Review: Captain Stone #1

Captain Stone is missing, much like this title should be missing from your pull list. The biggest problem with Captain Stone #1 is that it is constituted by nothing but problems: the artwork is lacking, pages are cluttered with too much prose, it's not grabby enough to be a #1, and it's just not that interesting.  Some of these problems clearly owe themselves to the fact that this comic was transferred over from the much more indulgent medium of motion comics.  I think the more basic aesthetic question that Captain Stone might put to us is something like the following: if it loses something when you put it in print, is it really a comic?  Captain Stone alone almost makes me want to say "no."

Let's start with the artistic problems, which occur on two levels.  On the first level, you sometimes read pages that have the panels just sort of slapped together in a semi-coherent sequence.  In other comics this is sometimes done intentionally to convey a particularly chaotic scene, while sometimes it is used for other narrative or aesthetic purposes.  But here, what happens is that a bunch of distinct beats of the story which were meant to be spread out in the motion comics medium get crammed onto a printed page.  Maybe there was a way to make this work and it was a layout failure; but regardless, as it appears on the page, almost every one page sequence is a mess.

The second problem with the art is that it lacks any personality of its own.  For nearly every single page I feel like I'm reading a poorly scripted entry into a "Wannabe Sienkiewicz" contest.  I know, I know: he's not the only person allowed to use watercolor and collage elements in his style.  Yet there's a damn good reason that you can probably only name three successful sequential artists who lean heavily on these elements because it looks like a blurry confusing mess when it's executed poorly.   And Captain Stone is definitely executed poorly.

CapStone_#1_CoverThen there's the prose.  Consider Page 4, the second story page of Captain Stone #1.  By my count, it has just shy of two-hundred words on it.  Now, there's an unwritten rule in comics that you shouldn't have more than roughly twenty-five words per panel.  You're only supposed to break this rule if you're damn good and know what you're doing.  Now, Page 4 of Captain Stone is a full-page spread, so it has more leeway with prose.  But still, by the metric of the average six-panel page Captain Stone manages to be verbose.

My condolences to the letterer, because the lettering work in the print version of this comic looks like caption vomit and it's not the letterer’s fault.  In the motion comic, these full-page spreads read like Powerpoint presentations with images being layered over one another as more text comes in slide-by-slide.  Now, instead of getting a sequence of captions as was intended, you get bombarded with captions as soon as you turn the page.  It's just not good comics.

The biggest problem with the words isn't the lettering, though.  It's the words themselves.  The prose is just dripping with sap.  By page two of this comic I'm unimpressed with the artwork, the clusterfuck of lettering, and the heavy-handed, pretentious writing style.  Again, not good comics.  I'm not going to care about a character because you take me to their childhood and mortar-shell me with a story about their bedroom ceiling.  There's no feeling to this at all and, if anything, I'm going to dislike this character and project any pretentiousness in the writing onto her.  Maybe the autobiographical approach to an origin story just isn't the way to go, at least not with this kind of writing.

Even if the sequential art that accompanies this script didn't multiply the problems with the writing, it is still endemic to this script that this be a poor issue of a comic, especially as a #1.  A comic creator's main job with a #1 is to get me to care about something; a character, a setting, a situation-- anything!  And nothing happens in Captain Stone that I have a reason to care about.   Oh, the female anti-hero had a wild departure from her father's expectations?!  Do tell!  When the story manages to drift towards neater and more conventional narratives like this one, it toes the line far too well.  There is no middle-ground in this comic between the uniquely bad and the commonly mediocre.

Captain Stone provides a gateway for people to really bash motion comics.  What defines a lot of artistic mediums is their ability to work within certain conventional restrictions.  For comics, these restrictions are pretty infamous.  You have to be able to shatter the bones of a story and cram it into a twenty-page suitcase to share with others.  Yet what motion comics allow for is a certain degree of indecision that leads to a lack of precision.  Not sure how to use a one-page spread in order to get across a particular story beat?  Fuck it, just use three different one-page spreads!  The problem is that this lack of perspicuousness does not at all transfer onto the printed page.  All of your inefficient story beats now have to be rendered efficient with pages that each only tell half of the story because you got to be lazy in the first place.

Maybe there's hope for efficient and interesting motion comics to the point where some might make a good transition to the printed page.  But Captain Stone #1 is the negative paragon of everything such transcriptions will have to fix in order to make this work in the future.

Score: 1/5

Writers: Christina McCormack and Liam Sharp Artist: Liam Sharp Publisher: Titan Comics Release Date: 12/17/14 Format: Print/Digital