What Did I Learn?
Today’s review is on Surfboards and Rayguns by Bradley Overall, which has one of the most fitting titles a webcomic can have. It has surfer hero types, Hawaiian beaches and cheesecake. It also has aliens in the style of Lilo & Stitch – and not the goofy Disney aspects – I’m talking about the alien behaviors and diverse forms while still being relatable. And sometimes rock and roll can save the day.
Now all that might distract you from the theme of fighting your destiny that winds its way through the story. The initial pages, expecially, have the main character Wizer looking back and thinking over the events of his life. Looking back, things sure don’t seem like they worked out that way accidently to him. At this point, it’s not clear exactly when he’s looking back from but I’m hoping it’s right before a big showdown.
But before we get too deep, chapter two returns us to some good old fashioned pulp story. The story is not quite as simple as the first chapter led us to believe and we learn more about Den-Arria the tattooed alien woman who has crash landed on earth. She has foes that have followed her across the stars, with some of them having truly interesting villain potential. I doubt that the situation is as simple as they appear presently, either.
At thirty one pages, we are still very early into Surfboards and Rayguns. On the forums, the creator describes it in this way: “It’s intergalactic love and war on the beaches of Hawaii. It’s a sci-fi action adventure with just the right dose of camp, humor, and surfer philosophy (and a little romance, you gotta have a bit of that.)”
I’m curious. Will it develop into an ongoing series where the heroes fight alien crime or is it a story with actual development and change over time? Will Surfboards and Rayguns lean more towards camp or more towards the philosophical side? Or will it always straddle that line?
While we wait to see how that will work out, let’s consider the art. It is, in a word, slick. The characters and tech, including space ships, are well designed, crisply lined and shadowed with good highlights. The special effects are well done with good variety of looks for different effects.
The layouts are pretty creative, too. Look at how this beer bottle moves your eye through the page – I wouldn’t have thought to do that. On the other hand, the narration boxes even give you some choices as to how to read down the page – I don’t recall being confused about what was going on even though at first glance there isn’t always an obvious path. You kind of meander your way down the page which seems work nicely with the go-with-the-flow surfer stereotype philosophy.
I am undecided about the backgrounds, though. You don’t see much of them all that often but they are well done when you do see them. Perhaps it’s just my art sensibilities but the complete lack of linework in the backgrounds caused a momentary disconnect for me as I read. I suspect at least part of it has to do with how everything else on the entire page has at least one contour line, so the different background style stands out to me. Even so, feel free to cry foul on me and rally for the comic’s defense.
What Did I Learn?
I know that creative people can take ideas that don’t work naturally together and unite them. That’s how we ended up with a giant worm throwing a yachting party in the desert (in Star Wars.) Is it really so surprising that someone can successfully mix up intergalactic romance, action and surfing? Good art, a little camp and some philosophy help smooth the way. It will be interesting to see where Surfboards and Rayguns goes from here.
Be sure to stop back for a new review next Sunday on ArtPatient.com.