Unity

What Did I Learn?

Today, we’ll review Unity by Fluffy, a long form science fiction comic.

Unity 9
The name Unity is taken from the name of the star ship that the characters (and population) find themselves on. Most of them really have no idea what’s outside Unity or how long the ship has been on its journey. I even daresay that most of them don’t know what is really going on inside Unity, either. It’s run by scientists who follow their own agendas.

The main character is named Juni (Juni Melrose,) who awakens with amnesia here. Juni was involved in an accident and is somehow heavily involved in the operation of Unity. Juni is a highly ranked scientist with the official title of Organeer First Class but things are not all they seem on the surface.

Interestingly, Juni behaves in a feminine manner and seems to take on the feminine social role. Apparently, before the amnesia, Juni’s preference was to be referred to as gender nuetral, or ‘it.’

Anyway, that little distraction is part and parcel of what you can expect from Unity. Nothing is as simple as it seems at first. You see, it wasn’t just an accident that befell Juni and no one is giving Juni any details. Even Sam Roarke, who is Juni’s bodyguard/love interest seems to keep Juni at arm’s length and in the dark. He doesn’t seem all bad, though – but later on he lactates – which made me question his gender. I checked the cast page, which does confirms it but he actually explains in the comic itself shortly after the scene in question. Very little is what it seems, indeed.

Continuing on the same theme, the linework of Unity misleads your perception,too. It has a sketch quality that causes you to overlook different perspective shots, good depth cues and well constructed alien body types. It also has interesting use of word balloons.

Each character has their own speech font and Juni even has her own thought balloon font. Different languages have their own colors, too. To let you know who is speaking, some characters even have their own balloon shapes and you can see partially through them, as well. They often overlap when multiple people are talking over one another. It adds some conversation confusion nicely, since the text beneath each balloon still gives the mental impression of voices behind voices.

To approach Unity as reader, it helps if you think of it like a story told out of order and each scene impacts the whole. Even though that’s technically inaccurate, you are supposed to be uncertain about the overall storyline until you’ve read into early 2009’s comics – at least I was. There’s a huge amount of layered depth in the Unity world, from the backwoods to Tamu’s de facto government with plenty of questions left yet unanswered and some things yet to even ask. How many versions of Juni exist? Is Juni even the real Juni? Will the inhabitants of Unity ever see any unity?

There is also a neat little feature under each comic where the transcript pops up when you mouse over it. Sometimes it also shows you the translation of what is said in an indecipherable alien language in the comic itself.

What Did I Learn?

With the depth of the Unity storyline being revealed in scenes, it allowed the advancement of mini stories within the larger story arc context. Further, it provided a much better and entertaining way to communicate all the background details of character and setting than simply listing these things encyclopedia style. Also, taking old techniques like special shaped word balloons and creatively expanding on them can add to what they offer the reader.

When you start reading Unity, make sure you start from the beginning. Please note that while the storyline progresses, there are other mini comic diversions sprinkled throughout.

0 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review! I’m glad to know that it’s actually getting read, and you picked up on a lot of details that I think a lot of people miss, or at least get confused by.

    Just as a clarification, the word balloon shapes are an indicator of how Juni is perceiving the words, not an aspect of who is talking.

  2. Interesting point about the balloon shapes being more about Juni rather than what is being said. As readers, we really are far more IN Juni’s head than in other comics.

    I’ll edit a note in there with the clarification.

  3. Oh, and that 25 essential expressions you mention below a comic is fabulous! McCloud has the emotional primaries which combine, but which do you need to draw most often? Which should you practice? Those 25 are the bomb!

  4. I didn’t come up with the template for that – it came from a long-circulating thing on deviantART (a site which I generally don’t pay too much attention to, but I happened to come across that one day).

    I don’t think I really focus on practicing any particular expressions, so much as I just draw what’s necessary for the story.

    One time I was showing my drawing technique to an animator friend of mine and he said, “Well you certainly have the saracastic, disaffected look down.” That seems to be the default expression I use when drawing someone. I try to vary it a bit more now.

    I actually don’t draw for practice very often, unless I’ve been away from comics for a while or I feel like making a sketchbook doodle – basically, drawing comics IS how I practice. There’s not much more in my sketchbooks than what goes onto the site; usually I sketch to hash out a new character design, and other than that I just prefer to keep things freeform. I’m not a fan of model sheets or whatever.

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