Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Webcomic Review: As the Crow Flies

I had completely forgotten until I started writing this review but Gillman was another artist I met briefly at Small Press Expo last year (seriously, if you are in the District/Maryland/Northern Virginia area you need to go to this con) and they laughed a little bit when I said that I thought the story was wrapping up soon. To me it seemed as if the major reveals had been made and we were being set up for a climax with a quick downturn but Gillman said that there's a lot left to this story, I'm hoping now that I haven't jumped the gun and reviewed it too early.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

I usually end my reviews talking about the art of a comic but today I want to start with it since this is one of the few comics I follow that's done entirely in colored pencils which gives the pages a distinct heft and weight to them. Gillman does not have a Pateron but they do have a donation tab if people want to help out since, as they explain, they use up 1.3 colored pencils on each page and I can believe it. Normally when I see colored pencil art it's done by an immature artist, someone who just hasn't had access to markers or a computer and doesn't have the skill for watercolors yet, Gilman's work feels masterful and makes me wish I had seen more like that in my high school art classes to give me something to aim towards. There's no a single uncolored spec in each panel and the way the colors are layered on top of each other gives each object a rich depth without obvious shading and I have no idea how they pull off highlights while using the exact same technique. They've made another comic in this style before (a short involving swing dancing, lesbians, and vampires) and feel very comfortable with their style.

If that last sentence made you perk up a bit then yes, this is a queer comic! 13 year old Charlie has gone away to a backpacking camp only realize that not only is it Christian but it's also all white except for her. I really appreciated how the story brought up that second aspect right away since that can be an unsettling experience and as a reader I became anxious about how this trip was going to go since Charlie would be completely out in the wilderness for days. I think the comic has taken the perfect track where nothing has happened to Charlie and she hasn't been made to feel unwelcome but things feel a little off anyway. When the counselors tell them a story about how this hike originally started (the women settlers decided to leave the town for a few days to have their own, personal experience and leave the men behind), Charlie thinks to herself "but I bet that the black servants* had to stay behind". I thought this was a great example of how a truly well-intentioned idea can still be flawed, the counselors don't even realize what Charlie's thinking not out of racism but out of habit. 

As for the queerness, I'm not sure if Charlie had ever thought about boys and girls deeply before this trip but it's quite clear to the reader that she's developed a few crushes (and there is at least one more queer character in the comic). Once again I'm worried how this will play out since not all Christian denominations are friendly to that idea and I know that after being in a camp for a few days you sometimes blab more than you mean to. It's amazing just how much tension such personal thoughts (they aren't even conflicts) can give the story especially considering how little time has passed, going by the archives we're still only on the third or fourth day of the hike! I'm anxious to see what happens to Charlie (and see if more of the side cast gets fleshed out) and hope that she comes out with more positive memories than bad.

*I didn't have time to comb through the archives for this precise line and date so it might have been slaves

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