Kingdom of the Wind

Storytellers: Story and art by Kimjin
Publisher:  Netcomics
Year of Publication: First published 1992
Page count:  210 pages

What I learned about writing/storytelling:
1.  The main character’s older brother, the former crown prince, was forced to commit suicide by his father, the king. The story doesn’t don’t directly state the reason why at first, but it references the death of the older brother a few times before finally the king explains that he felt the son would revolt against him.  This is sort of a “peeling an onion” approach to storytelling. It’s similar to a subplot in Big Numbers, with the foreign shopkeepers who speak untranslated foreign dialogue in issues 1 and 2.  In issue 3, Moore translates the dialogue and we understand the husband and wife in a way we didn’t before.

2.  There are some interesting tropes. The protagonists are the royal family of a kingdom formed by a prince who left the neighboring land.  A demon from a neighboring kingdom wishes to wipe out the new land for the benefit of the neighboring family, so the plot involves a sort of a distant family squabble.   This gave the book a Beowulf feel to me (or maybe the Gaiman version of Beowulf, which increased the family aspect of the story) with a demon hunting down a family due to the actions of their ancestor.

Another trope I found interesting: the main character are the crown prince and his sister. The crown prince is married, and the book also features the wife and a newly born child.  The sister is single and has more leeway to move about, so tries to hunt down the monster and do other things to help the brother while he’s tied to his responsibilities towards his nation and family family. The monster either has a “male and female” aspect or is a husband and wife monster pair, the translation is ambiguous: (this is Korean so reads left to right).


(the translation says Mupa refers to female half.)  This perhaps if intended to mirror the brother and sister’s alliance with a male and female shadow enemy. 

3.  There’s a decent use of flashbacks, like this bit showing how the crown prince and his wife were arranged to be married when they were both very young:


This would seem to be a device to make you care about the characters more than you would otherwise, since the author has fleshed out their past. Plus it’s just plain interesting to see the kids reacting to the arranged marriage.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
Nothing here.  Didn’t really care for the art.

Recommendation:  C-

This was a completely random book I grabbed from the library, I came in with no expectations.  (Indeed I have no idea whether Kimjin is a male or female name or neutral pen name, or whether the demographic this is aimed at is boys or girls or both, the style seems a bit shoujo but who knows…)

Some of the tropes were interesting, but this story did not come together for me. The art was not always clear, especially in the fight scenes, and the foreign names and references were a little hard to keep track of, which may be nobody’s fault but my own..  Overall, the story didn’t grab my attention and flow for me, which may be a pacing issue.

Wolverine and the X-men Volume 1

Storytellers: Jason Aaron with Chris Bachalo, Duncan Rouleau and Matteo Scalera
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Year of Publication: 2012
Page Count: 4 issues

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  Aaron introduces Quintin Quire as a regular cast member in issue one without explanation and doesn’t discuss how he ended up a student of the X-men school until a flashback at the beginning of issue 3.  This seems to be a technique to avoid getting bogged down with backstory before the story really gets rolling.

2.  There seems to be an attempt at a fun, zany approach by throwing in everything and the kitchen sink, super danger rooms, giant underground monsters, Frankensteins, alien allies, experimental portals to other dimensions, etc.

3.  In issue 1 Aaron has people from the Department of Education inspect the school. This is a device that has the inspectors go around and meet everyone and introduce the various characters.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
There seems to be some issues with the art that can provide a teachable moment.
The art and letters are too close to the gap between pages here:
Hardcover binder problem

I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact my copy is hardback?  It would obviously not be an issue with a floppy, but what about softcover trade paperbacks?  Do hardbacks have a greater area absorbed by the spine?  This was only a problem for a few pages, but it was an issue.

I looked at some other books:
Sandman’s art is very close to the spine, but in my softback copy it doesn’t appear to be a problem. I wonder if they can add blank space for the hardback collections?

Sandman softcover colume

I have a Runaways hardback that seems well planned for loss of space for the spine:

Runaways has good production values

Here’s a side shot of that page:


Then I noticed this from the Railgun manga: The artist plans for the spine and draws it differently depending on whether it’s on the left page or the right page:

Railgun artist plans for the spine

Other Railgun spine page

He goes further out with the art on the sides not facing the spine.
Not sure what went wrong with the X-men art, perhaps it was just a production problem?

Recommendation: C

There’s a real sense of a writer flailing around here. The book doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: a book about Wolverine and a bunch of crazy kid characters, a book staring Wolverine and the adult characters, or a book that hardly has Wolverine in it at all.
Some sequences seemed almost like adult swim esque parody, but it didn’t seem particularly intentional.

In a really weird sequence, a wealthy villain shows up to the X-men school to taunt Wolverine, and the conversation goes something like this:

Villain:  “I’m behind all of the bad things that happened to you for the last year, and I’m here to taunt you about it!”
Wolverine: You bastard!  Why I outta….
Villain: You can’t touch me, my criminal record is clean and you are a law abiding citizen!
Wolverine:  Grrrrrrrr, he’s got me licked!
(Apparently this version of Wolverine isn’t all about the  wreckless stabby stab.)

Then the villain sends a giant monster to attack the school and after the X-men beat it, Wolverine hires Matt Murdock to sue the guy for 300 million dollars for wrecking the school!  So then the bad guy is all pissed off due to litigation, so he hires Sabertooth to mess up the school in retaliation for the lawsuit!

It just seems… silly. It doesn’t seem like it’s by a creative team that’s in control of what they are doing.

Take this page, where Quintin Quire somehow delivers an entire soliloquy while a monster is charging him:

Monologue while a monster attacks

At first I thought the monster must be frozen, but you turn the page, and no, it wasn’t.  I thought that sort of thing only happened in old comics.

Big Numbers

Big Numbers 1-3
Storytellers:Alan Moore and Bill Sienkewicz
Publisher: Mad Love
Year of Publication: 1990
Page Count: 3 issues (120 pages, an unfinished graphic novel)

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  This is a big book with an ensemble cast. One thing Moore does at the end of issue 1 is give us a sort of montage of all (or many) of the characters:
Big Numbers montage of characters
Big numbers continuation of character montage

It seems to be saying, in an indirect sort of way, “Here is our cast of characters.”
By playing with the letters in the montage here, Moore slows down the reading order and makes you focus on the letters more, forcing a slow pacing on the reader. And I suppose the bigger panel on the end serves as a sort of punctuation for the poem or a palette refresh going into the next scene.

2.  You can control pacing through the grid layout, and, in particular, limiting your grid choices, forcing the creative team to work with a set structure the way a poet needs to work with a set scheme.  Watchmen use a formal grid structure to give us a sense of an objective observer.  Each panel is the beat of an objective sequence of time, giving us the sense of a harsh, materialistic, mathematically precise universe. It’s hard to judge without reading the entire graphic novel but Big Numbers appears to approach the grid from a more humanistic perspective.

I know there’s been other experiments with set grids.  A friend told me that Runaways 1 repeats the same layout when introducing each character (I haven’t gone back and checked) and that the Sandman issue with the African myth uses a specific recurring layout pattern to evoke the rhythm of storytelling in an oral tradition.

3.   Moore evokes BIG IDEAS in his story, which addresses the “why should I give care” factor.  The story is about the first American style shopping mall opening in the British Town of Hampton.  At one point Moore has a history teacher thinking about history, how one group has always come in and replaced the preceding group, starting with tool using humans wiping out other animals,  and proceeding through humans invading other human groups:
Big Numbers history teacher lecture

The character in question is not commenting on the American shopping mall, but it’s clear Moore, the author, is making the connection. The Americans are about to wipe out the local British culture, repeating a process in the rise and fall of civilizations.

A newly released mental patient sees the Americans as aliens from outer space. He believes they are from beyond Jupiter, and are his outer space family who has returned:
Big Numbers Americans are aliens
(Incidentally, pacing is tightly controlled through the grid structure here, so that in the second row, we read one big image as if four successive panels.)

The Mars bar of course ironically calls back to the mental patient’s delusions, but also highlights the idea that the Americans are a type of alien.  The construction worker isn’t making a statement by throwing a Mars bar into the air, but Moore is, using his characters as akin to notes in a symphony, serving a purpose that is unrelated to the wants and intentions of the individual players.

So.. the answer to why you should care about the mall, Moore seems to be saying, is that events in the microcosm reflect the greater course of human history.

4.  Here’s another pacing thing with a big image consisting of little panels:
Big Numbers one big image broken up into little panels

This grid would appear at first blush to not be needed, but it actually  guides the panel reading order, without the grid it would be harder to tell which panel to read when.
I don’t know how common this balloon type, is, with the solid lines. It might be a european thing.  Among other things, it’s probably meant to evoke the geometries and mathematical principles that form the “Big Numbers” theme of the book.

5.  Part of the style of the book comes from the repetitive camera angles, and use of zoomed out shots in general. This is the opposite of the “22 Panels That Always Work” style of art, we’re like a camera, observing the “action” as if a fly on the wall. The action is pretty mundane:
Big Numbers sequence with woman on the phone

Body language is tremendously important if you are not going to move the camera.  Here, the body language indicates the protagonist is bored, upset, agitated, amused, interested, then deflated.  I’m not sure how to pull this sort of thing off, but it’s cool if you can do it.

6.  The story’s point of view often feels objective, but wanders into the minds of the characters at times. The main character is  a writer whose family doesn’t understand her. She left town many years ago after getting an abortion, and has returned for the first time to find a place to relax while working on her novel.Whenever the topic of children comes up, she witnesses a fantasy of what could have been if she kept the child:

Ghost child in Big Numbers

That’s my reading of course, Moore doesn’t spell out that she’s imagining the child.  We don’t get inside her head. Well, actually, I think we do get inside in her head in a way, but its depicted through this metaphorical flourish. This subjectivity is not limited to one character, there’s  a shop owner who will probably be driven out of business by the upcoming American mall. He  plays with a model train set and imagines the train set people opening extension stores in America and driving the Americans out of business. (Essentially the plot in reverse)

The art style changes here in a way I initially found startling, as the train set toys seem to talk directly:
Big Numbers train set toys talk

7. Parallelism. For many Moore stories, that’s to be expected.  Just as the Black Freighter comic in Watchmen comments or reflects the actions of Ozymandius, the plot threads seem to comment on each other. The mental patient’s delusions about being from space comment on the American characters, while the train set fantasies mirror the lives of the Americans as well. The Americans plan their mall with models, which are not dissimilar to the train set.

A subplot features a board game called “Real Life” that kids are playing, which is another fiction in the fiction, and would presumably comment on the various elements of the modern adult world depicted in the rest of the story if the comic had continued.
The main character is attempting to write a book (she tries to begin in issue 3 three but tosses out her first pages)  As the book progresses, presumably the novel would somehow interconnect as well.

8.  I guess another take away would be attention to detail, the little things people do to fill up the days of their life.  Quoting this blog post:


The third installment remains guided by the view of human interaction that informed the scenes in the first two chapters. Every person is regarded as an idiosyncratic entity, with those idiosyncrasies finding expression in routines and behavioral patterns. Alienation, which defines virtually every relationship Moore depicts to some degree, results from those patterns meeting, coming into conflict with each other, and creating tension. People then either retreat from one another, or they fall back on routines intended to bring the tension level down, such as making jokes or following through on courtesies. Moore apparently sees behavioral constants as the means through which people impose order on the uncertainty of their lives.…moore-bill.html

Of course the book, train set, games and the like are part of these “behavioral constants”.

9. Issues 3 uses a unifying structural device in the form of a marketing survey being given door to door to various characters. We cut from scenes, sometimes not survey related, always comfortably back to something  survey related. This gives a sense of structure to the chapter.

Recommendation: A

This is an unfinished graphic novel, intended to last for 12 issues. As such it not a complete story, just a fragment of one, and is really just for Alan Moore completests.  Nevertheless, due to the complexity and ambition on display, I give it an A.