The Guise to a Healthy Relationship
Your focus on mental illness and its themes was obviously the most striking. No other comic posted had such a decisively motivated focus on a theme--and it certainly shows in the comic. I wonder if you consider this comic as some kind of creative activism. Actually, activism might be a misleading word--I think I mean that I wonder if you approach your comic with the same mindset as one would have in supporting some cause. Is this a creative exploration or a disciplined message? Someone on these forums actually had a good phrase--would you consider this a moral argument, or is it not so aggressive?
Your comic definitely exudes a unique feeling of purpose. This may be due to the sheer weight of misery and depravity that chokes the entire experience, but I can't help but think that it may be your own conviction and empathy being channeled through this outlet. It certainly feels personal.
The possible issues I have are in no way connected to technique or skill. You clearly have both in spades. It's all the more impressive given the traditional medium you've chosen. I'm glad to see you've stood by the method, because it gives your comic a unique--and strangely eerie--character. It also has the indirect effect of creating a channel of sympathy and awe between me, the reader, and you, the author. The level of work that must go into every page has a palpable effect on how I judge the work. Some could argue that's cheating, but I think the technical skill of artwork is in and of itself a quantifiable value.
So you're nailing the art concepts, that's been established. It looks professional and polished. All that good stuff. The issue--or maybe this is the triumph--is just how grotesque the visuals (ALL of the visuals) are. I love that, it's my jam, but I wonder about the implications. Every character physically manifests their degenerate vices and depraved hedonistic lifestyles. Even sympathetic characters like Julian--his chain smoking, his malcontent, his maladjustment, his misanthropy, it all oozes through his filthy hair, his rat-like face, and his chaffed, messed up hands. Now this is effective, much like it is in Flirting with Death, but given your intentions, I have to question whether there is a point at which the ugliness and hedonic excess of the characters begins to become sadistic.
I'm a fan of going deep into the grim nature of it all, but the mentally ill or stunted characters have begun to lose sympathy. The result is that i found myself rooting for a grand stroke of comeuppance against half the cast. Galia and the landlady are the only one's who I feel deserve to be happy and successful, The rest seem so boorish that it's hard to connect with them, and I was impatient for a real reckoning by the end.
That said, I want to congratulate you on your commitment--not in that you've been maintaining this for almost three years, but that you've stuck with the darkness for so long. There was no shift in tone or mood; it remained desperate, bleary eyed, hopeless for the entire ride. Considering the themes of mental illness, the story is clear and concise--and most importantly, devoid of any distracting subplots. There is only the slow excavation of guilt and shame. It's moving, in a twisted way.
I don't know your intentions, but Daniel creeps me out. It's funny, because he's the only character who has his life together by the looks of things. I should betreating him like a shelter from the storm of excess, but there's something about him that unnerves me. Perhaps it is how dramatically he does stand out from every other character. He's the only one who looks put together, and doesn't look like he's being consumed by his sins. Apollo has a similar problem in that as much as I want to root for him as the MC, he's insufferable. Yes, this is intentional, as he is the emotionally stunted manchild, but in keeping with my primary concern, at what point am I meant to be rooting for him--or for anyone? When does the depravity and self obsession end?
It's a striking story, no question. The art is wonderfully made, and makes every second of effort manifest. In a way, you, the creator, have become the MC for me in this experience. I found myself rooting for you ever page, thinking "Holy hell, he's maintaining quality and keeping up the method!" Much like with Sideways, I am in no position to judge the art. it is beyond my ability. My only concern is that prospective readers who aren't charmed by the superficially cute characters like Apollo will find themselves lost in the pit of filth you've created with your cast. Navigating the repugnant personalities and hedonistic lifestyles is a demanding trial.
If your primary goal is to frame mental illness in a respectful, serious way--then i cannot say for certain if you have succeeded or not. The manifestation of Julian's warped mind is straightforward and at times melodramatic. Any time a character screams at the voices in his head is a moment I feel myself pulled out of the moment. The little I know about such things makes me think it should be more insidious, more cruel. The manifestations of trauma come through wonderfully in your art, but in the writing it seems too on the nose. There must be a more subtle, artful, and moving way to convey the damage that is so central to the story and its characters.