Sunday, March 22, 2009

39th Leg: Rice Boy

Wayfinder and Kensington the Mouse lounged by the side of the busy festival street, watching the fracas between a group of overly confident hooligans and a rather portly Shaolin Monk.

"So Ken..." said Wayfinder as one of the men lost a front tooth, "Where do you think we should go next?"

Kensington, who was preoccupied with a piece of spilt melon, did not bother to issue anything more than a muffled, can't-speak-my-mouth-is-full kind of squeak.

"Thanks." Wayfinder rolled her eyes before ducking by reflex as a thug whizzed past her right ear. "Very helpful."

"If you're looking for a place to go, I can recommend going to visit the Rice Boy." said one of the onlookers in the crowd, who were too enjoying the free martial arts demonstration.

"Rice Boy?" Echoed Wayfinder, her curiosity piqued. "Sounds rather odd."

"Strange and psychedelic." The Onlooker helpfully supplied further as he pointed to the relevant anchor tag.

"Sounds good to me... KEN! ANCHOR TAG!" Ken gave a resigned squeak and finally abandoned the melon rind. "I guess we'll be out of here." said Wayfinder to the onlooker. "Thanks for the recommendation... Mr..."

"Max." said the Onlooker with a wave as Ken activated the anchor tag and sailed them away into another world...

Comic: Rice Boy
By: Evan Dahm

Setting and Elements: Fantasy, Surreal, Anthropomorphic
Content Type: Epic Adventure

Art Medium: Inked, Colour
Art Style: Unique

Is About: Rice Boy, who has been chosen as the fulfiller of an ancient prophecy to restore balance to the world.

Frequency: N/A
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
The main page is a portal page, which links to several comic projects, Rice Boy being only one of them. It looks to be that Rice Boy is a completed project, so I should be able to give you a complete review this time round.

Hm ok maybe not several comic projects. More like two, I think I got a miscount first time round.

The website design is really nice. It's minimalistic, but effectively pleasant.

And the art style looks interesting... Weird, but interesting.

The Concept:
A tiny little hermit of the woods, named Rice Boy, is chosen by the "divine messenger" T-O-E as the fulfiller of a great prophecy. But T-O-E doesn't really believe in the prophecy, and neither does Rice Boy. Unfortunately for them, the previously decided "Chosen One", does.

The Art:
The art for Rice boy is very interesting, with loose but well-defined lines, clean but moody colours, and character designs that can only be called unique.

There's a lot of design in this despite the initial simplicity, and a level of detail I find surprising. From the different faces displayed on T-O-E's monitor/head, to the plants in the background, the the landscapes of the radically different places in the world, it's quite amazing how Evan has managed to come up with so different designs for each race and character. Characters (will most of the important ones) are easily recognizable, yet bear elements in their clothing and such that mirror those in the real world that allow the reader to associate it with what they are supposed to represent.

I also love some other non-story details, such as how the header for each chapter is customized for an image suitable for the chapter.

The Writing:
Rice Boy is set in a strange, very original, and very fantastical world. The characters are all non-human, but have human characteristics, and in a way are a pastiche of our own societies.

The dialogue between the characters is often charming and well thought out. It's rare when I find a comic where I can read a page and just enjoy it for the sake of the dialogue. It's not something many comics do well. 

One thing I especially like is how characters introductions are done. The pacing is excellent, you never felt swamped by too many characters, and even the secondary characters who make brief appearances radiate depth of character.
The story starts out whimsical, and light-hearted, until a turning point where it begins to get darker and scarier.

So ok, the story is based on a prophecy being fulfilled and all that. And you all know that due to the premise being overused I tend to look askance at any story that is based around a prophecy. But the reason for that is stories based on that premise tend to be incredibly cliched and (what is possibly the biggest sin of all when storytelling) boring. If someone can take an overused premise, put in interesting characters and give the story new life, there's no reason why I won't like it.

The story was an interestingly good read and had lots of original points about it, but there were also times when annoyance at the plot broke my suspension of disbelief. I do think Evan has done a sterling job coming up with the characters and background, and the twist at the story is a refreshing change, but the sheer number of times Rice Boy can run into trouble only to saved/rescued by dumb luck/good samaritans/destiny gets little irritating after a while.

Yes I do realize this is often typical of any stories that involve destiny and prophecies, but it does detract from the writing when it happens too often because it really does smack of being rescued by a deus ex machina.

Of course, it's not saying Rice Boy is an entirely passive or cowardly protagonist. He really is quite courageous in his own way after all. Keep in mind for him, what he does what for him is an incredibly scary thing... he leaves the home he has grown up in, ventures into places he has never heard of and despite all he goes through he never gives up on his goal.

It's hard to put my finger on why it bothers me so much. It could be that my over-thinking mind wonders what would happen if Rice Boy DOESN'T get lucky or saved, and then immediately realises that there wouldn't be much of story left in that point. I guess my preference is for less luck and fate and more on the things the characters proactively do.

However the story still works, mainly because Evan carefully balances out Rice Boy's innocence, naivete and faith with a foil character. This comes in the form of T-O-E, the ancient, jaded and somewhat cynical "divine messenger" who is beginning to suspect his "god" is a hoax.

Still, part of me is niggled by the thought that without this flaw it could have been as close to a perfect find as I've seen.

Rice Boy is a beautifully done (and even more amazing) completed comic. I definitely enjoyed it very much despite its flaws.

So... if you have a lazy Sunday afternoon to spend, I'd recommend a comfty seat, good music ( has really been good at giving me good recommendations of late), a tall glass of iced tea, and reading Rice Boy from page one.

I certainly didn't regret it.

The Next Leg:
"Say Ken..." Wayfinder as she looked as the description on the anchor tag. "What do you think of 'creepy and strange'?"

The winged mouse looked at her with a somewhat aggrieved expression.

"C'mon!" Said Wayfinder, grinning evilly as she tossed him onto the anchor tag. "
Where's you sense of adventure?"

So many comics! So little time! Journey Legs aim to explore webcomics through creator recommendations. From the links page of a comic, I select another comic, record my first impressions, and then review it in depth. Once that is done, I repeat the process by selecting another comic through the links page of the current comic. This goes on and on... no I have no idea when I plan to stop...

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