Last Rebel Review

Review by Barry Keegan

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This is a review of the book “Last Rebel” primarily focusing on the art. I want to start by saying I believe there are no bad artists just those who have put in less time than others at the drawing board. It’s said an expert is one who puts ten thousand hours into something, so for fun I will work this concept into the review. My first impression of the book was a good one as I was expecting a series of unrelated stories, but I was very surprised to learn that all the shorts were about the same two characters set in an apocalyptic Cork. For me this was a good direction to go in having all stories connected, it definitely got me more invested in the characters and the world they lived in. An additional factor I enjoyed about this format was seeing how the different creators approached the same world and characters. I’m thinking maybe Lightning Strike could do a Dublin version next and get some friendly competition going?

 

To start with I’ll mention the cover which was drawn and coloured by Eva Widerman and Chris O’Halloran respectively. It was well put together as regards anatomy, structure, clean lines and colours but.. There wasn’t much in the cover to tell me about the stories inside, for this alone I would have to mark it down. A possible better direction for the cover would be something that embraced Cork more rather than a character standing in front of a red background. I’m thinking of a an image showcasing a messed up Patrick street with Jenny and Grace walking through the ruins. This would have told me more and possibly brought in some casual locals to buy it on impulse, just a thought.

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Anyway. The first story called “Word Down South” was perhaps the weakest in my opinion and not the most confident foot forward to building the world. I don’t want to be sounding unfair so let me explain my thoughts. Page two and three were heavy in talking heads and word balloons, straight away I felt an information dump coming. I think this story would have worked better if it was spread out in a longer format where the characters travelled through different parts of Corks environment as they spoke. This would have helped to build the visuals of the world while we heard stories of the mysterious Jenny. Again though this is an indie book and page count can be at a premium so you work with what you got. The art was nice, at times the structure and perspective of the characters seemed off, especially when they were sitting on the ground but overall this was accomplished work from Fiona Boniwell. I did like that expressions were explored throughout, definitely an area of comic booking that can be daunting. For the good work in some areas I felt page fives storytelling was strange. The last three panels around the fire being lit and possible reveal left me a little lost. At this point I was confused and didn’t know how to take the ending, something to consider going forward. The colours from a sense of treating night and day differently worked well so I have no real complaints there but the motif of white outlines around the figures took away from the night scenes, I would have liked to see the art without this. Ok so to pull back a little on the criticisms I have not forgotten the hours of hard work put in here by Fiona. Anyone who illustrates a full story has to be applauded as it’s a tough job to do, and I wanted to acknowledge the time spent by a developing artist. By my estimation this art is around four thousand hours into honing the skill of an expert, with more hours clocked up at that drawing board I’ve no doubt we will all see wonderful things.

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In the second story “Grace” I was treated to very different sequentials that had a cell shaded animation style which is usually low down on my list of personal preference. Now this is not to say the art was bad, it wasn’t. Stefanie Reville is a very good artist with a great grasp of expression, I felt emotion from Jenny and Grace at all times and enjoyed their interactions. The choice to focus on the two characters was good and built on the previous story. In the first tale we had heard about the legend of Jenny, this time we got to know her and the relationship with her sister Grace. I must give Stefaine massive props for featuring a lot of Cork in the environments, something the other artists shied away from. I think most will agree that backgrounds can be forgotten a bit too much in a lot of books so fair play for taking it on. Also another good selling point was how easily identifiable each character was throughout the story, they all looked unique, so big points for this as consistency is a discipline not all artists have mastered. I would think styles definitely suit different stories and as apocalyptic future tales go I think this theme did not match up well with Stefaine art and beautiful warm colours, but hey we are Indie here so you work with what you have got. Even though the visuals were not what I lean towards, there was a lot of skill and hard work on show here, seven thousand hours!

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”Empty Nest” I loved, the story didn’t tell me much but showed a lot which I really enjoyed, very poetic. I got a lot from the blend of visuals and text that pulled me deeper into this world than I thought, so well done to the whole creative team here. How one scene played out in a jaw dropping sequence where Jenny and a giant mutated swan clash was cleverly done leaving a creepy, dark and very fitting mood for this world. The art was gorgeous and right up my street, all of the panels were so interesting and different, keeping my eyes busy pouring over the pages. As a style I loved the strong linework that supported the ‘cool’ look about the characters, Jenny felt very powerful for the first time and I was now believing in her legend. Cian Tormey is definitely an artist who knows his style and you can see has put in a lot of time at the drawing board, I have to say I’m a big fan. Finally a note on the colours, the warmer tones for “the past” and cooler ones for the “darker present” were spot on. An obvious choice I know but anything else would have been a disservice. I reckon Eight and a half thousand hours of practise bringing art exploding across these pages.

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In the final story “Home” we get to see Jenny meeting a rival. At this point “The Last Rebel” is working under my skin as its own little world, something hard to achieve with limited resources. The art here is good, it’s somewhere in my wheelhouse and over time I think Damien Duncan will be a great comic book artist. I think the inked lines show some awkwardness, perhaps less practise put in here over the pencils. What’s not helping the inks is maybe the scans, by this I mean some inks look washed out but I’m not too sure of the process used so I can’t be sure. Underneath the linework there is obvious knowledge of anatomy that is solid, it’s not perfect but only a matter of time before the kinxs get knocked out. Already I can see flashes of some really awesome work from Damien. I’m thinking of one shot where Jenny was sliding through the grass and knocking her opponent up into the air, lovely stuff. As regards colour, the transitions from evening to night throughout this tale was very effectively done. But I thought the red and yellow backgrounds during the cheetah battle looked out of place from the rest of the scheme. One final notes… It was good to include Fota Wildlife park but I think it was sold a little short, some more noticeable backgrounds would have made more of an impact to the readers, especially the locals.

 

In closing “Last Rebel” was very enjoyable, to see all this work put in by many different collaborators set in an interesting backdrop was a success. Now I want to see more world building and how Jenny and Grace interact further within it. Congratulations to all who contributed, great to see a bunch of hard working creators putting together something like this and setting the story locally. When is the sequel folks? I got invested enough to do fanart of Jenny, check it out she’s a tough character carrying a barbed hurley, I couldn’t pass it up!

 

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You can buy Last Rebel in selected stores or visit turncoatpress.com