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Every day this month I’ll be reviewing a different independent comic book, based on submissions from the creators of the comic books themselves.
The month continues with a comic book series with an interesting approach. Writer Dave Kender presents a series following two young adults, Roberto and Ana Estevez, who lost their parents to a freak car accident. The name of the series, Ragbox, describes the neighborhood that they live in. Each chapter of the series (this first volume contains three chapters) is drawn by a different artist. Mark Hamilton, Braden D. Lamb and Matthew Reinke are the artists in Volume 1.
The first artist is Mark Hamilton, and he draws the chapter that includes Roberto and Ana discovering that their parents are dead. In a really strong piece of plotting, Kender depicts a fire throughout the chapter without explicitly telling us that Roberto and Ana’s parents are the CAUSE of that fire.
It’s a powerful introduction to our two leads. Hamilton does a good job.
Braden D. Lamb takes over for the second chapter, which is really more of a continuation from the first chapter. At this point, the story just seems like a regular story told with different artists. Kender sells the story as “each artist brings a particular perspective on the community,” so it was kind of weird that Lamb basically just continued what Hamilton was doing.
Still, we got some more good characterization work with Roberto and Ana…
The last chapter is drawn by Matthew Reinke. This chapter shows the situation post-funeral for Roberto and Ana…
We also get some powerful insight into what makes Roberto “tick.” See how he goes off on Ana here? Well, later in the story we see a possible origin for his conflicted attitudes about his cultural upbringing.
Reinke’s moody artwork works really well for this flashback-driven story – the haziness works perfectly for something like a flashback.
Here’s a “problem” I had, though. The book really doesn’t have an ending, so much as it just stops. I understand that Kender is doing a continuous narrative, but this first volume is, at best, a prologue. We’re barely getting to know the characters when the book finishes. It makes the book feel really incomplete. Kender and his artists are laying down some strong groundwork, but then – bam – books over. It really hurts the reading experience. Kender is serializing the story on his website here – that might be a better delivery method of this particular story, as if you just keep serializing it, you don’t have to worry about a page cut-off point.
Still, there is a lot of strong character work in this volume and some strong artwork. There’s a lot to like about Ragbox. I look forward to more.
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