Phat Wars 1 and 2

Posted: Tuesday, March 21, 2006
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Phat Wars 1 and 2 Creator(s): Brian Bondurant
Publishers: Bon Comics (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $2(US)

This is not an easy comic to read. It revolves around a number of super hero type figures such as The Excellents, a group of Californian mutants and evil villains such as Molloch, an incubus hell bent on world domination.

Personally I felt that there were just too many characters introduced too quickly and not enough development of any of them, so by the end of the comic I was feeling pretty confused. I knew that I had met some pretty interesting characters but I couldn’t remember any of them. It was as if they were quickly introduced and then they fought each other. This left me confused and struggling to relate to any of the characters that I had just met.

Bondurant’s decision to severely limit his use of gutters has meant that the panels on many of the pages tend to merge. In places this creates a lack of visual clarity, which tends to alienate the reader. The pages feel crowded and the point of focus is often lost

The fact that the syntax is often quite clumsy did nothing to reduce my confusion. Overall there needs to be some serious attention paid to word choice and sentence structure if future editions are going to allow the reader to be absorbed into the story and empathise with the characters.
In fact this comic overall feels like a final draft rather than the finished product. The art-work is often sketchy and rough. This may well be a deliberate technique but I found that it just gave a feeling of an comic moving towards completion but not quite there yet.

It is not until the character Whitney enters the fray that I feel the art- work gets sufficiently tight and finished in appearance.

Generally I like a loose artistic style but in this case it just feels too rough. The concept is excellent and as a continuing story Phat Wars should work but it just feels rushed. An example of this is the almost total absence of background which meant that I struggled to place the characters in an actual setting.

I do concede that this is primarily an action comic and so the brutal elements present in the art is quite possibly deliberate and appropriate but I found the lack of visual and verbal clarity served to obscure rather than enlighten.

Phat Wars is a promising title and I am sure it will become a popular one but it needs tightening if the elements that currently annoy and obscure are to be eliminated.

In a Word: Rushed

The second edition of Phat Wars tends to carry on from where the first one left off. The jumbled page layout, choice of syntax and variety of font size and style all tend to obscure rather than clarify.

The "war" between Molloch and "The Excellents" continues to intensify and as previously many of the pages contain a fair amount of super hero type violence. There is more evidence of a Japanese influence here and #2 of this ongoing story has a more recognisable Manga feel to it. Like Manga comics the narrative can jump around quite a bit, this can create confusion unless handled carefully.

The page layout often resembles a random collection of pictures and it is not always easy to make the connections between them, as a result narrative cohesion is compromised. The first 13 pages are particularly confusing and left me still struggling to come to terms with the characters, the storyline or the conflicts presented.

Once we get to the episode that takes place at "Six Flags" things take a dramatic turn for the better. Bondurant takes more care to set the scene, the background is more detailed and so the scene is believable and inclusive for the reader.

There is also a slowing down of action so that the characters are developed in some detail. There is more care taken over their facial expressions so that as a reader we start to understand the emotions of the characters. This is coupled with a greater control over the dialogue which allows relationships to develop. The fact that the dialogue is more recognisable and "real" certainly assists here.

This edition closes with another action scene between the heroes and the villains and once again the focus is lost in the action. It just gets too busy and too intense. This is a comic that needs to pause for breath. It promises so much and the characters are certainly an interesting group but it all still feels a little too frantic. It is like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and I am hoping that like that movie this chaos is deliberate and a greater clarity will ensue in future editions.

In a Word: Chaotic.

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