What Did I Learn?

weekly webcomic reviews by Delos

(this is a repost)

Okay, the first thing you need to know about Battlegate by Chris Moujaes is the premise. Here’s the entire setup, as taken from the Story page:“Marcko Paolo is a 19-year-old military officer starting his career at a criminal detention camp in the northernmost regions of the Kingdom of Battlegate. Although he�s a playboy with a huge appetite for big parties and pretty ladies, he takes his career very seriously. Until recently, he thought his upward trajectory was a certainty…When his superior, Col. Agosto Banistero, calls Marcko into his office, Marcko thinks he’s about to get promoted to Captain and reassignment to more important duties…Instead, Banistero has assigned Marcko to parole a mischievous, foul-mouthed, 14-year-old boy named Hugo Hodako. Hugo has been mysteriously detained at the camp meant for hardened criminals. Marcko doesn’t understand how a young kid like Hugo could end up at such a harsh criminal labor camp, nor will Banistero reveal to him the circumstances behind Hugo’s imprisonment.Marcko’s assignment is simple – he must watch over Hugo for the next 2 years until he reaches his 16th birthday. During that period, his duty is to set the boy straight and give him a sense of responsibility. They must travel from town to town, and perform services for the kingdom. But along their travels, they’ll soon discover that a dark force is plotting against the kingdom.”

You can see how the stage is set for interesting things to happen, right? You will also note that nothing important about how things will work out is revealed here. There is an air of the unknown because there are conflicting bits of information pointed out. What movie or book is it that starts out saying “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times?” You want to know how good was it and how bad was it AT THE SAME TIME. The setting is preloaded with ripe possibility.

While I really like the premise, I wasn’t crazy about the art. Not that it is bad – it is actually fun to look at. The art has a sketchy quality and I found myself wanting (as a personal preference) the art to be a little tighter and cleaner. The colors are very good, with good shadowing. That adds a lot to the reading experience. I do have to mention that I was impressed with this comic in particular.

The story, as of this review, is just starting to break Act I. Certain antagonist characters (no spoilers here) have taken action against the heroes. I haven’t seen much of the playboy behavior from Marcko and Hugo hasn’t been nearly as annoying as I was expecting. There are some elements of the story blurb that are starting to be explained, so the pace is good.

One nice thing about Battlegate is how quickly you can discover information about it. On the bottom right has a little green book you can click on that is entitled “Battlegate Primer.” It takes you to an encyclopedia of places, characters and other notable things about the comic.

This is noteworthy because even for very short comics, there are many entries that would have to be illustrated, typed up and coded in. It shows how much the artist appreciates the fans and is far less clumbsy than a “Are You Ignorant?” button. I’m just kidding about the ignorant thing, there. It’s just that whenever I run across a comic that needs some explaining to understand it, I tune out when I see “New Here?” It’s more like I’m a visitor, not a native. I feel like I don’t belong there. I feel just as alienated by a Comic Glossary because that tells me the comic uses strange words and I had better read and absorb the glossary just so I can understand them. Do I want to bother with that?

Now, for a particular comic, it might be fitting to include a “New Here?” or “Comic Glossary” page. It’s not always bad. The problem is that you have to consider your themes. There is usually a need to catch new readers (and reviewers) up quickly, so something needs to serve that function. Battlegate offers us this Primer which introduces us to the place in a more natural way. It’s more like “here are some interesting things about this comic. Browse and check out what interests you.” There is also a button labeled “Story” which takes you to well done story blurb. It’s just enough to wet your appetite to see how things will work out. More importantly, what it doesn’t do is try to jam the story-so-far into the Primer.

Battlegate also has a great logo and a pretty snazzy interface. It is uncluttered yet very visual and serves to frame the comic nicely. While there are other links to unrelated places, everything within the top and bottom bars is part of the comic. I know that part of the look is dictated by the Squirrel Works layout, but I think it’s worth emulating.

Less is more, simply because we are bombarded with so much information. Let your comic take center stage.

What did I learn?

First, learn to write a good blurb – which is harder than it sounds. Make it easy to get more information on your comic but not required. Use the page to make your comic shine. Help the readers to appreciate the work you’ve created with extras and other fan service. Battlegate updates about twice a week, so there should be a new update to the story by the time you read this.


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