Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Plot 1 and 2 by Neil Brideau

Written and Illustrated by Neil Brideau
Self-Published

A trio of friends on the cusp of a ritual that will turn them into adults and bind them to constructs that grant them abilities encounter a strange monster, setting in motion a series of events that will change their world forever in the intriguing start to an epic story by Brideau.

This one is notable because there aren't a ton of mini-comics out there which take on the concept of building an entire world from whole cloth and make it past their first issue. It's not easy to commit yourself to working on a story at such a grand scale. Even those who create on a mainstream scale sometimes burn out (or have their series cancelled) before it finishes.

That's why Brideau's Plot is so notable. It bucks several trends, and does so with quite a bit of quality and skill. It's not just something a little different from the usual mini-comic fare, but also a really solid story with three characters who are both familiar and different at the same time.

We open with the trio of humanoids pictured on the cover above hanging out, presumably somewhere they don't belong. After getting some time to establish their personalities, Brideau cleverly disguises the backstory by taking them to a preparation session for their ascent. This leads to further conflict, as one of their number doesn't take anything at face value.

When the trio regroups, they find themselves confronted by a monster which follows them right back to the village. That's where issue two picks up, as the kids try to avoid blame and the village deals with their new visitor. As things escalate, the true nature of the creature and just how much trouble everyone is in becomes clear, leavings readers on a great cliffhanger.

Serial storytelling like this rare in any format these days. With so many folks keeping half an eye (or more) on collected editions, finding just the right breaking point for a narrative while also telling a complete story in the pages available to the creator is a lost art. In these two mini-comics, however, Brideau does a great job of knowing when to stop while still making it crucial for the reader to find the next comic. There's a real sense of menace at both endings, but at the same time, it's also a logical break point, as the story shifts focus to reflect the new reality presented.

Within each issue, things build up, and it's actually impressive how quickly Brideau gets to his points. While still doing all the necessary character work and backstory, along with the theme of a new generation questioning that which has come before, this story moves at a rapid pace. Just about every page provides key information without going overly long, as fantasy stories can sometimes do. When the history is recited, it takes up only a few pages, for example, instead of an entire comic. The revelation that the kids have been violating the rules doesn't require panel after panel of denial and recrimination. Instead, it's given a brief, wordless depiction and then the fallout begins.

Now, if you are the type who enjoys those lengthy speeches and scenes, then perhaps The Plot will seem unsatisfying to you. While the style of the story is similar to Tolkien or Jordan (or, perhaps in a better comics comparison, maybe Elfquest), Brideau recognizes that in a mini-comics format, going on and on, no matter how enjoyable, just doesn't work within the context of the medium he's using to tell the tale. Mini-comics are the type of thing you find at a table at a convention or a zine fest maybe a few times a year. If each issue, which takes time and care to produce as a one-man operation, only contained a bit of action and lots and lots of discussion and debate, it's unlikely anyone comes back for issue 2, let alone however many minis it might take to reach the end. Instead, he concentrates on getting the elements of such a story together, and adapts them for working within the strengths and limitations of a mini-comic.

In addition having a strong plot and characters who are rebellious but not annoying (i.e. not Wesley Crusher circa Season 1 of Next Gen), Brideau's artwork on The Plot matches his goal to create a fantasy world. We have humanoids who are just a bit different from you or me, with oddly shaped heads and tribal markings. There's a commonality among types but enough variety that you don't get the main characters mixed up. All of the people have wide eyes and broad mouths, giving Brideau room to express feelings without having to put it all in the dialogue.

Brideau works entirely in black and white here, with no greyscale or shading. Because of this, the art has a crisp feeling, with the reader's eye drawn to the heavy black inks on the tribal markings and clothing. Backgrounds vary from being blank to featuring pointillism to featuring trees, grass, and other natural elements, drawn in sufficient detail to allow the reader to form a picture of the world around these characters. As with most mini-comics artists, Brideau relies heavily on medium shot panels, and from time to time, these could use some variety to keep the eye fresh. There are times when it would have been nice to see a longer-angle look at the action, if only as a break from shirt-to-face looks at our protagonists. Overall, however, Brideau does a nice job of making the world around his characters feel real without bogging down into minutia, applying the same concepts to the art as he did to the scripting.

If I read correctly, The Plot is nearing issue 4 at this point, working on roughly a once a year schedule. It's going to take time to see the final vision of Brideau's play out across the half-size zine pages, but if these first two issues are any indication, it's definitely going to be worth it. Anyone who is a fan of fantasy and mini-comics should try to find this if they can.

You can learn more about Neil Brideau at his website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think! (Sorry we had to go back to registered comments. Too much spam!)