Monday, February 14, 2005

24th Leg: Twelve Dragons

(This leg took so long because I wrote the whole thing, and forgot to save before closing the window. ARRRGH!)

If you recall back at Killroy and Tina, I had a choice between Ascent and Twelve Dragons.

I really wanted to blog about Ascent for ages, but Twelve Dragons really looked interesting, so I checked it out and decided to do a sidetrack. I get back to Ascent next leg, but first...



Comic: Twelve Dragons
By: YuoMa (Artist) and Werner (Writer)

Setting and Elements: Fantasy World (Pangea)
Content Type: Story, Action-Adventure, Epic, Explicit violence, Explicit sex scenes

Art Medium: Ink, Grayscale, Occasional Colour.
Art Style: Manga-Influenced. Semi-Realistic

Is About: Krok, a half-dwarf/imp, Grog (changeling) and Milinida (Hellhound) are three players in a massive prophecy concerning the fate of the world of Pangea. The dragons of Pangea are slow dying out from some mysterious evil, and something must be done to save them and the world.

Website: http://twelvedragons.keenspace.com
Frequency: Irregular
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation: There was no comic on the front page, but I'll admit I was surprised at the Mature rating. Must be for the violence or something.

The website feels rather cluttered hard to read, to be honest. The fixed background especially draws your attention away from the foreground, which is always a bad thing, especially when you can't tell which parts of page are foreground and which are background. The dragon in the logo looks good though.

*clicks on first link*

Looks like a promising setup... and...

*clicks next few pages*

...

Whoa. Hokay... I see why they have earned that mature rating now...


The Concept:
I'm kind of divided about the concept. On one hand it's an intriguing and complex setting. On the other, it involves prophecies and more specifically... overly-specific prophecies about fate people doing fated things. I've never quite liked the concept of prophecies as if you're fated to do something, it sorts of takes away the tension of it, but that's just my opinion.

The Art:
The art is definitely manga-influenced, although not that much that I would think 'manga' the moment I see it. Most of it looks hand-drawn, and there's some clever use of colour for special effects.

Sometimes though, the photoshopped touches don't work out as well as can be hoped. Or sometimes the bright red blood just looks too artificial.

In the beginning the postures looked rather stiff and unnatural, especially for the action scenes. Sometimes the limbs are bent at impossible angles. The action scenes are rather good despite this, however, even the overly saturated red blood splotches doesn't take away too much from it.

The anatomy is variable. Sometimes it looks very good, sometimes it just looks wrong. I do like the distinctive character designs, although I find it odd that the majority of the female characters seem lose their clothes pretty quickly.

In the case, I think they really made good use of it in the beginning for shock value and horror, but after awhile the rest of it seems to be there to pander to the audiences, and one chapter in particular came close to reading rather like someone's ill-disguised wet-dream.

Nitpick: The sword in this pic looks (and is being used) more a like a rapier/foil, not a sabre. Besides, a sabre is more of a slashing weapon, not a stabbing one. It's nitpicky of me, I know, but I'm particular about my blades.

Nitpick two: The laws of physics have been defied.

The Writing:

Is compelling, although it does require some suspension of disbelief, though.

The strongest point is probably the level of world-building that has gone into the creation of Pangea. There's just so much complexity and detail in this story that it really draws the reader in. The storytelling isn't afraid to take a step back from the plot and meander a bit, and manages to do something few comics manage to do; that is to introduce the reader to the complex world they created without being made do fell they're being derailed into a history lecture.

The majority of characters, even the casual villian that gets chopped into little itty bits, get some level of characterisation. Some are particularly excellent, my favourites are currently Krok, Milinida, (Oi! Give her more screen time!), Pulpo and oddly enough, Gargoleth.

I wish I could say the same for a lot fo the females, though. In fact with the noted exception of Alyzehadra and Lady Milinida (one who is a dragon and the other a hellhound), and perhaps the exception of one elf mother, the majority of female characters in this comic all seem to be severely underdeveloped. If fact, they're seemingly there mainly for
  1. Playing damsel in distress (Too many to count)
  2. Romantic interest (Tatiana, perhaps Tanek though I hope not)
  3. Titillation and getting naked (Far too many to count, and this really spoiled the character of Tanek for me.)
  4. Tail (Far too many to count)


Now before any of you start getting a knee-jerk reaction and accusing me of being a feminist, let me point out I'm not against the potrayal of any of these things in a story or comic. Rape and other such bad things do happen to women (and men) and ignoring the fact they happen and insisting that they shouldn't be potrayed as happening is nothing short of stupid. In fact, I was quite impressed in the beginning how they daring they were with it, untill the repetitive 'damsel in distress' plot devices wore thin and threadbare after a while.

No, my beef is that it seems to be happening almost all the time. If you still don't get my point of view, imagine a comic where 75% of the men are always having their clothes ripped off and frequently end up being rescued from capture/rape from the women. There's just something wrong with that inverted picture, isn't there?

Almost as bad as introducing a strong smart and omnipotent (an unrealistically vomit-inducing) female character just for the sake of 'identifying' with the female audience. *rolls eyes*

Oh, and the bonus stories involving the four swordsmen are excellent! Keep them coming, but hold the damsel-in-distress setup, please. It's getting really repetitive.

Problems:
It's the internet, and frankly, gratitious nudity is no big deal. But despite being a regular reader of Loxie and Zoot something about the nudity depicted really bothered me. It wasn't till later when I figured out what was wrong with it. (And yes, picture is NOT safe for work, school or the company of people of tender and impressionable ages.)

There are several nasty typos in the archive pages. I know... I'm almost a spelling nazi ;)

Oh, and cast page no updatey, so forgive me for not getting the names right if any.

And fillers in middle of story = bad!

Overall:
Twelve Dragons was interesting for being a comic I was impressed with in the beginning, felt repulsed by after a while because of the incessant fanservice, and then drawn back to by the sheer strength of the story and world setting. While this speaks of the writer's skill in storytelling and pacing, I think it would have done much better if it didn't try so hard to titillate the male audience and end up alienating the other half of potential readers in the process.

In short, if you like epic storylines, well- developed fantasy worlds, don't mind explicit sex/violence, you might like this. IF you're easily offended, don't like unequal portrayal of genders, don't like gratitious violence, DiD (Damsels in Distress) cliches and the prophecy/world revolves around them syndrome you may want to give this one a miss.

It's something like marmite or durian, an acquired taste you'll either love or hate.


The Next Leg:
Sidetrack over! Ascent, Ascent and Ascent!

4 comments:

  1. "The laws of physics have been defied." LOL. :D At first, I thought you were just being picky. That is, until I clicked the link and saw the page you were referring to. The impossibility of it was just funny. But maybe that was the intent of the artist? Either way, I'll probably take a look at this later when I get back home where it's safe to read this comic.

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  2. Hmm... if the impossible flip was the intent of the artist, it doens't seem to have had much reason. I presume he could have talked to the egg next to it as well as on top of it.

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  3. I've been reading his comic for a number of months now and I feel your review rings true. While the dragon and hell hound are intriguing and seem to have hidden depth, his grasp and portrayal of "women"(as apposed to females) is often at my threshold of "why am i still reading this?". I appreciate and enjoy female sexuality and sex in sequential art but the one dimensional approach brings the over all quality and hope of a more diverse readership plumiting down. Too often it feels like the author is sating himself or appetite of rabid fanboy/girls, while repelling a more diverse readership. From his main page comment section:

    "Reviewed by Jessica on 05/27/04 Pointless (I rated it 2/10) A series of
    perverted drawings with no realy message, done by a guy who oveously dosn't get
    enough. If you are going to make women into sex objects, can you at LEAST make
    them semi-realistic?" answer: No, I tried. I get plenty. And
    buy a dictionary.

    It seems he is aware of the problem and has heard this critisizem before. However, the complexity of the world setting and overall promise of the upcoming storyline does drag me back.

    By the way, I loved the breast correction...it actually made her look desirable. Instead of just plain disturbing ( remember my horror, the day that page was posted).

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  4. Hi! I really enjoyed your review of my comic. I agree with 99% of it and have pretty good excuses for the other 1%.

    I appologize for the under-development of female characters, but that's obviously going to change now that tanek, and a few other more permanent ladies have joined the cast.

    The bouncing nudity is a mix of fan service, and actual ideas that I wanted to introduce. like how the easiest way to show Grog as a womanizer is by showing him doing womanizing things.

    The suspended laws of physics thing was an attempt at cartoony cartoony movement that very few liked. I still like it...

    All in all, very good and honest review. I think I'll go read some of your other reviews on any other webcomics I read.

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