- Posted by Ed Sizemore on July 21, 2011 at 7:49 am
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
- CREDITS: by Hwang Joon Ho; adapted by Daniella Orihuela-Gruber
- PUBLISHER: iSeeToon; $4.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
currently available only for the iPhone via iTunes
Ill-Fated Relationship is the story of two serial killers, neither of whom are named, who meet as one is stalking the other. They strike up an unusual friendship. Over the course of the comic, we learn each character’s background and listen to them discuss their beliefs and why they kill people.
iSeeToon is an initiative by Korean comics (manhwa) publisher iSeeYou to make translated manhwa available on the iPhone and iPad. Ill-Fated Relationship is one of two comics currently available for the iPhone.
Let’s begin with the comic itself. You really can’t make serial killers sympathetic. The best you can hope for is to make them intriguing (see Hannibal Lecter). Even that is difficult to do. So there’s a lot working against Ill-Fated Relationship from the start.
The two unnamed leads never develop beyond being stereotypes with cliched backstories. The female is the typical cold, calculating killer. She has no remorse and even cites the Marquis de Sade to justify her actions. The male is more angsty and only kills when overwhelmed by a sudden urge. He finds himself in awe of the woman’s meticulous methods and reasons. Why she continues to hang out with him is never made clear.
The art is simplistic. The lack of detail hurts when conveying any sense of emotion; the characters look bored most of the time. Mercifully, this also means that some scenes in the manhwa are kept from getting too gross or graphic. Overall, though the art is as lifeless as the characters.
Most of Ill-Fated Relationship is the characters talking. Toward the middle of the manhwa, I was losing interest and counting the chapters until the end. The only reason I finished was a gallow’s curiosity. If you have a story about two serial killers titled Ill-Fated Relationship, it’s obvious one of the two isn’t going to survive. I wanted to see which one the author choose and how he justified the choice. I’ll admit I did like the ending, but not enough to redeem the story.
Now, let’s discuss the iPhone app itself. The first thing to note is that iSeeToon doesn’t have a reader app that you download content into. Currently, each manhwa is its own app. This will make for a very cluttered iTunes library. iSeeToon needs to rethink this strategy and follow the example set by other publishers with comic reading apps.
Second, I had problems when opening and starting the app. When I first opened the app, I got the instruction scene. It takes a while for the bottom menu to pop up and allow me to access the table of contents. On a couple of occasions, it never appeared, and I had to close and reopen the app to get it to work properly. This might be because I’m running it on an iPhone 3GS and not an iPhone 4. I do have the latest iOS loaded so it shouldn’t have been a problem.
Once the program is up and running, there were no more problems. I don’t like that at the end of each chapter (called a comic for some odd reason), I have to open up a menu and tell the app to advance to the next chapter. The program should just continually advance until I hit the end of the story.
You read the story panel by panel. Occasionally, there are some transition effects between panels, but for the most part you read each panel in isolation. There is no page layout. You can tell the manwha was formatted specially for the iPhone from the beginning. This makes it feel more like you’re watching a Flash cartoon then reading a comic book.
I found the experience overall dissatisfying. It was too passive. For me, the central unit of a comic is not the panel, but the page. When I read comics, I like seeing the page layout first, then moving my eyes from panel to panel. I enjoy being able to compare the panels on a page to each other, creating a sense of dynamic flow in my imagination. Panels are like sentences within a paragraph. They need a context to take on proper meaning.
I’m not sure who will enjoy Ill-Fated Relationship. The story is too lightweight to appeal to fans of Hannibal Lecter or that genre of fiction. The app is too radical a departure from traditional comics reading to appeal to comics fans. Perhaps, in a few years, they will work out the kinks and do something truly innovative for smartphones and ereaders. For now, Ill-Fated Relationship stands as a failure in reimagining comics.
You can view a trailer for the comic at the iSeeToon website. The publisher provided a free download of the app for this review.