Judy Harper is a housewife. Judy is also bored, but not for the reasons you’d think. She has a loving husband and two wonderful children that do their darndest to keep her hands full, but somehow she still feels something is missing. Her postcard life just hasn’t been as fulfilling as she imagined, but what she’s come up with to occupy herself…well, it just might be more than she’s bargained for.
You know what they say about idol hands…
The fresh faced writing team of Matt Evans and Andrew Helinski has come up with an interesting story takes the small town charm of something like a little house on the prairie and tries to add a healthy helping of small town rot. The sort of underbelly that surfaces on the plate of writers like Koontz and King.
As this piece describes, the story largely begins in a pretty innocent place. Judy, our protagonist, is your typical suburban homemaker. Her daily routine and the people and family she deals with would be to many, the ideal. Not perfect, but really quite good. By anyone’s standards. Like most people, however, she’s grown weary of the same old. She had taken up an interest, something to change things up for herself. Some “me” time to recharge from the daily grind.
It’s a little selfish. She lies to her husband about it, but what could go wrong. It’s just a little harmless fun, right? Unfortunately for her and the people she’s engaging in this hobby with, tonight’s session will go very wrong. That tends to happen when your hobby is black magic and demonology.
The plot and story are actually pretty good. Taken by itself, the writing shows a lot of promise and it’s really a testament to the writers that you get to the end and still have an interest in what comes next. All the characters are really well realized through their dialog and action and in general they feel pretty true to life. Like people you might know or have encountered.
Comicbooks are not all about their words, however. The artwork plays a very pivotal role in the storytelling. The best of stories can’t always save a book if the artwork and lettering are poorly handled. The words, the images, and in particular how you use the panels along with good lettering to control pacing. It makes or breaks things. In motion pictures, the editor plays a similar role — rearranging the audio and moving images to control how the story plays out. Remember that scene in Kill Bill 1 where the bride gets a shot to the face point blank? The sound effect of the gun shot goes off a split second earlier than the audience was mentally expecting it and the results are so much more dramatic just from that one adjustment.
The artwork (art and lettering) in this book, while actually pretty serviceable, lets down the piece and because of two simple words; implementation and layout. The lettering is the most obvious problem to point out. The choice of font style while maybe understandable, is sized inappropriately. Even when viewed full screen on my widescreen monitor, I found myself struggling to read some of the dialog. The font weight is far too narrow and tires the eyes after a very short time. Future issues should consider fixing this.
Another problem is the general framing of the story as it plays out. Most of the storytelling is told in close-ups. Not just any close-ups, but extreme close-ups. This is maintained (with the exception of a panel here and there) throughout the book. The result is a sense of claustrophobia and general coldness to the tone of the story. This works well for the latter parts of the story where the secret society is introduced and the creepy stuff begins, but the earlier setup could have benefited from more breathing room. Judy’s wholesome life should needed to be welcoming. Pulling back the virtual camera would have helped on that front and built a stronger contrast to what happens next.
Otherwise, artist Nate Burns does a consistently above average job with the penciling duties. Characters look unique and persistent. I can recognize and distinguish them easily from beginning to end. Something that many artists can struggle with (and often do) earlier in their careers. Apart from the aforementioned penchant for tight closeups. The story was easy to follow and I rarely lost my footing from panel to panel. Of course there weren’t that many panels from page to page, but that’s never stopped other artists from confusing the reader. Being able to draw paneled work that can be followed is a pretty great feat and Burns is up to the challenge.
Despite its various shaky steps, White Devil is a book that shows great promise. For an early effort, this team of creators has managed to keep my interest.
B grade for Pencil work
B grade for Storytelling
C- grade for Layout and Lettering
Overall B- grade for an interesting first issue that although shaky in parts due to the layout and lettering implementation, still leaves the reader with the desire to see where the story goes from here.