Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Matter #1

The Matter #1
The Royal Springs Entertainment Company
Half legal sized.

What differentiates The Matter from a small press magazine? The screen printed cover? The fact that I bought it at the Portland Zine Symposium? The paper quality?

Ultimately it’s the intentions of the creators (and the cover), but the people working on this publication have clearly put a lot of time and effort into its design, which is something I fully support.

The book is a mixture of illustrated fiction and comics, from a number of different creators, interspaced with mostly black pages featuring single quotations from various people that represent what the magazine is about (words, pictures, conversation, science fiction, dragons, art) better than the three page editorial note at the end.

The first comic is about an issue I have yet to see any fiction about: Somalian pirates. The creator, Matt Strackbein, has clearly spent a lot of time researching this, as the only dialogue in the piece is in Somali. Or at least I think it is; my attempts to find an online Somali-English translator on the internet failed. He could just be writing gibberish. Not that that’s a problem, I already own comics in numerous languages I cannot understand, and the storytelling here is clear enough for me to follow.

The comic itself seems interesting enough, though at only seven pages of a longer narrative this part doesn’t really give you a feel for how the work will be. I do wonder about the somewhat cartoony style that is being used for the artwork, I’m not sure how well it goes with the story.

The next comic, the Brink, is billed both as the first chapter and as a sneak peak. The idea of a counsellor working on a space station seems pretty good (admittedly, I haven’t watched that much Star Trek), but the short piece here isn’t really enough to go on.

The final comic thankfully doesn’t have the problem of being an introduction, as it tells a complete story. It’s short, humourous piece about supergenius babies who want cookies. It didn’t do much for me to be honest.

Nor did either of the two prose pieces included here. I definitely feel as though more could be done with the second story, about a girl who is the only person left in a huge empty office after everyone else had been fired. It could definitely be developed more.

One major complaint I had is on the type of paper used. I’m sure people putting this zine together spent a lot of time choosing it, and while the flecked look works fairly well for the text pages, it doesn’t look so hot for the comics. White should be white, not some weird speckled beige. Unfortunately this is made even worse on the first comic because of the grey background that surrounds all images, hopefully they’ll clear up that problem for future issues.

So a not so fantastic start, but the creators put in a lot of work, and hopefully future issues will reach their potential.

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