By Dustin Cabeal
Comic books are a wonderful thing. They give people the opportunity to push the boundaries of art and storytelling. They insight conversations because unlike any other form of entertainment you can have every degree of love and dislike for a comic. You can agree and disagree on movies, TV, video games, a song even, but you can read a comic, love it or hate it and hand it to a friend expecting the same results and be completely taken back by their response.
That said, when a comic is pushing those invisible lines of art and story, it’s going to rub more people wrong than right. For me, when a comic does this I can easily get behind it if I like the artwork. For example, a comic called Alex Automatic pushes the storytelling in ways I haven’t read in comics, and it was easy to get behind it because the art complimented the experience.
Unfortunately, The Gulf needs three separate pages to explain how to read the story. From the list of characters, from what the creator was attempting with the work and a date and time coding that was instantly forgettable. There are no words to the story, but instead, as the author puts it, images to capture memories. Which if you’ve ever read a dream sequence in a comic book you know that they can be a chore to understand and usually not very enjoyable. The Gulf is in many ways an entire graphic novel that is seeking for you to understand what it’s presenting but giving so few clues as to how to do this feat.
Then there is the artwork. It’s hard to talk about it without insulting it. It’s not that the linework is amateurish or the fact that I don’t particularly like the style in the least bit. It’s the way it was all constructed with rudimentary Photoshop skills. The first page is the most glaring in which images are just zoomed in and cropped. With one panel having a mountainside of completely different design and details just placed onto of the zoomed in panel. Simple tricks like making the image being layered transparent so that the backgrounds match are completely ignored, and so each and every time an image is layered upon another image. I’m by no means a pro or master at photoshop, but it drove me nuts to see a car of wrong proportions, in a white square pasted on top of a scene with trees in the background.
The story is one that will elude me. I get what the author explained, but visually its so confusing to follow with all the jumps that I found myself referring to the legend at the beginning, but then quickly giving up. It didn’t seem to matter to the story that there was a code to the years and time in which it was being constructed. Worse, real photos are used, and at that point, I had a hard time even committing to calling The Gulf a comic book or even a graphic novel in any sense of the word. To put it another way, you must first know the boundaries before you can push them. Knowing the rules and ignoring them is different than whatever The Gulf was shooting for with its presentation.
But hey, comics. Someone else, no matter how unlikely it seems, will look at this as a masterpiece. It’ll move them and speak to them in ways that I can’t fathom to understand. While my score for it will be rather low, it is not the end all be all of scores. If you follow my reviews and know where we differ, then you’ll be able to make your own decision based on my review if The Gulf is for you or not. That’s the point of a review after all, not to 100% agree with it, but much like comics see where you fall on the scale of enjoyment. I hope that The Gulf will find its audience, but I have the feeling that it will have an uphill battle.