June 2, 2013

Review -- MOTH CITY

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Moth City
(Tim Gibson)
4/5 stars
Moth City is a series you should check out for the following reasons:
  • It is an engaging story
  • Gibson's artwork is fantastic
  • It capitalizes on the unique pacing opportunities of digital comics 
  • It pushes the interaction between reader and creator
  • It is free (and who doesn't like free comics)

In his press release for Moth City, Gibson wrote of his series: 
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Civil war, when the governing Nationalist Party fought Mao’s Communists, Moth City tells the story of an American weapons tycoon who must solve a brazen murder, before his city’s inhabitants are wiped out by the warring factions. 
That's the story, and Gibson tells it well. There is intrigue, great characterization and action here. It's really the full package. As well, if you look at the images running concurrently with this review, you can see that Gibson's art is great to look at: expansive, dramatic, sure of itself. He's doing everything here, from pencils to inking to coloring to lettering -- and it's pretty damn impressive. 
What really got me excited about this book, though, was HOW Gibson was telling his story.

Many of the digital comics I've read present their story by echoing the traditional panel by panel reveal of their print counterparts. The reader chooses the pacing of the story by first scanning the entire page and then moving on to each panel progressively, pausing where they choose, focusing on each moment in itself. In Moth City, though, Gibson uses a simple slide show format within each panel. This adds a dynamism to his storytelling, one in which he exerts more control over the pacing of his storytelling. In a way, it is almost like a motion comic, but without all the awkwardness inherent in that presentation and that uncomfortable sense of "trying to be something other than what it is" it engenders. There is a naturalness to Gibson's format and it really plays with how the reader interacts with the story.
Characters speak and what they say is revealed as the reader clicks through a panel. Sometimes panels change within themselves, sometimes even a subtly as having a character wrinkle their brow. This adds time and movement, yet erases the pause between images that traditional panel to panel reading creates. The format still relies on the reader to provide closure, but by having the audience engage in that intellectual enterprise within the panel itself, the format adds a new layer to the process.

In a way, through this presentation Gibson acts almost as a film director, insomuch as by choosing how much is revealed in each panel at one time he controls the pacing, but as this is still a comic, the reader is also an active participant in that progression. What this does is separate the digital experience of reading this comic from the kind of experience you have while reading a print book, yet at the same time it enhances the personal interaction a reader brings to the basic medium itself.
It's cool stuff and I wonder why more digital offerings don't follow this format. Reading Moth City takes full advantage of the manner in which Gibson has chosen to tell his story. It engages you in an interactive way and adds a new level to the digital reading experience, providing, as it were, a new layer of intimacy.
You can read Moth City for free at Gibson's website, at Comixology or at Thrillbent.

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