I’d like to make something clear before we really get into this: I’m going to be very harsh, I have a lot of criticisms for this one. I can only stress that it not be taken as an attack, rather advice. I hear the creators of this one have been very open to critique, and are heeding it. That’s good, and they should be commended for that. So I just want them to be aware if they’re reading this, that every harsh thing I have to say is in an effort to help them improve the project they’re clearly passionate about.
DISCLAIMER: While I have zero intention of allowing this to affect my critique, for the sake of ethical transparency I feel the need to inform everyone reading of something about myself. A friend of mine works on this comic series. Though, not on the particular comic I’m reviewing here. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Mythics is my least favorite of the first three “Mythoverse” comics. It’s not all bad… I just really didn’t enjoy it, and there are quite a few reasons why. At the risk of upsetting my boss with an absurdly lengthed article, I’m going to go into detail about exactly why I feel the way that I do, in the hopes that I can more thoroughly advise the creators. Let’s start with the good.
Like I mentioned with Adobe Kroger, I very much tire of the bland, same-looking art that plagues the comic industry today. So I’m happy to see that Mythics very much as a style of it’s own. The linework is soft, the style is expressive, and the use of color is a pleasure to look at. It does a great job of evoking the fantasy that the story revolves around. It’s not heavily detailed, but it doesn’t need to be. As much as it pains me to say it (and likely pains the creators more to hear it)… that’s where my ability to compliment Mythics ends.
I’ll start with the shorter criticism: The story isn’t very good. Not that the idea is bad, it’s just that the execution is ameteaur. Sloppy frankly, is some places. Yeah, this is why I gave that warning at the start. The problems start in the very first panel. Who’s narrating? At first I thought it was our main gal, but another box at the bottom of the same page suggests it’s the guy next to her. So that’s it then, right? No, because another box of the same color and font of the first two on the third page uses the same nickname for the antagonists that the main gal does later in the story. So who in the world is talking?
The solution to this problem is simple: Assign a color to each character. I’m reminded of a Spider-Man comic I have. Spider-Man’s thoughts are in blue boxes with black text. Black Cat’s thoughts are in black boxes with white text. You don’t need to overtly establish which character these boxes belong to, the dialogue can often do that. However, there is another step you can take. The same comic I just cited, introduces this concept by having only that character (sometimes among clearly unimportant background characters) in view for the first few panels that the narration boxes are introduced. So when the blue box goes on for a few panels with only Peter Parker clearly in the scenes, it’s obvious those boxes belong to him. The same technique is used when Black Cat is introduced into the story.
So what about the possibility that all of these are the same character? Then you’ve got a dialogue problem. Try saying something that would easily distinguish the character right away. The establishment trick from the last paragraph would’ve also helped. Adobe Kroger used both of these things to make it clear who was talking. As well, different characters should have different speech patterns, and distinct personalities. They should use different words, and have different mannerisms. Structure their sentences differently, give them a unique way of responding to things.
I simply can’t comprehend a portion of your presentation, that’s a huge problem whatever the cause is.
Now, I should say this since it’s come up: I’ll be comparing this to Adobe Kroger a lot. Not only because I feel the writing is better in that, but also because the creators will have a known comparison, and can possibly get help in these aspects from their fellow creators if they want.
You might also be wondering why I haven’t referred to the main gal by her name yet. I don’t know it. In one place she’s called “Elthia”, in another she’s called “Maria”. I have no clue what this character’s name is, or why she’s called by two different names in the exact same first issue. There’s a point where being vague, becomes withholding information.
That segways surprisingly well. So there’s no better way to express the rest of my problems, without just laying it all out in one go (at least to start). Why did only one witch try to fight back against main girl? Why doesn’t she have any kind of martial training if magic can be just turned off? Why did she try to fight if she knew she couldn’t defend herself? Why didn’t any of the other five witches there try to help against the two people that were a threat (martial prowess goes a long way, but so do numbers)? How are these people any kind of threat? Why haven’t they been crushed yet? Why did the main two just let all of the witches go after they murdered a family and attempted to sacrifice the baby? How does sending a bunch of incompetent underlings to botch a job that alerts two seperate opposing organizations to your movements serve a greater plan (not to mention the horrible death knell of a cliche that scene was)? And that’s the whole first issue right there.
You don’t have to explain everything, but you do need to lay the foundation. I understand what’s happening in Adobe Kroger, even if I don’t know everything. With Adobe Kroger, I’m intrigued by the details. In Mythics, I’m lost as to what’s even happening. It’s a difference of: “Huh, I wonder what non-human guy was.” and, “Why is everyone in this story a hapless moron?” The main character wins because the antagonists are hopelessly incompetent. The antagonists get off scot-free because the main characters let them go for reasons that aren’t so much as mentioned, so I’m just left to assume they’re incompetent too.
These are all easily solved problems, is the thing. For example: Maybe make the characters seem defensive of the child as the witches are allowed to escape. Or if there’s an outside force stopping them, have someone make a comment along the lines of, “I can’t believe they’re making us do this.” A simple nod or mention is all that’s needed to justify something to the audience. Make all the witches attack instead of just one, or none at all. Either would make them seem more rational than what’s here. The former would have the benefit of better displaying the skill of our main character, assuming she fought them off.
Instead of being treated to a story, I was utterly confused as to what was happening in front of me. These questions of mine didn’t require any critical thinking, these are the first things that came into my mind upon reading it. Total lack of understanding. All I know (aside from what was in the introduction) is that alternate dimensions exist, and some witches tried to sacrifice a baby to a demon lord.
Here’s what I learned about Adobe Kroger’s plot over the course of the first issue: The Order of the Carolingian Cross is out to stop demonic worshippers from indoctrinating a group of girls. Magic works through both the user’s conviction, and incantation. Non humans are not only on earth, but in the antagonist organization. The antagonists are competent enough to have magical barriers, and a fast responding security force. They are also very near to achieving their goal at the time the story starts. Adobe herself has a neurological disorder holding her back, but her skill and determination get her through regardless. She’s also so dedicated to her role as protector, that she flung herself in front of a bystander despite not really knowing if she’d be able to protect herself from the same fate. I have questions, but I was never once confused.
Vagueness inspires investigation, and critical thought. It implies information. Withholding information only confounds the reader, and makes them wonder why they’re even bothering to read your story if you’re going to refuse to tell them anything about it.
Now we’re on to art. While the art was certainly my favorite part of Mythics, there are a couple serious problems with it. Now I’m gonna be going in depth here, I have some legitimate advice for the artist to couple with my critiques. To do this, I’ll actually be using my own art as examples alongside theirs. It’s not because I think I’m some amazing artist. Think of it as me “putting my money where my mouth is”. I’m about to pick apart someone’s art in great detail, so I’m going to put my own on the line as well.
Simplest first. What is she using as a weapon? Are those tonfas? I can barely see them, and I can’t tell what they are. That’s just my best guess. When you’re using a lot of heavy blacks like that, you’ve got to let a smidge of light touch the edges, that way you can differentiate what everything is. Where the object ends, and where the background begins. It also helps to distinguish bends and curves. But these things are just jet black, and I can’t make them out. Another thing you can do, is avoid coloring with total blacks. Both techniques can be seen here (but I get it, harsh blacks are really cool looking, I don’t think I’ll go this particular route again myself).
It’s not like you have to outline the whole thing with light, just enough to imply the shape is enough. Human minds are good at extrapolating patterns, you’ve just gotta give people a hint.
Another smaller complaint, is the main gal’s design. It looks like she just got done jogging. It’s not even just a matter of personal preference, it’s about as impractical as a swimsuit. One of the few things the story does make clear, is that there are other worlds. That, and the fact that they’re specifically in this park to find the witches and stop them. So why would she dress this way? What if she’s taken into an environment where that kind of clothing could get her killed? The guy she’s with is dressed in a far more universally useful outfit. It’s not like I think everything has to be practical in a fantasy. But it’s not good from a character design standpoint either. It’s just a basic tank top and shorts, absolutely nothing else.
Allow me to better explain why that latter portion is an issue. Let’s say there were no other problems with character design at all in this, just the outfits. Take any other female character from this story, and put her in the same basic clothing. Now turn them both into silhouettes. What’s the difference? Now you might be thinking, “Well of course there isn’t one, not when you set up that extremely specific scenario.” And to that I say: You missed the point. These characters are not real. You do not have to put them in extremely bland, lifelike clothing that literally any of them might decide to put on one day. Literally any woman that happened to be jogging through the part that night, might be wearing that exact outfit.
Her companion (Galatyn I think is his name) has the same problem, but at least his outfit has the excuse of practicality. So if it’s not practical, and it’s not a good design, why did you put your character in this? It’s not like she’s just sitting at home, or out jogging for real and runs into this by accident. She is looking for witches that are attempting to summon a demon, and she chose to dress like she’s going to the gym.
I should elaborate on the silhouette thing more. You can have two characters in similar outfits that are still distinct from each other at a glance. The reason this matters, is easy identification of characters. This is issue one, we’re not familiar with these people yet. So if we’re given nothing to easily spot them with, the process is only going to be more difficult. The hairstyle the character has, accessories, the way they wear the clothing, how they carry themselves. Do these characters even have distinct body types? These are all small things you can do that won’t break any realism you might be going for.
Here’s a good example. It’s from an article I worked on recently where I was complimenting the media on its character design.
Now this series is a bit more abstract with it’s design, but this is a relevant example of two characters who dress in a very similar manner, whose silhouettes look completely different at a glance. Even with similar body types these two characters are distinct from each other, because every other factor was made unique to them. It’s not about whether or not you can tell the silhouettes of your characters apart from each other. It’s whether or not your brand new audience can. Even if you have no idea what these example characters are from, you can easily tell they’re different characters.
This is another thing Adobe Kroger did well. It’s not like I expect your characters to stand out against an international network’s worth of characters, that’s impossible. I just expect the characters in your story to stand out against each other. Adobe looks like a Matrix reject, but at least I can tell her apart from the other characters in her own story. There’s a reason you open with the iconic outfit (any time during the opening story), and not the casual one.
One more smaller issue before we move on to the most complicated one. Your panels can be hard to read, and the action is even more incomprehensible. You’re allowed to have more than one panel for your action. Trust me, I know it’s a pain to spend so much time drawing out complete motion. But it pays off, your audience suffers otherwise. I can’t tell what main gal is supposed to be doing when she fights the witch, and that’s saying something as a martial artist that should at least be able to extrapolate things like that. Do you not know anything about martial arts, is that why you didn’t want to spend so much time drawing your character using it? If so, don’t you think it would be prudent to at least look into techniques relevant to what your character is doing? Trust me, people like me appreciate effort if nothing else. It’s nice to see artists/writers/actors that at least attempt to know what they’re doing.
It’s not just a matter of reading the action either. The witch moves and main gal takes her out in a single panel. It adds credence to the “non-threat” question I brought up earlier. If our main character has to at least be seen doing something extremely competent to take down a foe (even if she pulls this particular thing off flawlessly), we as the audience can see where the danger might lie. People often accuse characters of being a Mary Sue citing a displayed ability to fight competently as a reason, just because no training or practice was hinted at beforehand. This frankly just isn’t true. If a character is shown immediately to be a skilled fighter, that is your establishment that they’re a skilled fighter. The rest can be touched on later. However, we as the audience were given no reason here to believe that main gal is competent, just that the witch was extremely incompetent.
Almost forgot, one more thing: The robes of the witches suddenly change in the middle of the scene. At first they’re open almost all the way down to the groin, but then they suddenly close to a pretty safe for work extent. I’m indifferent either way. I’m not gonna complain that you’re sexualizing your characters too much, or not enough. I just want you to pick one for the remainder of a scene.
People often throw around the term “same-face”, too much sometimes. Other times, people are all too eager to try and refute those claims based on a single minor detail or two, which doesn’t matter in the slightest to anyone new to the story. In other words: They’re missing the point. “Same-face” doesn’t mean that there are no singular differences at all, it means there are so few it practically doesn’t matter. And any artist that refuses to accept this criticism, is only harming their own work.
There are eight billion people in the world. And of those people, often less than ten are genuine look-alikes. Human beings are so wildly diverse that if the characters in your story look even mostly the same, new readers will be easily confused. Now I know this is a simpler style, but there’s still a lot you can do. I don’t expect you to make every random background character diverse, but if your actual characters are it won’t matter. I’m going to go over some suggestions, examples, and the critiques of what’s causing the problem in great detail here. So if the artist happens to be reading this: Brace yourself, I know how it feels.
First, I’m gonna share where this was personally a problem.
Right there. I know now, and upon a second look through of course that the small panel on the right is actually Galatyn, but I initially confused it for the main witch. The only obvious differences being that he has a somewhat wider chin, pronounced cheekbone, and the fact that he’s not wearing a hood. But his hairstyle is similar, his face is similar, even his eyes and eyebrows. In such a small panel that only focuses on his face, it was very easy to miss upon first viewing. Like I said I don’t expect your characters to stand out against every other character in the world, but if I’m having trouble telling them apart from panel to panel you have a serious character design problem.
This is a symptom of a larger issue. Almost all the characters have nearly the exact same facial structure. Even between men and women, they’re strikingly similar. The only character I found to be truly distinctive, was this guy:
He has a lot of notable features and details. His eyebrows are different from everyone’s (most usually have the same two types), even his head shape is different from the norm. Most male characters have the same shape as Galatyn, the other character in this scene even has the exact same nose.
Alright, now that I’ve covered what the problem is and the negative toll it can take, I’m gonna get into the nitty gritty of where exactly it’s present and how you could fix it. I won’t be displaying every panel that has these problems. If I did, this article could frankly be considered piracy. So I’m just gonna grab one or two instances these issues are most prevalent, and hope you take my word for it that they exist elsewhere.
NOTE: I have no idea why there was so much image quality loss when I extracted these pictures. The pixilation is not the fault of the creators.
Now I know what some people are gonna say right off the bat, because they’ve never actually tried drawing original characters before, or so much as thought about what they intend to say. Go hand draw some V’s real quick, tell me how many of them are exactly the same.
The point here is just how similar each of these characters jaws are structured. I drew one “V” with a line tool on the far left witch, then I copied and rotated the same one to fit the others (that’s why there’s some quality loss on them). I didn’t alter them any other way. That’s four characters in the same panel with the exact (for all intents and purposes we already covered this) same jawline. These lines very slightly failing to match up every time is not an indicator of an effort being made to distinguish them, it simply means the artist is human and can’t draw the precise same “V” shape every single time. These jaws shouldn’t be anywhere near this close to each other.
You can see I didn’t bother with the one in the back. I can tell just by looking at her that she’s the only one with a legitimately different shape.
We have characters in scenes with each other who have the exact same cheek and jaw line from the exact same angle as each other. Just imagine how many times this same shape is used at this angle throughout the first issue. It really is every female character. Male characters have the same issue, just with a different shape from the females. We’ve already talked about how there’s one exception to that.
I know there’s a very slight difference between the placement of their cheekbones. But with how similar all of the faces are in this, I’m not confident in saying that it wasn’t by accident. Not to mention everything else.
To the artist’s credit, the eyes of characters are often quite varied. That helps. I think the noses are mostly different as well, but there’s so little detail on the noses of female characters it’s impossible to tell unless they’re at a profile angle. You might try adding a bit more, that shouldn’t break the style you’re going for. Remember what I said about the blacks and lighting: You don’t need a full outline, just enough to suggest the shape. Mouths just aren’t detailed at all, you might consider changing that too.
In an effort to give helpful suggestions, and in the interest of good faith: This is the part where I start picking apart my own art. Rather than the simple example I used one of my pieces for earlier, we’re gonna go into my exact method and reasoning in places I think will help Beth Varni (the artist) improve.
When you’re working with a simplistic or unrealistic style, you have to boil down character features to very basic aspects. Is their jawline flat or round? Is their nose straight, or does it curve? Which way? Are their cheeks concave, convex or in the middle? How distinct are their cheekbones? How do their eyes tilt? What’s the shape and thickness of their eyebrows? What’s the size and shape of their mouth? How wide is their chin, or their face? What’s the length?
These are all distinct features that you can communicate in a cartoon or comic style. Going for realism simply means that they will be less exaggerated, and have more lifelike proportions. Imagine the character in your head at their most accurate to what you want them to be. Take note of what their basic characteristics are. Assign that specific combination of features to that character, and don’t give that exact combo to anyone else in the story. Mix them all around as much as you can for everyone, no two characters should have the exact same set. No one differing feature is enough, you need many.
Some of the features of the characters above are similar, some are different that can’t be seen at the certain angle you see them in. But since so many features differ between them, we can focus in on the few that can be seen for all of them, and there are still distinct differences. One of them is at a profile angle, unlike the other two. However, you can still see that the eyebrows, eyes, nose shape and jawline are all different from at least one or the other. In both cases, more than one of those things is different.
All of a character’s features are important, you never know what angle you’ll be viewing them from. Don’t skimp out on any of them.
I wanna go on, put the surgical light on my own art some more. I mean my stuff certainly isn’t perfect. But this article is long enough to put my boss into a grave just so that she can turn over in it. I think I’ve made my points and suggestions pretty clear. I know I’ve already said this at the start, but I’d like to bookend this thing by saying it again: The creators of Mythics have already been pretty open to criticism. I’ve been very brutal in this article, but that’s only because I see no point in dishonesty. My intention isn’t to kick Beth and Matt (the writer) while they’re down. My hope is that this in depth critique alongside suggestions for improvement will help them make their project better. I wish you the best.
Unfortunately, I just can’t recommend this one. I hear talk of a re-release to fix the issues, and their willingness to accept the criticism levied at them is something I can only see as being a boon to the future of Mythics. But right now, I can’t in good faith tell anyone that they would enjoy this. I’d say wait and see what happens before you drop cash on this one.
We’ve got one more issue that launched the Mythoverse, I’ll see you in the next review.