May 16, 2012
Imagine playing reality with cheat codes enabled.
Not A Villain is a science-fiction webcomic by Aneeka centred around the premise of a future world where human interaction has gone the way of the dinosaurs, replaced by interaction through an alternate reality system and where at least one highly popular reality TV show focuses on people in an MMORPG fighting in a manner that could best be described as a fighting game like Tekken or Street Fighter.
The comic centers around Kleya, who having had issues elsewhere in her life has entered the global AR system “LiFe” with the intention of shedding her previous villainous persona and becoming a hero, though exactly what this entails is somewhat hazy as yet. What is made abundantly clear is that Kleya is a recovering hacker, and spends a fair bit of time resisting the urge to take the “easy” path and hack to achieve her goals.
Whilst the story itself moves along pretty smoothly, there’s a few flaws that sort of plague the story. For starters, the pages with Kleya’s internal monologue pretty much always end up seeing her being quietly depressive about her hacker background and desire to be a hero, to what I’d almost call a Twilight degree (though of course, few things other than Twilight itself reach that extent). Then there’s the exposition, which is either missing entirely or thrown directly at the reader’s face (metaphorically speaking, though this is an AR setting), there’s not much of a fine balance. Dialogue is also pretty clumsy across most of the archive, including more recent pages. The argument could be made that the comic itself is a learning project, Aneeka’s first effort at a graphic novel of any sort, but in truth that can be said of every writing endeavour.
Artistically, the comic is produced in a manga style that is uncharacteristically drawn in a vector art method. This isn’t a method that usually works well with manga style because it involves the fine manipulation of nodes, more mathematic than artistic (possibly why it’s served me well in Remember’s history), and manga is a very traditional style preferring hand-drawn strokes over mathematical precision. As a consequence the characters are overly simplistic in many places and generally look very flat as the pages are generally devoid of shading. There’s evidence this is also a style Aneeka hasn’t used much at all before (again, this is their first endeavour into graphic) and posing, proportions, and such are all fairly clumsy as well.
The storyline isn’t necessarily bad, but the writing and art really let it down. In almost 140 pages things haven’t improved much at all as well, which is what would normally be expected of a new writer, certainly of a new artist. The nearest similar story I can think of is the popular .hack anime/manga series, and could probably be looked at for ideas and inspiration as it’s handled very well.
My advice for Aneeka is to investigate a different drawing style such as using a tablet or non-vector graphics program, but if they want to stick with vector art the addition of even basic shading would greatly improve the visual quality of the comic. It’s a lot harder to give advice for writing, but if the comic can stand on its art alone more it can give time for the writing to develop to a higher lever. As it stands however, I wouldn’t recommend Not A Villain.