Stick City. Issue Pi. ADVANCE Comic Book Review!

Stick City: Pi Cover!

Stick City: Pi 
(Brennan Neil!)

Brennan Neil used to write about comic-books on his own blog. Like many journalists in the comic-book world, he aspired to write his own comic. Instead of waiting for an artist, he decided to write AND draw his own comic-book. Stick City is the result… and, amazingly, it is genuinely one of the most inspiring and original comic-book stories I’ve read in… well, I’m going to say forever.

When I first heard about this title, I was curious. I knew that the drawings, to an extent, were going to be more stick-figure in style than rendered humans. I also knew it was going to be black and white. My mind assumed this was because Brennan didn’t feel entirely comfortable drawing the standard style of comic-book art. While this may still be the case, Brennan has taken the restrictions and used them as part of the narrative, crafting a comic-book that tells a unique story.

And that isn’t easy.

Stick City feels like a hybrid between The Matrix and a 1940s film noir, throwing out philosophical, sci-fi concepts (the God String, for example) and rooting them in the back and forth banter of your average detective story. By transfusing these genres, something truly fascinating emerges.

And by fascinating, I mean crude.

Really crude, and violent, it’s a foul-mouthed sci-fi noir, rooted in a protagonist (I can’t say hero because… well, he’s not particularly likeable) who shoots first and forgets to ask the question. The piece is a dark reflection of society, the black and white images never reflecting a ‘good vs. evil’ stance. It’s more ‘bad vs. terrible’ in terms of the ongoing conflict.

It’s also really surprising.

While reading, I was taken aback by the ease with which Brennan navigated between fantastic action sequences that explore the reality shifting aspects of the world, and scenes that had the characters exploring the nature of their universe. It hit that complicated style that Inception hit, and in my opinion, ends up playing better on a first read than that film. At the same time, you get to the end and you still have that ‘wait, what?’ feel that the truly great stuff gives you.

And I do think this is great.

The comic-book is smart, funny, violent, rather crude in terms of language and, crucially, feels like a distinctive art-piece rather than something designed to sell thousands of copies. And yet, Brennan – as mentioned above – throws in crowd pleasing moments of brilliantly realised (with, basically, stick figures no less) action scenes that just pop right off the page.

I mentioned that I wasn’t that hopeful for the visuals, but they have been used incredibly effectively. To the point where I don’t think this comic-book would look better with humans, or colour. It feels perfectly rooted in black and white, and a simplified drawing system.

Is it for everyone?

I know it’s not for kids. Far too crude for them. And I think it may be a slightly niche market in that it seems targeted towards sci-fans over eighteen years of age. But that doesn’t change the fact that, a few SPAG errors and dialogue pushed off the page aside, it’s an absolutely brilliant comic-book.

Sometimes people forget that not all comic-books are about superheroes. Titles like this show the medium can, and is, capable of truly intelligent pieces of art that deserve to be appreciated by an audience.

In point of fact, I’d go so far as to say that this deserves the chance to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s commendable that Brennan is self-publishing, but in a just world this film would be selling 20,000 a month, minimum, which for prospective writers/artists would be amazing.

So in short, I love this comic-book. Genuinely excellent stuff.

Grade: A+

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