I read through the comic and I think the comic is well done, but I do have some criticisms.
I think the thing that stood out to me the most was the art work and how it felt disconnected from the story. It's not that it's bad (it's fine, it's serviceable), but it doesn't really match the tone of the story in my opinion. There's a roundness, a cartoony quality to the character designs, and while that my make the topic more digestible, it also doesn't allow the seriousness of the topic to settle in. And while there are some a cartoons that can pull off a darker tone, grittiness or seriousness (e.g. Samurai Jack or Batman the Animated Series), I don't think it's done well here. (I'm trying to compare your comic to those series, but they both are serious shows with moments of levity). I think my issue comes with the roundness of the character designs, the color palette, and how stiff everything was.
I think the skeleton/grim reaper character looks really goofy. Giving him eyes, while that made him more accessible and retable, just made me feel a little uncomfortable, and made me not take him that seriously. I mean, you gave him eye lids. . . how does that even work? Cartoon magic, of course, but it was very distracting in the scenes he was in.
I wish that the skeleton/grim reaper had a more "other worldly" character design (same thing for Morose). Something to set him apart from looking like a halloween decoration. Like an aura that surrounds him and Morose or maybe the both of them are translucent, something that doesn't ground them in the real world. His design wouldn't even have to scary or intimidating, but just darker and more streamlined. And by streamlined I mean, removing smaller, unnecessary details, like the button at the top of the cloak, or the rope. You didn't even really need to give the skeleton/grim reaper face. Emotion's could have been conveyed through body language, dialogue, and how they interacted with Morose.
I like Morose's character design. I like the transition in outfits as another indication of his change in age. There isn't much to say here for Morose so I'll move on.
The color palette. It's too bright. It is just too bright for the story you are trying to tell. And it lacks variation. Scenes that are dramatic or have a lot of depth, would have the tone better understood with darker colors, but they don't. The deepest colored scene was the one with the guy in the car, and I have my qualms about that scene. I will admit though, in the panel where Rosie's family is huddled around her and the room is darkened by a gradient; that was well done. The stark white also doesn't lend well either, but you couldn't entirely control that, nor do the rainbow, color changing backgrounds of some panels.
Here are some example scene where the color could have been darker to sell the tone of the scene:
- The scene where Morose and the skeleton/grim reaper walk into the forest to cut down those flowers.
- The scene where Morse wants to quit. If from when the athlete woke up to when Morose says he wants to quit, the colors and the background slowly became darker and darker that would've sold the emotion more.
(I also found it strange that some panels had borders and the most didn't. And also the panel layout was mostly boring with only a few places of interest)
Before I get into anything else, I want to talk about the biggest point of criticism for me. This is more of a personal opinion, but it can affect how you story is perceived. The personification of death.
Death as a concept has many negative connotations to the point where people of the past and even present, go to great lengths to escape it. Death, however, comes for us all. It's not intentionally benevolent, or intentionally cruel. It cares not for status in life whether monetary or social. Death is neutral. But humans are not, And that's why the relationship between skeleton/grim reaper and Morose is such a missed opportunity. Now Morose isn't technically human, but from the way he looks and the way he acts and that fact that he ages, he might as well be. He the emotional angle of death. But the skeleton/grim reaper, while not emotional on his job. does have a positive opinion about death as a concept. (Now there are many personifications of death, with the first coming to mind for me being Grim from the grim adventure of Billy and Mandy. He's an example that is cartoonish and not serious, but unlike you short story, that the main point. The show is a comedy, and very rarely is Grim shown in a serious light or around serious subject matter)
I think saying that death as job is about helping people, is dishonest. Not incorrect, but dishonest.
And I don't understand how Morose came to that conclusion after everything he's seen and been through prior to meeting Rosie. The ending has a nice sentiment, and it's a good note to end on, and it makes sense within the parameters of the short story contest. But Morose knows his job isn't about just helping people, and so does the skeleton/grim reaper. They have seen how death hurts and helps. I think the ending note is nice and allows readers to see the brighter side of death and dying, but it doesn't make sense from a character standpoint. And it's interesting Morose has never come across another case like this, but I digress.
I don't know how I feel about Morose. I really don't. I'm glad he had a character arc and learned something from meeting Rosie, but I don't really like him. There's not much there to get behind, though with the constraints of a short story, this isn't really a problem for the narrative.
Morose's character arc is a little all over the place. I think it should've been more streamlined for sake of the length constraint.
He went from hesitance about his job, to embracing to the point of making jokes about it, to hating it and wanting to quit, to finally accepting the job.
Now that hesitance is more like ignorance since he was a child and he was just listening to his father. But then, he's laughing about the guy in the car. I have a lot of problems with this scene.
- Death is not only neutral but also should not interfere. This is a problem with having death personified. It comes down to: does death take you/talk to you when you die or does death kill you. For everyone else we saw or heard died, Morose did not interfere, but with this guy, it is reasonable to assume that if Morose was not there distracting him, he would still be alive.
- When death is neutral, it will not care who it kills. Having Morose and the skeleton/grim reaper celebrating that guy drove into a tree, is a little disconcerting in the context of story, especially the skeleton/grim reaper, not so much Morose but. . .
- I think this was the scene that made me not particularly like Morose. His snark just rubbed me the wrong way and made it all that more unbelievable that he would have such an emotional reaction about people dying down the line. This scene didn't do well for his characterization or character arc. If his reaction to this scumbag dying, without him being involved, was discomfort or even sympathy, it would make the later scenes more impactful because of how unbiased he is. Sad either way, regardless of what the person did in life. But I do get that he's a child in that scene and that the skeleton/grim reaper likely influenced him to respond that way, which is a problem in it's own right (his job is to watch people die, why would the skeleton/grim reaper care who does).
Overall, I think it's a well done comic, with good intentions. I'm not trying to say here' is that this comic would've been better with an overall darker tone and darker colors, I'm just saying the addition of those things in certain places would've made the message more impactful. Hopefully my critiques help you in your next project.