Friday, September 28, 2012

Comic Review: Shay's Story

Scott Westerfeld, author of the Leviathan series, has written a few other young adult series and by far his most well known was the Uglies series, a trilogy (with a fourth book that's more a companion novel than a true sequel) set about 300 years in the future after humanity almost destroyed itself when a virus destroyed/set all the oil on fire (as far as I recall anyway, it's been a few years since I read these books) which also resulted in society being reshaped. Now people live with their parents when they're very young, dorms for a few years (from around 12 to 16), after which everyone undergoes a mandatory surgery to become "pretty" after which they move out of the dorms into another part of the city where they live out the rest of their lives. I'm saying all of this since this book doesn't really say any of that and none of the original books do either, it's something you have to put together   (probably because otherwise red flags would go up in the reader's minds immediately). However, I think that people do need at least a bit of background to enjoy this story, or maybe a lot of background....

Shay's Story written by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson, illustrated by Steven Cummings

   
Summary: Shay wants the same thing every teenager wants, for her sixteenth birthday to hurry up and come so she can finally undergo the operation that will make her beautiful and let her live a life of luxury in New Pretty Town for years to come. Shay isn't quite a normal teenager though, she's a bit "tricky" what with modifying her hoverboard to fly higher and faster than the limits will let it and sneaks over into New Pretty Town to pull pranks. She falls in with some life-minded people and they find out about the biggest tricky thing of all, how to escape the city and go live completely in the wilderness. Shay isn't so sure she wants this though, but the things she sees in the city start to convince her more and more.

The Good: While Tally is the main character, the mover and shaker, of the series Shay is an incredibly important character (although mostly because she usually ends up in conflict with Tally, hmm) so it's nice to fill in the gaps of her story and see how she got involved The Smoke which triggers the entire rest of the series. She is an interesting character, even though she's a bit flat here, and it was nice to see what some of the locations in the story looked like since, IIRC, the original book were a bit light on the descriptive details.

The Bad: I don't think this book works if you're completely new to the series because there is simply so much backstory to know to understand what the characters do. Why are the cities bad? While in the first Uglies book a reader could pick up on what was going on there are barely any clues to let a new reader figure out the truth and without that there's almost no reason for the characters to leave in the first place. Aside from Shay none of the characters seem to get any development, Zane is radically different from how he appears in the books (which is on purpose and about the only foreshadowing we get for my previous complaint), David seems more cocky (or like an ass, your mile may vary) than he did in the books, and Tally almost gets the worst of it since her development in the books often happened when Shay was off-screen. So when you combine those two things with the way the story itself flowed (choppy, it was split into a ton of super short chapters, it was impossible to get a grasp on the passage of time, characters came in and out of the story almost randomly) and I just can't say that this book was good or worth reading by any but the most hardcore fan. 

The Art: I shall be blunt here, this is not the medium to tell this story. An all text medium doesn't work really well for the story (it took me forever to catch onto the fact that the "ugly" characters were in fact normal) and a comic doesn't work either since, well, everyone looks pretty and there is supposed to be a huge, noticeable difference between uglies and pretties and, unless you're Urasawa* or someone who does more horror work, everyone is going to look pretty. Recently the Uglies books had their film right's optioned it was announced that they were in talks with the special effects team that did the work on Captain America for the body modifications, that would work but here where everyone is manga-pretty it just doesn't and that means a major part of the story doesn't make sense. If everyone already looks so great then why do people care about the surgery? I have to admit that the art here was in a style I'm not so crazy about (I see it in a lot of comics which  feel a lot like "OEL Manga") which uses a lot of flat, dark screentones which just doesn't work and there were times when it was confusing to figure out what order to read the panels in (something again that I see much more in comics like this than I do in webcomics which just baffles me). It's not a bad looking book, don't get me wrong there, but it just doesn't work.


So yeah, I had heard that some parts of this story didn't work, went in expecting that it would be at the very least okay and came out rather grumpy. It sounds like they want to make more graphic novels to help fill in the gaps of the series and, while on the one hand I'm curious to see what else happened to Shay when she was offscreen, and I can't really say no to books I find for free at a library, I really doubt now how good they would be. 



*who draws amazingly distinct faces, it's something about the noses 

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