Sunday, April 09, 2006

Point Guardian - Paging Patty Smyth and Don Henley

Ben Carver loves superheroes. It is evident, even if he did not tell us in the introduction to the graphic novel of Point Guardian, which collects the plots of the first few issues of Carver's web comic into print for the first time, with Carver re-drawing the stories he initially debuted online back in March of 2004. However, as Ms. Smyth and Mr. Henley* told us awhile back, sometimes love just ain't enough.

A little background on how Point Guardian is produced. Carver has a new page out every weekday (and he was redrawing the original pages at the same time that he was drawing NEW pages), so that explains a lot of the sketchiness that comes with his work, as he is writing, pencilling, inking and lettering a page every weekday, which is no easy feat, so it comes as no surprise that the work lacks in the finished quality one would get from work with more time spent on it. At the same time, Carver is also clearly learning as he goes along. If one were to look at the ORIGINAL pages from Point Guardian from March 2004, well, to call them amateurish is to be extremely kind. It is more like something you'd see doodled on a napkin, then put onto the web as a page of an actual comic book - not good stuff. That is not the case for his more recent material that makes up the Point Guardian graphic novel. While still sketchy, it has definition and shape that Carver could not have dreamt of two years ago, so that's certainly a good sign.

To wit, here is his original art...

and here is a sample of his current style, which is the same style he uses for the Graphic Novel...

The improvement is marked. Still, though, there is plenty of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to things like body structure, backgrounds, pacing, perception, use of space - however, I think, while each panel works okay on its own, it doesn't work well together. However, he DOES have some basic sequential skill sets, which is nice to see, in that he does tell a clear story. He just needs to make it flow better, and ease off on the sketchiness - it does distract from the story.

And it is the story, I think, that is the biggest attraction to Point Guardian. The story opens with a teenager who is struck by lightning, giving him basic "superman" powers. He is helped by a doctor and her young daughter, who see him struck by the lightning. The book flashes ten years into the future, where we see the man now known as Ultra, the guardian of Point City, California. The daughter of the doctor is now his assistant (think Penny in Inspector Gadget).

The story contains many ideas very recognizable by fans of superheroes, but none of them are rip-offs, just cut from the same cloth as many of the best superhero stories. As I have said before, Carver is clearly nuts about the superhero genre, and a fan of superheroes could certainly find a lot in common with Carver's ideas about superheroes.

The dialogue could use some work, and part three of the Graphic Novel introduces some clumsy Marvel stand-ins (Spider-Man, Wolverine and Colossue analogues, calling themselves the Marvelous Three - although there IS some humor to be found with how Wolverine talks with an Australian accent, just like the original cartoon Wolverine).

In any event, the relatively clumsy story of the beginning of Point Guardian apparently goes away as the series goes on, and other characters are introduced, and relationships become more important, so don't put all your judgment on just this volume. Carver self-published this (and was so kind as to send me a copy), which is a bold move by ANY web-comic maker. And that, in and of itself, is admirable.

Check out his website, collecting the entire run of Point Guardian for free - here -

*Yes, I am referencing an early 90's Adult Contemporary song! So sue me!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review!

4/10/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Jest said...

It's a fair review. When I first started reading PG, I almost didn't continue; the dodgy art and somewhat hackneyed dialogue grated somewhat.

But I could sense potential in it, so I stuck it out; and in the end, I'm glad I did. Yes, Ben Carver has a ways to go; but he tells a good story, and his art is improving rapidly. Point Guardian is a regular read for me now, and I'm confident it will continue to improve.

9/11/2006 08:22:00 AM  
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