What Did I Learn?
In this comic by Dan Hess, Roy the up and coming Mercenary gets teamed up with Rick, who just graduated from Sports Broadcasting School, and Emily the Data Specialist. They work for the Rebus Mercenarial Services, traveling the universe to accomplish various missions. By the end of chapter one, this newly formed crew has been sent on their first mission.
They’re not what you would call a smoothly working team and none of them are particularly worried about the other team members surviving any given mission. Rick has the brown jacket in the middle and Roy is the muscled bruiser on the right. Emily is between them. (That should be obvious, but, you know… for the sake of completeness.)
They trade quips and one liners and are, at best, nominally committed to accomplishing their mission. Sometimes their actions even save the day in spite of their mishaps. It’s good, lighthearted science fiction.
Also, the character designs are vaguely animalish but thankfully they don’t behave in the animal-alien stereotypes. Actually, next to more alien looking characters in the comic, they just seem like another kind of alien. The animal-like features serve mainly to help you identify with them without being stereotypical. It also helps with the non standard panel framing in that you’re not put off by any funny effect of the perspective angles on the character anatomy.
Some of the chapters are animated. Episode 6 is fully animated, with no word balloons. Earlier chapters have some animated features with word balloons and sound plus an alternate standard comic (with panels and word balloons) option. A few of them reguire Shockwave plugins that my browser doesn’t have, so I can’t speak to them specifically. Seven has a nice dialog-less lead in, though.
I liked the overlapping narration boxes, too. Sometimes a panel’s borders constrain the contents and this technique allows the comic to just focus on the relevant part of the action. This isn’t the first comic to do such a thing, obviously, but I too need the reminders that there are different ways to do things.
What Did I Learn?
Not to say that cliche and stereotypes don’t have their place, but it’s really difficult to walk the line between making good use of the shorthand and letting it run the show. I’m not sure there is a formula or a rule of thumb that lets a creator successfully farm well trodden cliches. It’s a touch here, a subtle reference there and a solid hit from the cliche in this area. As L’Amour said, “it’s the instinct born of understanding.” Perhaps the best we can do, shy of such instinct, is to take a look at comics like Rebus.