Review: Riot Shell #0

By | May 22nd, 2010
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Here at Multiversity we get all sorts of self-published comics sent to us for reviews. Some of them are great and easily better than certain titles any of the industry giants are publishing, while others…well, not so much. Follow the jump to find out whether Nicita Designs’ Riot Shell is the former or the latter. As the titular character exclaims on page three, “Time for the pain!”

Before I go into some of the problems that are present in this issue, I would like to talk about the concept behind Riot Shell. After this 6-page issue, everything else is done by user submissions on a page-by-page basis. That means you or I write and draw a page, submit it, and then everyone else on the site can vote for it every hour over a set period of time. In the end, the story will be completely reader-controlled, like a sort of “choose your own adventure” storybook.

Seems interesting, but let’s think about this for minute. If, say, a hundred people submit a page, that gives us one hundred different styles of art and one hundred writing styles to choose from. Unless there is one person submitting that stands far above the rest, we are going to be seeing a level of inconsistency that could very well make reading the comic unbearable (that is, more unbearable than it is already). Had Nicita Designs instead decided to take story outline submissions to then script and draw, I feel their idea would work out a bit better. The results for page one of issue one should be coming in relatively soon, so while my prediction could be completely wrong we will soon see.

That being said, let’s take a look at this starting issue from the main creative team. Here, I’ll even give you a link.

To begin, let’s ignore the obvious problems with the art and the writing and look at Isabella Shell herself. After being ambushed by some terrorists who were after your standard undefined “files” and left for dead, Shell was given a robotic arm of sorts that can transform into a variety of weapons. She also developed a desire to walk around in lingerie. I do not mean to imply that the creators of Riot Shell are sexist in any way, but would anyone deny that there is something demeaning about that outfit? Sure, you can retort that the costume worn by the classic character _________ is nothing better, but this is 2010. When you have writers like Gail Simone and Greg Rucka trying their best to undo the sexist undertones many non-comic fans associate with the medium, this just sends us back to square one. It doesn’t help Nicita and company’s case that of this 25-page digital issue only seevn pages are story while the rest are pin-ups (and half of the “story” is made up of pin-up poses anyways).

One of the biggest problems with this first (zeroeth?) issue is that it seems Adrian Nicita never heard one of the most important rules about writing comics: show, don’t tell. A whole page is wasted as we are lectured by Nicita on Shell’s newfound abilities, all while she stands there posing some more. That’s one whole page where something could have been happening that displayed these abilities while giving us actual content (and no those three panels where she changes her arm to different guns don’t count). The dialogue sounds like Nicita is trying way too hard to be “cool,” and Shell’s internal monologue sounds more like an excited 13 year-old boy than anything else.

While the art for the most part doesn’t deserve much discussion, as it looks just like every other book released in the 90’s did, the one person working on this book that did a really solid job was colorist Dash Martin. Digital coloring is really hard work, but Dash does well enough that I could honestly see him pulling his own on a mainstream book (though some parts that use that “glare” effect are a bit excessive). Mad props, Dash. I’m willing to excuse that it looks like penciller Martin Montiel has never seen a real gun as some creative liberties taken with the morphing arm,s but his art is just unimpressive, clearly ditching substance for stylization.

I hate to be so harsh, since I feel the independent scene is something that more people need to pay attention to, but this just wasn’t pleasant to read. Clearly some disagree with me, as plenty have submitted story pages to be voted on for the first issue, but I see the novelty quickly fading away and Riot Shell dying with a whimper. While the reader-submitted story is an interesting idea at its core, I feel that with the poor execution and awful starting issue Riot Shell is definitely something to pass on by.

Walt Richardson

Walt is a former editor for Multiversity Comics and current podcaster/ne'er-do-well. Follow him on Twitter @goodbyetoashoe... if you dare!