“Who am I? Let me tell you. I'm Leroy Soulo...the Lone Star Soul! Walkin' this desolate, desert sandscape searchin' for his lost soul. In a silent soulless land. So onward I'll walk. Towards the sound. Towards the light. Towards the soul. And I'll walk crossin' these, empty soulless sands... on a cold, long walk amongst the stars...til I find it. Onwards to the soul...” If I never read the word 'soul' again I'll be happy. Above is an excerpt of the actual narration from 'Lone Star Soul', mind you near the end after 24 similar pages with many phrases repeated ad nauseam. Featuring a decent afro-anime aesthetic and glossy looking graphic design I was really ready to give Lone Star Soul a shot, but in the end the experience was as long and gratingly boring as an actual trek across an endless desert.
We can start with the backstory, that is communicated to us not through the events of the comic but through a dense multi-paragraph long page of text that bewilderingly has the font size shrink as you read on, making me zoom my PDF review copy in deep to make out the smallest words, a benefit people buying physical copies won't have. The backstory is simple, a fallen movie star Leroy Soulo has been reduced to making cheap Z-budget action films and in the middle of shooting is suddenly transported to a desert world where he has lost all memory of who he was. Firstly, as I said before, we don't get to see this. All of this information is a page of text, so we first meet Leroy in comic form after he's already a wandering amnesiac. This in itself is a confusing choice, not just because it's a miserable way to tell a story, but because it eliminates the narrative point of making Leroy suffer from amnesia. We know who he is, we were just told explicitly, so instead of uncovering it slowly alongside our hero and figuring out the central 'losing his soul' metaphor, we're just waiting for him to learn what we already know.
Regardless, Leroy treks across the desert world on foot, following a beam of light and the song of his own lost soul. That's about it. So far, there aren't any dangerous animals, aliens, or other people save for the one that Leroy is headed to meet at the beam of light. Leroy is apparently fine on the food and water front, because he never does any scavenging for survival, or sleeping for that matter. Instead, two thirds of the book is just self-important internal narration, repeating the word 'soul' and it's homophone as if doing it enough times will make it profound. At first I was willing to overlook it, as quite a bit of the anime Lone Star Soul seems to take influence from has a habit of theming like this, but Lone Star takes it to the extremes of self-parody. The phrase 'onward I walk, towards the sound, towards the light, towards the soul' is repeated at least eight times. Paired with some unsubtle religious symbolism (there's a walk to a mountaintop and later a walk on the surface of water) it seems incredibly convinced of its own hypnotic profundity when the reality is bogglingly tone deaf.
Art wise it's not awful, with quite a bit of effort put into making the book professionally presentable. The desert is attractively rendered in 80's sci-fi album cover style with monolithic monuments, rusted debris, and multiple omnipresent moons in competition to see who can blot out more sky. The art style could be compared to a less maniacal and confident Stefano Cardoselli, roughhewn but not devoid of style. Unfortunately, the artist has a bad habit of putting fuzzy white highlights on every surface, muddying up the otherwise good colors. Still, the art serves as the high point of the book, and does have some memorable imagery.
The final nail came with the last ten pages of the preview copy (44 pages in all, 21 of them being the comic's sequential art) dedicated to Lone Star Soul's insane expanded marketing. There's a variant cover, exclusive posters, something called 'Jive Talk', 'Soul Points' that can be used to unlock content when you buy enough product, a 'Lone Star Soul Sketchbook/Companion Sourcebook', and a 'Deluxe Prestige Extended Edition', all before even a second volume has been released. It's important to self-promote self-published work, and part of me appreciates the ambition, but after wading through the actual content it just makes the whole effort feel even less self-aware. Is the creator really so convinced that people will be addicted to his comic that they'll want to earn up 'Soul Points' so they can unlock napkin sketches and commentary of his thought process? The best self-publishing creators I meet are usually just relieved that anyone wants to read their work at all, by comparison this extreme almost smarts of convention booth arrogance.
What will happen to Leroy Soulo next? I don't know. He has a gun now, but we don't know if he'll have any reason to use it seeing as there's no obstacles to face so far. He has two big torch things on his back that at first I thought might be swords, but I probably have to buy the companion guide to learn what they are. I think a lot of my feelings about this book are really disappointment. I wanted to like it but the come down from that was hard, a book that's the most unloveable kind of pretentious. I'll leave the job of collecting Soul Points to someone else.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Peter Campbell Self-Published Price: $13.58 Website