Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review - Jennifer the She-Wolf - Issue # 1

One of the bad things about getting out of the habit of writing, whether about writing comic book reviews, specifically, or whether about writing, in general, is that it can end up taking you longer to get back into the groove of writing than you had ever expected it would take.

Much longer, in fact!

So, on the one hand, I owe a formal apology to Mister Luis Cruz, who has been waiting most patiently on me forever and a day, to get around to actually writing a review for his comic book called Jennifer the She-Wolf. On the other hand, it is a blessing to have a comic book publisher prod me - repeatedly - to get back into the swing of things. So, for that, I owe Luis Cruz a special thanks, on top of the apology for the rather lengthy delay.

Now, with my own sloth as a reviewer out of the way, let me move straight into the meat of the matter, where this comic book review is concerned.

I have read this particular comic book, Issue # 1 of Jennifer the She-Wolf, several times, now. Because of the delay incurred in getting around to it, I went ahead and read it, once again, just now, that its content might be fresh in my thoughts and in my mind, once more.

Luis had asked me before, more than once, in fact, to just tell him whether I liked his comic book or not. I could have told him, of course, but my initial intention had been to write an actual review for the comic, and in spite of my own self-inflicted delays in getting around to it, a review was what was intended, and a review was what would be delivered forth. To be quite honest about it, to not review this comic book would be to do a disservice. There's more here, than at first meets the eyes.

So, what do I think about this comic book, this thing called Jennifer the She-Wolf?

Well, in all honesty, I actually think more than one thing about it, simultaneously.

There's stuff about it that I like, and there's also stuff about it that I don't care for all that much. In the overall scheme of things, though, with everything about it taken into consideration and judging the work as a whole, as a singular and collective work, I think that it has more going for it than it has weighing against it.

They say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. There's reasons for that, you know. In fact, I think that that saying applies with special force, in the instance of Jennifer the She-Wolf Issue # 1.

I've looked at the front cover art on Issue # 1 many, many times. I'm not really a fan of it, neither of the cover art, itself, nor of the coloring, thereof. The wolves and the woman on the front cover are just posing. They're engaged in no action. The only action on the front cover is what appears to be a shadow of a werewolf in motion.

The coloring of the front cover is too thickly applied. It ends up imbuing this comic book with an amateurish and cartoonish look. The front cover art for Issue # 1 of Jennifer the She-Wolf does not do justice to the content that lies just beyond.

To not move past the front cover is to miss the artistic and literary gems that glitter, and which imbue this work with some visual and textual heft.

One of the core challenges of writing a comic book review lies in telling you about the book, without spoiling the book for you by saying too much. It's a pitfall that is best to avoid, but at the same time, there are times when you have to risk crossing that fine line, so that you can better clue people in on what to expect.

If you flip the page and turn past the front cover, you are treated to a bare bones, straightforward credits page. It serves its core purpose, but it does nothing to stimulate the mind. The title is depicted in bright red lettering on the credits page, and the actual credits are in white lettering. It is legible and serves its purpose, but nothing more.

But, hey! It's just the credits page. Right? In this instance, the answer to that question is, "Yes."

Once you flip the page, again, and move from the credits to the story, you head straight into the year 1922, and the artwork is a combination of black and white and gray scale. Later on, as the story progresses, you are taken to the year 2014, where the artist and colorist conspire to bring you more of a present context for the story line to progress through. These later pages in Issue # 1 are rendered in full color.

I don't dislike this approach. In fact, I like it, just fine, and not just because I am partial to comic books rendered in black and white format. Rather, this dual take provides a good way, visually, to transition from the past to the present, insofar as the timeline of the story's progression is concerned. Personally, I think that it facilitates the art of telling the story in a visual manner.

Of the two, both the color and the black and white and gray scale, I think that the coloring did not live up to the story being told. Yes, it suffices. The colorist did not treat readers to a bunch of glarish, eye-hurting colors. The colors are presented in pale tones. It has a deadening effect, which may be what was the colorist strove for.

In fact, that color scheme worked well enough, once the zombies arrived on the scene.

The what??

That's right. You heard what I said - Zombies!

But, isn't this a comic book about werewolves?

Well, yes, it is, but then again, it's not a comic book that's just about werewolves.

So, what that translates into for you and I (and for other readers, as well) is that this comic book's story line has some meat on its bones.

The story, itself, isn't hard to follow. The pacing, in fact, is pretty much spot on. It reads well, if I may characterize it that way.

But, as the story progresses, plot devices are employed that imbue the story with more depth.

Why did the zombies attack? Where did they come from? Why do they all shut down, in one scene, when someone pushes a digital button? Who is this someone? Who is on the other end of that telephone?

The quality of the art, itself, isn't bad. It's higher than I typically encounter with independently published comic books, in fact. The visual difference between the best scenes and the worst ones left me wondering why the artist seemed so into it, in some scenes, and somewhere else, with the visual handiwork on display in other scenes.

As far as the inking goes, I am of two minds about it. Some of the inking, I like quite a lot. Other instances of it detract from the overall quality of the visuals, impairing the atmosphere of the story being told. But, all things considered, the inking largely succeeds, in my book.

Again, as with the artwork, the quality of the inking is inconsistent. That I love some of it is a testament to the strength of the inker, but that so much of it leaves me feeling ho-hum is a testament to the fact that this comic book title could stand some greater attention to detail and better adherence to consistency in future issues of Jennifer the She-Wolf.

The page where the werewolf appears, and the page following that one, are pages where my eyes open wider, and the story begins to sink in, visually. Those are, in my considered opinion, the two best pages in the whole issue.

Where the car hits the werewolf, I've nothing but thumbs up for this comic book, and the panel where the werewolf attacks the man who was driving the car, initially, my eyes light up with interest. It is at that point that my eyes are grabbed, and they drag me to a whole new level of interest, compared to the comic book ride up to that point.

The panel work isn't bad. It is at least a bit imaginative, and the panels add to the comic book's overall value. I would encourage this creative team that brought Jennifer the She-Wolf Issue # 1 to life to continue exploring what they can achieve, where the use of interesting panel work is concerned.

The lettering throughout the comic book is passable. It's OK. The speech bubbles are not one of this comic book's strong points, and while it is doubtful that the lettering on display in Issue # 1 is likely to win any awards, it was still nice to be able to read the comic book all of the way through, from front to back, without trying to figure out what the dialogue and narration were trying to tell me.

The first half of Issue # 1 was better rendered, visually, than the second half, even with the issue of color completely aside. Half way through the issue, it's as though the creative team forgot how to use narrative boxes.

Personally speaking, I think that narrative boxes worked very well, as far as driving the story line in the first half goes. They increased my interest in the story being told. Once you get to where the story picks up in the present era, the style of storytelling changes, and maybe that's one of the weak points of Jennifer the She-Wolf Issue # 1.

But, I don't want to give the wrong impression. Personally, I think that one of this particular title's strong points lies in its storytelling. Kudos to the writer, for it is the story, itself, that is ultimately responsible for the biggest share of why I liked this comic book.

When I reached the end of Issue # 1, I found myself still interested in the story, and that is exactly where you want your comic book to be, if you're the one publishing it. It's at the very core of why I would want to pick up and continue reading, come the next issue.

As I sit and flip the pages of this comic book back and forth, one thing that sticks out to me is the lack of consistency in quality of the art rendered, from panel to panel. I've mentioned this, already, but it really does stand out to me, as I browse and ponder what lies before me.

Overall, the mood of this comic book is serious and somber. That fits the bill for what is visually on display here.

On a personal level, I'm not a huge fan of werewolf stories. This may well account for why I am receptive, as a reader, to zombies being injected into the mix. For me, at least, that breaks fresh ground, where comic books are concerned.

The special effects lettering is a mixed bag. None if it is spectacular, but a lot of it is sufficient for driving a point home, or for heightening the feel of a particular action or event taking place in the panels.

Overall, I think that this independent comic book is better than the sum of its individual parts. Some panels are bland and boring, while others do a solid and respectable job of entertaining me, both visually and in a literary manner.

The story progresses rapidly. It might even be paced a tad too fast, but one thing that I didn't get, while reading through Issue # 1 of Jennifer the She-Wolf, was bored.

At least the pacing is sufficient to retain my interest, and it did accomplish getting me interested in the first place. Looking back on it, after reading it, though, I can't help but to feel as though the author was in a rush to get us to where he was taking us, as far as the story was concerned.

But, without reading the next issue, yet, how can one be sure?

So, in summation, while this comic book didn't leave me howling at the moon, nonetheless, something in my blood yearns for the release of Issue # 2.

Count me in as part of the pack of fans, where this comic book is concerned!

Cruzin Comics - Issue # 1 - Jennifer the She-Wolf
Publisher: Cruzin Comics
Story: The Mystery of the Undead (Part One)
Writer: Luis M. Cruz
Artists: Henry Simon & Miky Ruiz
Colorist: Henry Simon

Letterer: Jorge Medina

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