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Sunday, February 20, 2011

REVIEW: The Last Unicorn, Graphic Novel

Stumbled across "The Last Unicorn" GRAPHIC NOVEL today! Bought it, of course, but I think they saw me coming... I can hear them now as they twirl their multicolored hair and fiddle with their various piercings: "Quick! Cram this white book with purple writing amid black books of dissimilar storylines. Don't worry! It won't be there long! You know that one big tall girl with the long hair? She'll, like, snap it up for sure, you know!"

I can spot the words "Unicorn" and "Mermaid" from a mile away, after all. It's the fanciful side o' me, I suppose. And I did see it. And my little-girl heart leapt into my throat and I giggled and snatched the book from the shelf, studying it to make sure it was the thing I hoped. And I looked, only briefly, in the pages; the book had never been opened! :-D My OCD is exclusive to purchasing books, just so you know. I had to make sure that the character designs were acceptable and that the pages and cover were pristine, and that the entire story was told. My mouth was probably hanging open in that stupid sort of giddiness bereft of reason, even in public places. I struggled between putting it back on the shelf (not happenin') and just bein' broke. Lean dinners 'til payday! :)


The hardcover graphic novel's art style is heavily influenced by the anime (which is heavily influenced by the novel's rich description), especially the Unicorn, but the other characters have more realistic proportions and designs. At times, it looks like they had to deliberately depart from being too similar to the anime. At other times, some of the "camera angles" look a tad too similar to the anime to be mere coincidence. Or the artist thought "only someone who's seen the movie a million times will notice." Case in point-- me!

The story has a lot of elements pulled from the novel, at least. I don't dislike the style, given the subject matter. It's very much tailored to the "pretty" side, with an abundance of Photoshopped color, glow effects and girly hair highlights in obviously roughened woodsmen.

The art has appropriate "mood lighting" toward the end-- darker with some foreboding-- and some dramatic action. All colored and effected-to-death in a computer. As such, it loses much of the human element that makes sequential art "feel" like something more than just a story vehicle. That transcendant quality is in David Mack's watercolor work as much as Frank Miller's pencils and inks. But this is just the type of story to get the pristine-is-perfect treatment. And, as we all know, the story determines the art style.

RESEARCH: Unfortunately, I haven't gleaned much of use from the coloring methods, since I'm doing a (probably) black and white book all with traditional media (except for lettering). If I decide to do color after all, then I'll review the color schemes, which use traditional color & design principles. I also didn't learn much from the style. The computer-heavy handling of every page-- which seems to be the norm these days-- distracted me and detracted from the pretty decent linework. I try to pay close attention to character design in stories; it's like people watching, only you're not being rude! My story is grittier than this one from the beginning onward, so I don't see nearly enough gore and violence to give me much to emulate.

ROOM FOR GROWTH: I tend to stylize the human face and figure more than fully distort it. I'm not that into drawing a lot of cityscapes or interior scenes, so I'm constantly looking for a way to simplify this process without building 3-D computer models. I have a tendency to minimize the need for background elements, like placing my characters in a natural setting. I like a really neat and clean product. I'm honestly not yet good enough at creating comics to produce anything in black and white that is as tightly constructed as most manga I've seen-- even though I know most of that is done in Manga Studio. (Also, it's just me here! No team!)

Now I'll fawn over my new book and bemoan my lack of accomplishment, all in an attempt to motivate myself tomorrow. (Replumbing the drainage in my apartment drained my productivity today!)

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