I Am Michael Watcher – Issues 1 & 2
By Brian Hawkins and Charlie Sansalone Alway
A little late with this one to be honest. The idea behind reviewing something with a Kickstarter would surely be to review it whilst the Kickstarter is active rather than after it’s finished. Darn. My bad.
I Am Michael Watcher is a pretty straightforwardly done murder mystery, and as such the first issue is pure setup and the second issue does a little character building. It’s actually pretty well constructed setup, and there’s just enough intrigue by the issue’s end to keep me involved. Issue two does rather test my patience, spending the entire issue doing little more than having a school assembly warning everyone about the potential serial killer out in the wild. But despite this, there’s still enough here after two issues to keep my interest, tested or not, and it all comes down to the idea being solid, the execution of the story being good, and most importantly, despite the art falling down a lot at times, the basic storytelling is all there.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that storytelling is the most important aspect of comics work. I can cope with bad/poor/naive/primitive/whatever you want to call it art that has good storytelling. Put it another way, find a great story I want to follow and it will still be a great story if done with stick men, just so long as the storytelling is good.
Hence it is that Michael Watcher, despite a lot of flaws, still fills me with enough interest to keep my attention. Just saying.
The opening scenes of issue 1, of the brutal murder and subsequent discovery of the body are well done, although I can’t help but think it would have been all the more tense and mysterious to simply have opened with the discovery, keeping the murderer for subsequent issues, the body and the mystery around it enough for now.
Following this, attention switches to a dorm room, where Luqas Cohen has just woken up, thrown up, and made a very disturbing discovery… turns out he’s two weeks of his life missing from his memory and a new tattoo, unbeknownst to him exactly the same as the one found carved into the murdered student…. “I Am Michael Watcher.”
Even more troubling for Luqas, this is far from the only connection between himself and the murder. But that’s obviously something to be explored further.
Like I said, the beginning is done fairly well, and although the cliffhanger in issue one is pretty obvious, it’s enough to keep me around. What really troubles me, what rather spoils the issue, is the overly long scene in the dorm after Luqas wakes. The scenes in the toilet, uncovering the tattoo, those are done well, it’s the scenes where Luqas talks to Allie, the girl whose bed he’s woken up in, that’s where it rather breaks down. The dialogue stutters along, feels too forced, exposition heavy, where I actually wanted it to flow. Likewise, the whole of issue two really does spend a long time saying very little. It’s meant to be a way to scene set, to build characters, as we follow Luqas’ return to school. Having said that, there’s surprisingly little fuss made over the return of a student missing for a fortnight, and everything seems too focused on Luqas’ girlfriend’s actions than actually saying something about the ongoing issue of a serial killer stalking the town.
Now, the art. The good news is that the basic storytelling works, simple, effectively, serves the story well. The bad news is that the actual quality of the art is too variable, and never truly rises above ok. Things start promisingly, with the chase through the woods and the police discovery of the body having some good panels, but once we head into the middle section, of Luqas waking up then all too often the scenes lack any real vibrancy, the characters seem artificial, posed, body language wrong. Then there’s the whole elongated body thing going on. I noticed it on the very first page; stretched body, too short legs. And once noticed, you can’t help but keep on noticing it.
However… despite all this negativity, there’s still a hint of promise, potential somewhere down the line. Like this… the first page of issue 2… I really love this…
So, it’s nowhere near perfect. The story meanders past the initially good setup, the dialogue is difficult too often, the art has too much wrong with it…. BUT BUT BUT… the idea is good, the art shows potential at times, and most importantly, the storytelling is all there. Finally, a real clincher for me. When Issue 3 comes along, I’ll be reading it to see where it’s all going.