Review: Chinatown

Chinatown is a project that I actually supported on Kickstarter. It had an interesting art style that caught my attention and a mysterious story to support it. Over the holiday’s I was sent my digital copy for supporting the series and I wanted to review it to increase awareness about the book for its official release in stores, but also because I’m dying to talk about it. For starters the comic doesn’t follow what I would call traditional storytelling techniques. Now that doesn’t make it bad by any means, but it does make for an abstract reading experience at times. The comic opens up with Amy and Lucy sitting in her room. She asks Amy if she wants to see the devil and explains that it’s something her mom told her. The two girls put their shoes on the opposite foot with their back to her full-length closet mirror and count to three. The story Amy’s mom told her says that if they bend over and look between their legs into the mirror they’ll see the devil. We cut away though never knowing what they saw.

After that we follow Dr. Lau as he arrives at Pigsy’s BBQ for a meal. He talks to the owner’s son Travis for a bit, but the conversation is rather dry. Wu the owner of Pigsy’s comes out to chat with Lau and we learn a few things about the struggling area. Lau is trying to get a community center built to revitalize the dying area and we also discover that Wu’s daughter Samantha hasn't come home in a few days. From there we bounce back to the kids again and meet Damon. A kid that doesn’t believe in god because his glasses don’t fit his head, but the kids are interrupted by a strange starving dog barking at them. Amy’s parents tell everyone that they need to get inside because of Samantha’s disappearance. It’s clear that the town is very uneasy about the young girl that’s missing, but what evil will they invite inside to rid themselves of the one haunting them?

Obviously I haven’t gotten to the juicy part of the story, but that’s why I said in the beginning that the structure of this book is very different. It has a deliberately slow pace so that it can build up the day-to-day life within Chinatown. Then when it switches gears and becomes abstract and crazy you have a baseline for the weirdness. There are a lot of visual metaphors and really great scenes. A lot of it isn’t spelled out for you; you just have to take what you want from the story at times. There is one scene with Lucy in particular that explains a lot of what’s happening in the plot, but also breaks down the character types as well and was probably my favorite scene of the book.

I really enjoyed the story and though there is still a bit of a mystery left to the story, it was really good. The opening’s pacing and structure was very good. The two girls taking and counting down leads right into the title page and it was very impactful and gave the impression of a movie or animated film opening. Really the parts that were the strongest were the strangest parts of the story. The other thing about the writing is that it isn’t overbearing with the dialog. Sure there are characters moments in which they rattle off a monologue, but a lot of first time creators fill the page with dialog that is more of an exposition than anything else and that doesn’t happen here.

The character designs really steal the show and it was the original reason I was drawn to this book. There’s this mixture of proportions that look un-natural, but work perfectly for the story. Wu has a huge head that while matches his frame and build, makes him look weird and different from the other people. There are plenty of other examples of large heads and small bodies throughout the series. There’s one scene in which Lau goes into Pigsy’s and sees everyone looking like an animal or insect and it’s spectacular. It was my second favorite scenes as literally everything in the place changes, from the backgrounds to the people. It was a strong visual scene that tells you a lot of the story without a single line of dialog to do so. In fact that’s the strength of the story for that scene as the conversation is completely normal, while the visuals are anything but.

I really liked this story and after you read through it once, it actually becomes a faster read the second time around. That’s when you can pay even more attention to the visuals and beginning seeing the many layers of the mystery involved in the story. Currently, you’ll only find the book in the Chicago area unless you were a Kickstarter supporter. You can check out their site though and find out how to request the book for yourself.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Wesley Sun Artist: Brad Sun Publisher: Sun Bros Studio Price: $19.99 print, $5.00 digital Website: