What Did I Learn?

kerslashKerslash by Ben Reynolds is an appropriately named comic because it’s about a girl who is trying to survive college life. But she needs her samurai sword to do it.

It’s currently one of Comic Rank’s top fifty comics for good reason. The line and layout offer some striking visuals with convincing movement and exaggerated manga-style expressions. There are other manga touches like speed lines and a very soft application of grey tones and patterns. We also get some great forced perspective shots and some very creative use of a sword in accomplishing school projects.

The art gains a real polish to it beginning in chapter two. Some of that has to do with improvements in the line and layout but the biggest factor was a switch to more subdued tone and pattern. It made Kerslash much clearer to read.

The young college student named Paige now attending the Kannon Institute of Art and Design. She was recently expelled from the Koga Ryu School of Ninjitsu. That’s enough important story spoilers from me, since there are only thirty six pages to read so far (and three updates this month already.) I’ll vaguely hint that she had to leave Koga because she failed her ninjitsu midterm.

In true over-the-top fashion, she gains a blonde viking enemy named Erika, has a Sky Pirate transfer friend named Reggie (the same in the sample image) and a roomie named Delilah. Kannon allows any credits from any kind of school, so this combination of persons is neatly explained yet still has a sense of fun to it.

Overall, Kerslash has a nice balance of humor, action and just a spicy hint of drama. There’s a consequential finality to the comic that you just can’t ignore. It’s summed up perfectly in this one sentence from the about page: “Kerslash is the sound a sword makes as it seperates your waist from your torso, or at least that’s the sound it should make.

I like elegance in comics, where one element can accomplish more than one thing. The art in Kerslash has elements of danger and laughs at the same time. The writing carries a weight which pokes fun at how melodramatic and over the top it could be – all without actually being so. I want to describe it as a tightrope that the creator must have to carefully walk between demands of conflicting story sensibility. But I can’t. There’s enough forward energy there to see that the story direction is clear and the chosen elements of technique and influence don’t clutter it up.

After that last paragraph, I imagine some will say I might be over appreciating this comic. They might say that Kerslash could have a much deeper, more oriental style of storytelling. And I suppose it could, but then it wouldn’t be as fun. It would be a heavy, stylized piece that few would appreciate. At this point, it’s a little less than two comic books worth of pages. I’m sure you can spare the twenty minutes it will take to check it out.

What Did I Learn?

When planning out my layouts, I have to ask myself what can I cut? Do I need to show my characters getting their bikes out of the garage, closing the door, putting up the kickstands, getting on the bike and riding to the store? Or can I just show them on their bikes with the wind in their hair? And do I have a clear idea what the comic, the particular storyline and the characters are all about? Or have I allowed too much to influence the work or tried to put too much in? If I have, then it will be muddied and unclear to the reader. Kerslash is a quick, enjoyable and clear read and I hope you enjoy it.

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