Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review #3: Salvager Kain #1-4

(Click to enlarge images)

I have to admit, I kind of didn't want to like Paul Sloboda's Salvager Kain once I'd had the chance to flip through it a bit.
Here's a bit of irony: The one novel I've completed as an author would likely be classified as "humorous fantasy," yet I've hardly ever found any works in that genre I've enjoyed. In fact, I often view fantasy (and by that term I mean stories with swords, magic, castles, a faux medieval setting, etc.) as full of cliches and, ultimately, irritating.

Of course the cliche-ness of any type of genre text is a bit of a given: the presence of certain "staples" is part of what defines a work as of this or that genre. And what to do about it? Would a humorous fantasy be improved by changing the swords into glue guns? Or the castles into Home Depot stores (Note to self: okay, explore this idea further in own story perhaps)?

No. I think the thing to do is tell a good story with compelling characters, and I think that's what makes Sloboda's Kain work as well as it does (can't give it a final "grade" until I've seen how the story plays out).

One thing I very much liked was that, while it seems clear Sloboda is telling an overarching story, each of the issues I read had its own flavor and arc. Whether intentionally or not, doing this keeps things fresh: One never knows exactly what to expect from issue to issue.

Our story's put into motion with a view of a giant wall, which "spans for endless miles in either direction, encircling a kingdom." A door in the wall soon opens, and a pair of knight types then escort out a bound prisoner:

And, aye, there's the rub (because my quoting Shakespeare for a review ain't cliched in the slightest!): Our hero, who might be someone of consequence within the kingdom, given his statements, soon has his mind wiped. The door closes, and he's left to fend for himself in the outside world, which seems to consist almost entirely of a large, dark forest.

From this point, our man (who chooses the name "Kain" after seeing it spelled out in the forest with some sticks - methinks there will be more about this later in the story) runs into various groups and individuals, who both help and hinder him in his quest to keep living, figure out who he is and why he was cast out, and perhaps get back inside the kingdom's walls one day. Among those he encounters are a tribe of cannibals; a lone hunter type, who trains him a bit in forest survival and philosophy, and then robs him; and a giant snake ("THE Snake," he insists) with invisible arms, a cloak, and a crown.

In fact, it was issue #3 - with The Snake - which was probably my favorite of the batch. The story takes some unexpected turns, and Kain matches wits with a group of warrior women called the "Softwear Pirates" (yes, parts of their outfits consist of lingerie-type clothing). I won't spoil the fun, but it's a fun story with enough twists and a payoff that satisfied this reader.

While Sloboda's art didn't stand out overall for me, his use of blacks and his stylized lettering in some instances were well executed. In much of the work, the art seemed mainly to complement the writing, but then, every so often, there were images I found quite pleasing, like this one from issue #4:

I have no idea what the meaning behind this image is (I think it hasn't been revealed so far in the story), but I sure liked looking at it!

According to a postscript in issue #4, and to his website, Sloboda decided to continue this comic as a webcomic in order to reach a wider audience and to add color to the art (less expensive to do on the web). You can find the continuation of Salvager Kain, along with recaps of the first four issues and Sloboda's future plans for the publishing of the series, on his website. I am not sure whether the book will become a favorite of mine, but I'll definitely be following the story to see where it leads.

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