I recently read the Smash: Trial by Fire graphic novel by Chris and Kyle Bolton (as far as I can tell, no relation to comic great John Bolton). There were a lot of elements that drew me to give it a whirl: It was published by Candlewick Press, a non-traditional comic publisher (they publish more prose than graphic novels); it was listed as a “graphic novel;” and it was an all ages book, something I’ve really found myself drawn to in this age of traditional comic publishers filling their pages with gratuitous violence, blood, boobs and language.
I wanted to like Smash, I really did.
And while it wasn’t terrible, I’m going to have a very hard time recommending it to you…at full price. If you can find a reduced $ copy, pick it up.
Why, Roland, don’t you recommend it?
I’m glad you asked, thanks. Here’s why:
First off, it was too dang slow. It took page after page after page after page after page…well, you get it…for ANYTHING to happen. There are certainly some interesting characters, but there’s a lot of nothing happening.
In a nutshell, Andrew, the story’s protagonist is a big fan of the local hero Defender. Defender dies in a battle with his archenemy Magus. When this happens, his superpower leaves his body and lands in Andrew. Nice and convenient, huh? Andrew wants to become Defender’s sidekick, not realizing Defender is dead. He jumps into action as a superhero and people start calling him Smash. Magus, however, wants the power (no explanation is ever made to explain how “superpowers” can jump from body to body?). So Magus tracks down Smash, captures him, and attempts to take his powers. But, because Andrew/Smash is a small boy, he slips out of the bonds and escapes and to be continued.
WHAT? I buy a 150 page graphic novel and it’s CONTINUED? Who the heck at Candlewick thought that was a good idea? Granted it’s called “book 1,” but that doesn’t mean it has to be CONTINUED. Lord of the Rings is three volumes, but each of those volumes have complete STORY ARC contained in the pages so that there is a feeling of completion when finishing one of the volumes. No “editor” is listed and that may very well be the problem—I dunno.
And it’s not that the content is terrible—it isn’t. It just needed some smart guidance: pick up the pace (lighten the really dark pages because some of the art is difficult to see when the color is too dark), and complete a STORY ARC, leaving it open to complete a larger story arc with additional volumes.
So, there you have it. I’m looking forward to reading Jimmy Palmiotti’s all ages GN Forager, soon! That, and it looks like I’ve got three—count’em: 3—new projects I’m preparing to pitch. I’m working on the blog entry for the first one even now! I look forward to your comments on it.