- Posted by Ed Sizemore on December 2, 2008 at 8:17 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
- CREDITS: by Brian Babendererde
- PUBLISHER: Self-Published; $14.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Betty is a teenage girl going to live with her grandmother while her parents work out the details of their divorce. She’s in a car accident on the way to her grandmother’s farm and is knocked out. While unconscious, she discovers that she has been chosen to be the new Soul Chaser.
Soul Chasers are a group of seven warriors who fight in the dream realm to protect human souls as they pass through on their journey to the spiritual sphere. They fight against Kayin, a being that takes souls and drains them of energy. His goal is to be powerful enough to cross over into the physical world and rule the universe. However, Betty is unlike the other Soul Chasers. Her unique abilities are a signal that the laws governing the balance between Kayin and the Soul Chasers have changed. Kayin senses the alterations and quickly exploits the new situation to his advantage. Will the Soul Chaser be able to adjust to the changes and stop Kayin?
Let’s start with the bad and work our way to the good. The art in this book is amateurish. First, the anatomy is off. This is most noticeable when a face is drawn at an angle other than looking straight at the viewer. Everything looks wrong; the jaw lines, the nose angle, the general shape of the skull, etc. Worst, the faces are inconsistent from panel to panel on the same page. Second, I had problems with the shading. In several panels I couldn’t figure out where the light source was supposed to be. It looked like shading was used at times to fill in details instead of indicating shadows, and this made me feel a little disoriented when looking at the panel. Finally, the art looks flat and static. Part of the problem was the incorrect shading, and the rest is the bad anatomy. Because everything feels like it’s on the same vertical plane, a lot of visual dramatic tension is stripped from the story.
Also, some of the artist’s choices bothered me. The two lead girls in the story dress like they’re auditioning for an 80s T&A film. They wear cut-off shirts that barely cover their cleavage and Daisy Duke shorts. Further, Betty spends a lot of time NOT wearing any pants. Given that Betty is underage, I found the amount of fan service in the book disturbing. Since Betty is the heroine, shouldn’t we be admiring her battle prowess and not her tight butt? Don’t worry, ladies, there are a few panels of a shirtless hunk too. Unfortunately, he isn’t seen hanging out in his tighty whities like Betty.
The metaphysics of the book leave much to be desired. There’s a point in the story where Kayin captures Betty and for no good reason goes into a nine-page exposition about the structure of the universe, his life story, and his place in various world mythologies. When you equate the Biblical Cain, the Greek ferryman of the dead Charon, and the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl you’ve done more than stretch credulity to the breaking point. You’ve actually blasted it with a nuclear missile and erased it from existence. Thankfully, you can ignore all of the bad comparative mythology and still completely understand everything in the book.
Now on to the good. Soul Chaser Betty, at its core, is the old classic good vs. evil story where the bad guy seems undefeatable. Betty is the young recruit who starts out as the underdog but has the potential to become an epic hero. Of course, time is short, so the dramatic tension is whether Betty can achieve her full potential in time to save the universe. (The same scenario has served well for Star Wars and Harry Potter.) The story is fast-paced with battle scenes appropriately spaced to keep the reader’s interest. The only times the story gets bogged down are the nine pages of metaphysics by Kayin and toward the end. The last chapter of the book gets very exposition-heavy. There are several pages where a third of the page is word balloons. Since everything is coming to a conclusion, it would have been better if this information had been more evenly spread out early in the book. This would have made the ending much tighter and more gripping.
Babendererde does create a likable cast of characters. Betty is your typical teen hero. She’s energetic, brash, and a little over-confident. She’s also very passionate about being a Soul Chaser and cares deeply for the welfare of her comrades and friends. Betty’s grandmother is an interesting character who seems to have inside knowledge of what’s going on. Betty’s friends provide emotional support and don’t think she’s crazy when she tells them about being a soul chaser. I’ve found friends that accept your sanity a valuable asset.
As a free webcomic, Soul Chaser Betty would be worth checking out. However, I can’t see paying for this story as a graphic novel. There are simply too many other books out there with much better art, story, and characters. At the book’s price point, you could get one Marvel Essential, or one DC Showcase, or two volumes of a Shonen Beat title, or a volume of Tezuka’s Phoenix saga. Babendererde needs to hone his skills both artistically and as a storyteller before he’s ready to publish books that compete with the vast array of graphic novels currently available.
You can see a preview of the first chapter and get more information about the book at Babendererde’s website. A complimentary copy was provided by the author/publisher for this review. Although available from the author since 2007, the book is now available for order through comic book stores with Diamond code DEC084285.