I’ve been looking over the data as far as my comic review, and a few things have started to stand out. One, I give waay too many books A grades. That bias is easy to suss out–I tend to review the things I’m excited about. That excitement is much more likely to result in an A grade; plus, many of my selections are things I’ve already enjoyed and want to get the word out about. If there’s something I’m not into, I’d rather just not buy it or talk about it than slam it because I didn’t like it. Maybe someone else does. No need to offend those folks. You do you, guy. Or gal. Or whatevs. We don’t judge here. Maybe we should. Judge books, not people, I mean. You’re all fine people, I presume.
The other bias I’ve noticed is that I tend to stick the big two way too often for my comic selections. While I do tend to lean more towards the Marvel side of the fence in my weekly comic pull lists, traditionally I buy books from a plethora of publishers and from a variety of genres, not just super heroes. Still, focusing too much on one company or another can result in a homogenized viewpoint I’d rather avoid.
So starting with two most recent comic events: Free Comic Book Day and the 3 Rivers Comicon, I made a concentrated effort to seek out more independent voices, many from publishers and creators that I haven’t read books from before.
One of our fans at our table recommended we take a look at a book Plague Doktor from Source Point Press. I honestly had not heard of the book or the publisher. Conveniently enough, Source Point had a table at the convention, and I was quickly pointed towards the book in question. I’m beginning to wonder if our suggestion came from someone who worked on Plague Doktor! Suspicious. Anywho,I’m still not sure if we’ll do the PD review on the podcast or as an article or both, but thanks to the table, I could rest assured our fans would get the review they demanded! Stay tuned!
I lingered at their table for a minute to see if there was anything else interesting. I asked the person manning the booth, and sure enough, the young lady who sold me my copy of Plague Doktor was happy to sell me a copy of the book she had written, a book called Norah. It’s almost as though people go to these comic conventions to sell their OWN books! Crazy! Kasey Pierce, the author, gave me the quick pitch and said the book had already been optioned for a movie–so I figured give it a go.
At worst, I’d be supporting an up and coming artist, and at best, I could say that I was hip to the book before being hip to the idea was cool. Plus, the cover looked really cool. That goes a long way in convincing me to pick up a book, despite the best advice to judge books otherwise.
Speaking of judgement, let the judging begin! Or, ahem the review!
The Book: Norah Volume 1
Writer: Kasey Pierce
Art and Letters: Sean Seal
Cover Art: Jason Westlake
Norah as a character is very intriguing. When we meet her, she is traveling inside the minds of comatose patients, trying to bring them back from the brink. Initially, she struck me as very Jessica Jones-esq–a headstrong women with a bit of a self destructive streak trying to make good by helping others…for money.
I honestly could read a series based on this concept alone and be perfectly happy. Pierce and Seal are happy to explore both the sweet and weird circumstances that come with the job, as one rescue involves a little girl looking for her puppy, and the other invokes an …unexpected connection that’s simultaneously sweet and sad and little bit gross–but it is definitely interesting.
Norah as a book doesn’t stop there. It dives into corrupt military drug testing, alien bugs, and a scene where Norah psychically visits her sister Hallie while Hallie’s in the bathroom. I always thought it was strange when people talked on cell phones in the bathroom–this takes that to a different level. The story twists and turns and never rests on its laurels. As soon as you see the book going one way, there’s blood-spray. Then Bugs. Then bug-spray?! Eventually, spacesuits!
Part of me really wanted to spend more time in the visiting hospital phase of the book, and the other part was intrigued by all the crazy machinations in the story. I definitely feel like this story has legs to grow in any number of already established intriguing directions.
The Less Than Good:
Whereas the story and Norah the character are intriguing, I frequently found myself disappointed with the Sean Seal art. In the opening scenes, they are in a hospital, and I actually think Seal did his best work there. I thought, wow, he’s really solid with these cold, empty spaces. Then I came to realize that he’s not a big fan of drawing backgrounds and the whole book seems to exist in cold, empty spaces, oftentimes unintentionally. That’s not to say it’s all bad, as there are multiple pages of spacey scenes that are pretty cool to look at, and Seal has a solid handle on the character of Norah.
The art really does add an extra level of isolation and loss to the character. Scenes with the more ‘out there’ elements are rendered well, too. Then, at other times, other characters’ appearances change inconsistently from one panel to another.
That, coupled with the lack of a solid, finished feel to the complete comic page, make me feel like Seal might not be ready for prime time just yet. I noticed the second volume has a different artist with a very different style. I don’t know if that’s good or not. A more seasoned artist might serve this title better.
The End Result:
What we have here is one of the things I worry about when it comes to independent works: part of the book is really good (the story elements), and part of it is not up to standard (the art). I don’t want to be too harsh on the Seal art as I feel like he’s just missing a few more moves, just a bit more seasoning to be ready, but he’s not there yet. The story on the other hand, I found to be quite intriguing. I could see this as a movie or a streaming service TV show, as long as there was enough of a budget to do the weird justice, but no so much of a budget that expectations are through the roof. Norah is a Supernatural-esq premise–one with lots of intrigue, interesting lead characters, and a story that definitely won’t end anywhere close to where it began–and that’s a good thing.
I definitely see the potential as both a comic series and as a media property. In the right hands and with the right care, I could see it becoming something with a rabid fanbase and large following.
Instead of my traditional closing, I’ll leave you with a who is this/who this is not for type of thing.
Who should avoid this book:
You are a fan of the mainstream. You prefer your comics to have loud, bombastic personalities who wear capes and their underwear on the outside of their pants more often than not. I’ve never been able to figure that part out about super heroes, coincidentally. When it comes to other forms of media, you stick to the music that’s on the radio and the big budget movies at the cineplex. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, mind you, but I feel like you might be looking for more of a polish to your media than this book is ready to provide.
Who is this book for:
You’re the type of person that’s a little punk rock–even if you don’t like punk rock. You’re the type of person who lurks in the fringes of popular culture. You might listen to the radio in the car, but you’re also hitting up the local clubs to see what the music scene is all about in your town. You don’t just head down to the mega-multiplex for the most recent Avengers or Transformers movie, you’re scouring the art house theater where the real excitement is. You’re actively seeking out alternatives to the popular culture, and you don’t mind when things are a little rough around the edges–you can still find there’s a lot of fine, fine music out there to be heard. Metaphorically. Also, you love being able to say you knew a thing before it was a thing.
This book has a bit of horror, a bit of sci fi, and a hearty dose of a hard-nosed, strong-willed -yet-a-bit-broken female protagonist mixed in for good measure. What’s here is solid, and the promise of the ideas could be even greater down the road. Here’s your opportunity to get in on the ground floor, so you could brag to your friends you knew this before it was cool–or all that well put together :-). When people are bragging about the latest season of Norah on Netflix or Amazon or whatever, you can say, yeah that stuff you’re watching now is ok, but the first volume was way better.
Until next time, I’ll be wandering the con floor looking for new books to try!