Story: Ben Michael Byrne
Art: David Broughton, Colin Wells, Richard Chin, Ben Michael Byrne, Craig Bruyn, Torston Pfeil, Martin Trafford, Scott Reid
TWO STEPS FORWARD, HALF A STEP BACK
Hoo boy. This is tough.
I reviewed the previous issue of NSEW a few months back, and quite enjoyed it. It had a great blend of familiarity and uniqueness that I wanted to explore further. Ben Michael Byrne is weaving a tale in a well – built world, one that had the common theme of dystopian sci-fi while also feeling fresh. It’s like someone has hit the reset button on repeated tropes and let Byrne run wild. Also keeping with the theme of NSEW, it is a smorgasbord of artistic talent. 7 Artists, including Byrne himself, lend their pens to this compilation.
I wanted to like this one. I really, really did. Whereas the last issue left me intrigued, this one left me feeling really confused. Now, I don’t consider myself a super smart guy. I know how to follow a story, though, and this issue seemed disjointed. Almost mystifying, but not in the way that makes you want to see what happens next, more so to figure out what is happening right now. The art transitions were certainly very jarring this time around. Not to say any of the art was particularly bad, it just lacked a flow from artist to artist. In a story where some chapters are only 3 pages, this is a bit of a showstopper.
Speaking of art, I feel that color may have helped with the art transitions and world building. I get that NSEW is moody and dystopian, but this does not always mean a lack of color. One exception I found was Richard Chin’s work on the story ‘Bulb,’ it had smooth shading and great lines. Byrne again throws a super sweet cover at us, one that has flat rustic colors – perhaps this style could be adopted for the internal art as well? Bryne also provides the art for the story for “Get Lit’ which comes right after ‘Bulb.’ I found this to be the most clashing of art transitions. Byrne’s art is by no means bad, but it is so different to Chin’s that is made me pause. I did like his scratchy depiction of the mutated ‘Terminals.’ Panel breaking and buoyant, it made my eyeballs itch. Another artist of note is David Broughton. Great shadows, and I feel he held back on the gore. Another great artist here is Colin Wells – his depiction of the Chequerheads was reminiscent of old surf life savers, and was something I’d never seen before. Good work, and kudos to all the artists involved.
The previous issue gave me a grand sense of world building, and that these stories will eventually all coalesce into a single, supreme story. That still may be the case in the long run (and I sincerely believe that it is) but this issue proved to be a head scratcher, more than anything else. I assume that, when collected into a massive story, this will not be such a struggle for me to read. Several re-reads are in order, and the fact that I feel compelled to speaks volumes. I will keep the faith that Byrne knows what he is doing. It does feel weird passing such harsh judgement on someones work that far, far, surpasses my own. It is what it is. I’m here to do a review and offer my opinion on the book. Pick it up, give it a go – perhaps you will feel differently.