Sunday, 10 April 2011

Robot Ramblings: Mekkos 2 Preview/Mekkos 1 Review...

above: A sequence from the second episode of Rise of the Mekkosapiens (art by James Corcoran).

Paragon #7 is out, and the Rise of the Mekkosapiens has begun. The initial episode finds auxiliary drone G-127 waking from a deep, electronic sleep - and discovering he has human memories. Are these memories artificial, or was he once a man? Or is he a new form of God?

Episode 2 answers a few of these questions. G-127 receives a vision-transmission from the past, gaining a glimpse of the man he may or may not have been - and the sinister cult this man belonged to, an organization bent on achieving godhood through cybernetics...

If you'll notice, there's a switch in art duties for Episode 2 - in fact, there'll be a switch in art duties every new chapter! Editor Davey Candlish and I discussed doing a sort of 'round robin' for the art of Rise of the Mekkosapiens, like those old 2000AD ABC Warriors strips; Davey himself led off, illustrating the first episode, while James Corcoran has illustrated the second and Louis Carter is in line to take on the third.

above: Jevediah Call, Master Neurotheologist, and Michael Timmons, Chief Cyberneticist, peruse the Mekkgod's owners' grimoire (art by James Corcoran)

Ah, reviews, reviews. In the past I've always posted reviews about my work; luckily (for my fragile ego) those few reviews have so far been positive. In the interest of fairness, I've got to post the not-so-favorable reviews as well...and the opening episode of Rise of the Mekkosapiens got tagged with - if not a bad review - a so-so review, over on comicsbulletin.com:

"Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens" is the weak link (of Paragon #7), a post-Matrix bit of science fiction, all robots and hive minds and free will, and the simplistic art and short page count can only detract from its impact. That said, the artist -- not named, although I think it might be editor Dave Candlish -- instills the protagonist with quite a bit of personality depsite the simple character design, and there are hints of further philosophical depth in the writing, so this one has potential even if it doesn't impress as much right out of the blocks...(Mekkosapiens is) nonetheless full of potential".

Okay, so it's not a bad review by far. But no writer wants his work to be the 'weak link'!

Rise of the Mekkosapiens is my first multi-part comic strip, and I've learned a valuable lesson here: when writing an ongoing series for an anthology comic - particularly a quarterly anthology comic - have a BANG or a BOOM in that initial episode. Give the reader something to remember the strip by, so that some-odd months later when the next issue falls into his lap, he remembers the story. The other two stories in Paragon #7 (a Jikan tale, and the fantastic Icarus Dangerous) are action-oriented comics with lots of BIG THINGS going on. Rise of the Mekkosapiens, with its quiet opening, sits between these strips like a whisperer in a crowd of loud mouths.

From here on out, however, I don't think the script can be accused of being quiet. There are several key quiet philosophical moments, yes, but there is also a big ROBOT RUMPUS in the making.

And who doesn't enjoy a good ROBOT RUMPUS now and then?

Update 03/14: Ugh, another review, another beating for my poor Mekkos. Geekchocolate.com says:

"Story number two follows on in The Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens from Matthew Mclaughlin. Much more of a pure science fiction tale, Mekko-Sapiens fails to keep up the standards of its predecessor. There’s more than a hint of The Matrix here, with the Mekko-Sapiens being plugged into a large hive of some kind. Raising issues of individual consciousness and the rights of the individual it fails to rise above, or say anything new about these staples of science fiction. The art is simple and uncomplicated, portraying a sleek minimalist future world. Like the story, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it; it’s just that it is all a little too familiar. The ending at least with the door to a new world being opened, suggests that the next instalment may well take us in a different direction. The first chapter is too early to be writing the Mekko-Sapiens off...The Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens isn’t a total failure, but is definitely in the must do better category. With its glimpse of a different world at the end, here’s hoping it can do just that."

Words like 'weak link' and 'failure' (even if not complete) are tough to read. But obviously, if two different reviewers have come to write almost the exact same review - I've done something wrong. The first review had me thinking that Lesson One was the problem - the episode needed a BIG EVENT - but a second review has left me with a Lesson Two: don't hold back. Plunge your reader headlong into your world. I'd like to think Rise of the Mekkosapiens is nothing like The Matrix, but I could be wrong. In any case, I could have avoided the comparisons by showcasing the world outside that single hallway G-127 starts off in. Perhaps a longer page count would have helped, but 6-pages is the norm for an anthology comic. The reviewer is right. I need to do better at both introducing my world as well as a lending the strip a sense of urgency from the get-go. I'm confident the second episode of Mekkos will atone for the rough start the series has gotten off to, but only time (and issue #8) will tell.

Still, at least one more review is on its way. My Mekkos has more lumps to take, I fear.

Update 05/05: Mercifully short beating from the Forbidden Planet Blog:

"As first parts go it’s alright, but there’s not that much there to either thrill, intrigue or really interest in it’s tale of a robotic race possibly descended from humans and the one errant Mekko-Sapien who fights off his programming to become something more." Nothing new here that the other two reviewers didn't already say, but he does gut-punch me at the end when comparing Mekkos to another strip in the mag: "The difference between Icarus and Mekko-Sapiens is that, with Icarus, I want to find out the answers. Maybe next issue? Hopefully?"

Ouch. But we're done with the reviews, thankfully...

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