This will be the final review for Season 2 of Meaty Reviews. Thank you so much to those who submitted their work for review. I know I learned a ton, and I certainly hope this was useful to those whose work I reviewed. I salute you all. I'm not sure exactly when I'll post Season 3, but when i do, @luciasilvereyes and @Carossmo have the first two places, if they want them.
You were not kidding when you said the goal was Experimentation. This was a wild ride for quite a few reasons, which I'll get into down below. For now, you should know that your comic does in fact scream "experimental." It is the equivalent to an arthouse film--strange, disorienting, but with beautiful and unspeakable things lingering somewhere behind what is ostensibly absurd. If this is your intent, well done. If not, consider redressing the balance. I can say confidently that there's enough juice to work with that you do not NEED the abstract, unorthodox approach to tell the story I THINK you're trying to tell. You could take a normal approach and have something quite effective. More or less effective? Well, that's harder to say.
I also want to applaud how PG this comic is, despite it's multiple heavy threads and one big bad curse word in the first few pages. It is a family friendly story about family issues. We'll get more into this in Writing, for better and worse, but I wanted to specifically applaud your restrained approach. it would have been easy to make this a profane bloodfest, but you chose the unconventional path.
Well, there's not much to say, here, but I'm sure you're aware of that. The art is often unpolished and sloppy--even the genuinely good line work is often compromised by strange proportions, perspectives, and coloring that come off as slipshod more than experimental or abstract. That's a recurring conflict throughout the comic--what is intentionally ersatz and what is just mess? That is not the kind of question you want people to ask. It's a significant distraction from the deeper themes I imagine you want to explore in your comic. I think I'd go so far as to say you cannot afford to allow the art to continue being so unrestrained and messy. It is definitely one of the big barriers to truly engaging with the comic itself, this rampant lack of deliberate control. Experimental, abstract imagery is one thing; half-assing it is something entirely different.
I'm confident it's a question of effort, because I can see obvious sings that you either have the skills or have the ability to quickly learn those skills. The recent interlude has enormous gaps of skill. Comparing the panels of Interludes 3, 5, and 8 with most other pages convinces me that you are sprinting through sections of your own comic. When you want to, your art is not just appealing, but moving. You have the sense of symbolic imagery down, I know that much. The nightmarish scene of him and the police chief with quarters for eyes is genuinely compelling. The recurrent motif of idealized faces taped to the shadowy gray figures is much the same, just as the interrogation scene is genuinely clever and novel. But even these scenes are hamstrung by a severe lack of polish, robbing them of the emotional weight that I'm sure you want.
Id improving your artistic skills is what you want, then you should commit to improving them through at least some disciplined practice of fundamentals. Solid grasps of the orthodox approach will elevate your compelling experimentation to tremendous, and I would guess successful, levels. As it stands now, while you have certainly improved over time, you are still haunted by the specter of, to put it bluntly, not quite good enough. Your art needs a push in order to complement your story.
It's no all negative, though. I was amused by Marshall's consistent child-like appearance, like a doodle. That was effective--so long as it remained a rare, but effective, instance. You had some spectacular panels, as well: The first Interlude Page 5, where Matt is "sitting" under the "water" stands out as your best work to date. What a powerful panel. It has everything--a climactic, tension-riddled summation (even if I don't know whose it is), moody, polished looking artwork, and a genuinely melancholy, regretful atmosphere. It's the crown jewel of the comic, and I wish I was capable of mirroring that kind of energy. I hope I am able to, when my own time comes. To reiterate, too, the interrogation scene and the police chief nightmare are extremely effective. They are unsettling and competent approaches to their respective archetypal scenes. Unfortunately, their success only underscores how lacking the rest of the work tends to be, especially at the most puzzling stretches of the narrative.
Speaking of which, we should talk about your story--it is strong, it is compelling, and it is bordering on inscrutable. I genuinely have no idea what the hell is going on anymore. I don't know if people (his father? the waiter? hell, Marshall?) are dead. I don't know if either of the brothers are stable, mentally sound people. I don't know if they've made up, or if they're stuck in a dream world. I don't know very much at all, in part because the art is so barebones, yes, but it also just comes down to structure.
I was able to follow the story until Marshall shows up when his lease runs out. I suppose I should assume that it is a time leap from the end of the Prologue, but it was very jarring to see a second reunion in a few pages. First Matt is pulling him out of an asylum (?) and next Marshall is knocking on his door. From that point, my ability to parse what was actually happening and what was internal monologue/turmoil began to break down. After the interrogation, I was completely lost in the abstractions.
The same problem from the art section applies here: I cannot tell what is intentional and what is blunder. This may be the nature of experimental work, and that's fine, but I feel compelled to lay it out as bluntly as I can. For every moving moment of pathos, there is a bewildering cut to something else. I want to tend to the tragic circumstances of the brothers' relationship, but I find myself carted away repeatedly to monologuing subconsciousness and surreal visions. The entire subplot of Matt's job became not only impossible to follow, but it was, for me, a distraction from the real story that I wanted to know about--Matt and Marshall. I have a brother. I am ready to emotionally engage. I feel like too many obstacles are being set up for me to enjoy the arc.
Don't get me wrong, here--I meant it when i said you had a compelling story to tell. Familial tension is one of my favorite tropes, especially if it gets resolved one way or another. Although you sometimes laid it on really heavy (the prologue gets heavy handed, particularly from the parents and the grim internal monologues), your focus on the struggle for closure on the tenuous fraternal bonds Matt and Marshall share always pays off. Again, it is when you have me spinning the whirlpool of interludes and subplots and what appear to be hallucinations that I get lost and taken out of the immersion.
I'm torn on whether to call this experiment a success. It could be a resounding success, because I often felt on the brink of real emotional investment and interest. I was prepared to be genuinely moved by your story telling. But it could also be a failure, because I was robbed of any and all satisfying resolutions or even stable arcs. I was left hanging almost every time, which makes the Rose Tint Finale and the recent Interlude Finale feel cheap and flat. None of this is helped by the artwork, which I will be so bold as to say SHOULD, by all rights, be better than it is. I know you can make this comic look spectacular, or at the very least decent. I can see it in your work. I just hope you are able to find it in you to fully tackle this project in a way that channels all of the talent you have for an audience to enjoy.