Monday, December 30, 2013


"SNOW" is coming, pre-order now!
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Ships in the second half of January.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Friday, December 27, 2013

My spoiler free Berserk review


I was curious about Berserk 8 years ago and I was put off by the number of volumes and had reservations about the art style but last year I found out what I was missing out on.
I was a bit nostalgic for some of the animation I used to watch and I had heard good things about the 90s animated series and thought that might be a good way to spend time and find out if I wanted to commit to the comic series.
Although the animated series looked like it was done on a tiny budget and tight deadline (lots of shortcuts taken), considering that, it did an admirable job of telling the story (I think the recent animated films were too much like a summary and didn’t get the power of the gradual changes in story) and the soundtrack by Susumu Hirasawa was very powerful and evocative. It hooked me and I really needed to find out what happened later in the story (the 90s animated series largely ignores the first few volumes of the comic and ends at some point in volume 13).

This review was written after reading volumes 1-37, which is all that is currently available. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, because they really do matter in this story and I think fans are generally conscious of that.

I’ll use pros and cons...

The Good: I’m rarely interested enough to try long running comic serials but I’d say Berserk is one of my top contenders for that form. It has a really brilliant dark fantasy plot that unfolds in a really satisfying way and introduces several fascinating mysteries every now and then. The way the early characters change and grow together is really well done and although there are lots of tangents that bother me from the latter half of volume 14 and onward, the main story thread stays tantalising and well composed.

One of the early pleasures is seeing the world slowly letting in more and more fantasy; the initial disbelief and terror felt by the characters.
The events of volumes 12-13-14 makes one of the most incredible turning points I’ve ever seen in a story.
The story can be surprisingly emotional. In the first 14 volumes there were three different points that nearly had me crying.

The fantasy is visualised at a standard far above what most comic artists and companies are willing to attempt. The landscapes, scenery, architecture, castles, armour, boats, corpses and monsters all look excellent; there are lots of really brilliant images that succeed mightily in grandeur, awe, nasty brutality and grotesque.
The large scale battles that go through various stages are often amazing. I think the battle in volumes 33-34 must be the most impressive one I’ve ever in seen in a visual narrative medium and it’s unlikely for a film or a videogame to reach that kind of power and assurance.

I think it is interesting that a couple of the main characters have done truly terrible things but they are still more or less heroes. The position of some of the monsters is understandable and fairly sympathetic.
It is often a criticism of popular Japanese comics that they contrive a group of friends supporting a hero in a quest, but Guts benefits from friendship in way that doesn’t seem forced or unconvincing. In a way, he never really stops being a loner; you see him come out and retreat back in his shell to varying degrees depending on who is around him.

It isn’t really a good or a bad thing but there are several visible inspirations from films like Hellraiser, Phantom Of Paradise and Pet Semetery. Miura claims the similarity between Guts and Ash from Evil Dead was a coincidence but later on there is an Evil Dead reference.
Some character names are based on science fiction titles.

The Bad: I think most of the complaints I have about Berserk are about clichés. Sometimes I’m tempted to blame it all on overwhelming genre expectations influenced by fan demographics and powerful editors, also keeping in mind the serial is originally shown in a magazine for young men.

The very first scene in the first volume feels so out of place in the story that it feels like it never happened.
It bothers me that all of the female rape victims always look relatively glamorous.
There is a scene in which an ape-like monster tries to rape one of the main female characters and it is played way too humorously; the monster looked a bit goofy, the scene looked a lot like something from monster rape porn. When the creature’s genitals get severed, I think the cartoony humour undermines respect for the nearly victimised character.
A few characters prominently suffer from rape trauma and it is an important thing for the story to present better.

That scene was wisely left out the 90s animated series. Not only benefitting for the reasons above, but also because monsters are very slowly and gradually placed into the world of humans and the ape monster being seen by humans lessens the shock of what follows after. There are other monsters seen early, but so few people see them that there is a bigger doubt cast on the reality of those events.

The most persistent problem in Berserk is the comic relief, sometimes it goes away for a couple of chapters but it always comes back, and to makes things worse, it is very rarely funny. People often say how difficult Japanese humour is to translate but I strongly doubt the jokes work very well over there either.
It breaks the fourth wall regularly and there is even a joke that the story would be too dark without the humorous characters but I don’t see how being too dark could ever be a problem. Were the creators and editors ever honestly worried that people might stop reading if it were “too dark”?
These lazy jokes are pointlessly crammed in to excessive degree and the cartoony antics don’t sit comfortably with everything else. In those chapters crammed with the bickering of Puck, Isidro, Ivalera and Schierke (who are some of the weakest characters in the story, but sometimes other characters are guilty of it too), it is easy to forget how brilliant the comic can be and there were several times it was so overwhelming I considered giving up on Berserk, but in the last two volumes I ended up skimming these scenes.

The other big problem is that some of the tangential battles and adventures go on for far too long. I mean the Elves of the Misty Valley part with the two girls’ friendship; the trolls invading the village, the floods and the swampy forest caves where the trolls live; the pirates, sea monsters and merrows part.
There are other parts that went on far too long but those were easily the worst offenders, for various reasons. Those chapters have the most ill advised comic relief; they keep the books running far longer than they need to (more on that later) and keeping you from the most exciting main plotlines.

There are recurring irritants in the action scenes. Sometimes the pacing does this thing that I see all the time in lots of comics and films when some imminent danger is coming, yet lots of things manage to happen in that supposedly tiny space of time, including lots of dialogue. Sometimes it looks as if monsters are politely waiting for everyone to finish their speeches before attacking (a privilege that anonymous crowds never get). This gives the action an artificial feeling, as if the main characters are being protected.
There is a young boy character called Rickert who is somehow one of the leaders of an army, seeing him hold his own in a battlefield looks completely false.
Methods of creating tension like prolonged fights, anxious tactical planning and long explanations of how magic works aren’t really effective when Guts improbably survives extreme violence on a routine basis; even in a fantasy world with healing faeries (always called “elves” for some reason) it isn’t at all convincing . What was all that detailed suspense for when Guts always ends up winning, as if the story is saying “he survives because we say so”? All those efforts at creating suspense feel like wasted time when he survives any extremity of violence thrown at him.

I thought one of the later fights with Serpico and Guts was a really silly idea, they are prepared to kill each other, when they stand to gain very little from that and both of them could have suffered serious consequences for killing the other. “Good guys” fighting in comics has always been a major turnoff to me, it always makes the heroes look like fools who don’t realise there are more important things going on. The reasons are rarely compelling and it always seems like fans wanting to see a certain matchup is the motivating factor.

Berserk suffers from an excess of the “show, don’t tell” philosophy. Many of the less important events would be better if they were summarised in captions or made into quick montages. Miura understandably wants to show lots of places and monsters, but seeing lengthy fights with detailed tactical dilemmas for every encounter is not exciting. He probably could have shown a lot more cool monsters and places if he didn’t feel the need to show everything that happened at each time.

Although the art is great in general, there are problems here too.
All of the young characters and many of the female characters don’t have their own faces; they have uniform faces to suggest cuteness, so I can’t help but feel cheated when many of the faces in the crowds are more distinct than some of the main characters. It feels stylistically jarring to have cartoony characters next to far more realistic ones. Sometimes too many shorthand facial expressions are used and that lessens the drama.
I’ve heard Miura uses assistants (like many popular Japanese series) and the cartoony characters look like they were done by a different artist; those characters are not flattered next to the more beautifully rendered elements.

For a character as restless, world weary and boldly independent as Guts, he often looks far too self-conscious. He sometimes poses as if he is trying very hard to look cool and his hair looks way too neatly styled for a guy with his lifestyle (you never see him with facial hair no matter how rough his days have been).

Sometimes some of the panels are a bit cluttered and lack clarity, this is worse when there is lots of dialogue and sound effects but I wouldn’t say it was a big problem.

Many of the problems I’ve listed above pad out the books far longer than they needed to be; the story probably could have been finished by now if it didn’t do all those things I complained about. I think creators should take into consideration how much time and money a potential reader will need to put into a series like this. I’ve tried to persuade some people to buy the series and I don’t blame them for being so reluctant. It cost me well over 200 pounds for those 37 volumes and I didn’t even pay full price for most of the books; add to all this that many people are reluctant to read it because there were long periods of it being out of print (the Darkhorse English version at least), so difficult to complete the series.
You could stick to the first 14 volumes because that does constitute a great story but it would be an infuriatingly open ended one.

In a dream world where Berserk is shorter and sweeter and didn’t have all the aforementioned annoyances, it would be a far bigger phenomenon than it is and it would be one of the greatest fantasy stories ever made. But as it really is, I still love enough things about it and I’m still desperate to find out how the story finishes. I might have spent longer listing the flaws, but the good qualities are very powerful at times.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I've started colouring a few pages of my Bosch book, as a test. So far, the art has been in black & white only and it comes a bit like a shock. Should i do something more experimental? Or more minimal? Or avoid anything too contrived? It's not easy to choose a method you have to keep up for 150 pages.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Hey kids!

well, i haven't done nothing special these last weeks/months, publishing and job took too much place
but here's something
i started painting around 1990, i explored lot of different way of painting, but then after trying to show my work i realized i didn't want to join the artistic world, i disagree to make it my job you know... So i learned my actual job, which took me lot of time so i painted less & less... Since few years i'm back on drawing, engraving, but now i also wish to go back to painting, with all this new stuff in my head...
so here's few stuff i'm doing now, i started with 2 cartoony paintings, just for fun, and a biggest one which is more like serious

this one is on progress but you can see wht it is about! they are all painted on wood with pigments & different variety of oil based  medium

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Yet another irreverent sketch after a classic masterpiece. It's the Isenheimer Altar by Matthias Gruenewald this time. What interests me about it at this point, is the ominous black bird in the left corner. The altar is connected with sufferers of Saint Anhony's fire, or ergotism. It's caused by eating tainted bread, but was thought to be the devil's work, or so we are told as everything was seen in a religious light in the Middle Ages, yadda yadda. Well, maybe. I think people were closer to nature than we are. The black bird seems to be carrying a piece of rye bread in its beak, which would point to suspicions about the cause of ergotism. But that is what i am still trying to find out...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Domestic bliss

Évrart de Conty, Les Echecs amoureux, 1496-1498.

A comfy chair, children playing in the next room, some background music, a nice chat with the missus while the family dog keeps your feet warm. What more could a man wish for?
But seriously. I just stumbled upon this strikingly original picture of an OWL as the mouth of hell by a French contemporary of Hieronymous Bosch... Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Two refreshing articles about art

 Mahendra Singh wrote a good article here and later when checking the tumblr page of Sarah Horrocks, I found this by Zak Smith.
 I linked to it in the comments of Mahendra's article because I thought he might like it. I'm sceptical about a lot of points in it but it is very welcome to hear something so totally at odds with the general opinions I tire of in the arts media.