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A Month of Self-Published Comics Bonus: City of Walls #1-2

This month Brian is posting a review of a different self-published comic book each day for the rest of the month! But I figured I could join in, especially because this comic was sent to me specifically for this purpose! Here is an archive of the books reviewed so far!

Shaun Noel sent me copies of the first two (of a six-issue series) of his self-published comic, City of Walls. He was hoping to get it featured in our month of self-published comics, and who am I to deny him?

City of Walls #1 and #2 by Shaun Noel (writer), Abede Lovelace (artist), Mark Morales (inker, issue #1), and Latoya Burris (letterer, issue #1). $3.00, 24 pgs (issue #1) and 21 pgs (issue #2), BW, Stand Alone Productions.

Shaun explained that he’s been selling them at the New York City convention for the past few years. There’s a third issue, too, plus a collection of the first three issues. Noel and Lovelace have been busy!

The story is an odd blend of urban grittiness and science fiction/fantasy. It’s set in Kowloon, which is apparently not the Kowloon we all know and love, but a self-sufficient city with a great wall cutting it off from the rest of the world. In the city live Daniel, a genius who has a penchant for telling stories; Jin, a neglected child who happens to be a good mechanic; and Ariana, a girl who has a bit of a thing for Daniel. In the first issue, Daniel and Jin decide they’re going to escape the city in a plane that Jin has built. In the second issue, things get more complicated as Ariana becomes part of the plot, Daniel takes a test that will enable him to join a highly exclusive school and will elevate his entire family out of poverty, and the kids continue to experience the casual violence that’s a part of life in Kowloon. It’s a fairly interesting plot, and it’s not one we’ve seen dozens of times before, which is refreshing. There’s nothing supernatural about the comic, and no zombies or vampires or werewolves or even gorillas have shown up yet. Noel does a nifty job showing that these kids have it very rough, but they also have a lot of hope (and even, dare I say it, moxie). They remain tough and determined even though their world is less than ideal. It’s nice to see people not moping around whining about their shitty lot and instead doing something about it.

Noel’s plotting is decent, even if his scripting could use some work. He does a good job creating voices for the three characters, from Daniel’s shyness burning away when he tells stories to Jin’s attitude that seems to mask a deeper sadness. Even the minor characters, such as Daniel’s father, are created well. Noel still has some problems with dialogue (which is always difficult, believe me) – the characters occasionally sound far too formal and expository, which takes us out of the story. Plus, there’s the usual grammar issues that apparently only vex an old fart like me. I’m sorry, but I will never stop trying to get people to fix “you’re” when they mean “your,” for instance. It annoys the hell out of me. While the scripting isn’t perfect, it’s not awful, either.

The highlight of the book is Lovelace’s art, which is very stylized and sleek but also gives a good idea of the strangeness of Kowloon. He does a fine job with the characters, giving each a unique look, and the squalor of the kids’ surroundings is contrasted nicely with the room in which Jin builds his airplane and the school into which Daniel is trying to get. There are some truly haunting images in the book, which brings home the life these kids lead better than the scripting can. It’s a beautiful book to look at.

Obviously, you’re probably not going to walk into your local store and find a copy of this on the shelves. If you go to the Stand Alone link up above, it will take you to the City Of Walls web site, where you can buy the issues (including #3), or you can go to comiXpress and buy them as well. Give it a try!

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