A review of Deadhorse, a digital webcomic by Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan
Credits & Solicit Info:
William Pike has seen better days.
He doesn't get out much and unless you count an awkward exchange with a passing neighbor, doesn't have many friends. Things change when he receives a key to a mysterious box from his father - a man who by all accounts died forty years ago.
With the help of a runaway girl named Elise, Pike must travel to the farthest reaches of Alaska in order to locate the box and learn the truth about what happened.
Writer: Eric Grissom
Artist: Phil Sloan
What does it take to make successful graphic novels and comics? First, you have to create a lead character who is dynamic and interesting. Second, you have to create dialogues and other written cues to move the story along. Third, you have to make sure that the story flows naturally from one panel to the next, keeping in mind how you properly use even the panels themselves to convey the story. Finally, the artwork has to be good enough to clearly distinguish characters and setting, colorful enough to grab the reader's attention and yet have its own style that doesn't suffocate the artistic expression of the comic. Keeping that in mind, how does Deadhorse stand up? Well, let's take a look.
First, let's look at the covers. Although the style of artwork leaves something to be desired in my opinion, I do love the unique and dynamic appeal of it. The colorization of Chapter One causes some difficulty in distinguishing shapes, however it also makes the story appealing to the eye. The second chapter is thoroughly enjoyable; haunting and subtly depressing but still begging the reader to continue. Again it leaves something to be desired, but nothing that would truly add anything to the comic without taking away from the stylistic intention of the artist.
The biggest issue I have with Deadhorse is the story. It moves around a lot through different time periods and locations, spending time with different characters and further distinguishing them through the different settings. The jumps were sometimes difficult to reconcile, however it was still an enjoyable story. I enjoy the characters thus far, but there are just too many vague indications of what is going on and not enough concrete transitions between settings. I felt as though there were more questions without answers instead of answers without questions. Perhaps it's nitpicking, and I am not too proud to admit "I just don't get it," but there could have been a lot more concrete transitions in the story arc.
The dialogue is blasé, for lack of a better word. It isn't particularly bad in any way - it just doesn't feel very natural. They don't seem to be the kind of conversations that people have. Of course, these are characters that still are in the infancy of their exposure, so perhaps that is just how they are. Particularly in the latter half of the first book and the beginning of the second book there just seems to be a lot of contrived conversation pieces or monologues coupled with flashbacks that have little to nothing to do with the primary part of the story.
The final verdict, based on any basic criteria for what is a good comic versus what constitutes a bad one, Deadhorse is actually a good comic. The artwork is well-done and dynamic, the dialogue carries the story, the plot begs to be continued and it is entertaining, funny and above all, well-written. Despite all of the worthy praises justly due to this comic, there is something about it that just doesn't jive with me. Whether it's the storyline taking more jumps in time or not fleshing out characters enough, there is something keeping this good comic from being a great comic. A recommendation is well deserved, but it isn't universal. Read this at your own risk.
Two stars out of four.
Deadhorse can be read online for free at http://www.deadhorsecomic.com/. Give it a read and share your thoughts in the comments!
Review by: Dan Kester