Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review #28: Not-So-Epic Win

Guardians of the Kingdom

Writer: Tom Gauld
Artist: Tom Gauld
Published: Cabanon Press, 2003

My brother picked up this wee comic for me whilst he was in the great state of Hawaii. It was apparently originally published as 180 handmade copies in 2001. Pretty cool.

The story concerns a pair of medieval guards who are patrolling a section of a massive wall that stretches between their “glorious homeland” and “the barbaric wastes”. And that's pretty much the whole thing. It's light on the dialogue and nothing really happens. The unnamed guards walk around a lot and have some banter. They practice confronting intruders. One gets annoyed at the other's humming. One forgets which side they are supposed to protect.

Usually a medieval story will feature some epic battles and duels and all that jazz. Not this one. It highlights the mundane stuff, the crap that the regular joes are doing while the hero is off slaying dragons, and is entertaining in it's unentertainingness. It reminds me somewhat of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The art is charmingly minimalistic as well.  Its black and white, panoramic views of the wall and surrounding area are made up of a multitude of tiny pen strokes. You can see the physical work that went into making this comic. We don't get a close look at the guards themselves, and they are indistinguishable from each other, which adds to the idea that these are basically “nobodies”. The themes of a truly successful comic are served by both its art and its story.

You may have noticed that sometimes I deride the art for being “simple and bland” and sometimes I let simplistic artists off the hook. The thing is, I expect different things from different comics. If I am reading something published by Marvel or DC or one of the industry bigwigs, I expect a certain kind of artwork. Huge muscles, tight spandex, physically impossible measurements on women... these are all the norm in superhero comics. Naturally, there is a certain suspension of disbelief in the physical world that one must have when reading superhero tales, and it sort of spills over into the story itself. I am more likely to overlook plot holes in an issue of Superman than in a Gilbert Hernandez story.

I expect the art in superhero comics to be over-the-top, but I also expect it to be excellent, because not only is the budget there for it, but because, most of the time, it NEEDS to be good. Let's face it, the writing in mainstream comics can get pretty silly. Solid writing is much more important in independent comics, where there is no state-of-the-art colouring technology and massive stable of accomplished artists and yadda yadda yadda...

As I get older, I have noticed that lyrical skill in songs has become more and more important to me, and I think the same could be said for the writing in the comics I read.

Anyway, I liked this one a lot and would definitely recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Thor - I've been trying to email you with no response. Please schedule an appointment with me for an IPP meeting.

    Thanks, Tracey