The following is one of the most difficult reviews I have had to write. It is not because I could not find the words. It is because I genuinely hate coming down so negatively on a self-published comic. Self-publishing is expensive, time-consuming, and done as a labor of love. So to have some guy in Portland rip it to shreds is not a great feeling. I hate being that guy.
In this case, it needs to be done. Vasion needs to serve as a cautionary tale for people who are attempting to self-publish a comic or, for that matter, produce any kind of professional level product. Attention to detail and a strong editorial eye can make or break a comic. None of that was present in Vasion.
Let’s begin with the title. Vasion. What is a Vasion? I may not be the most intelligent guy on the planet, so maybe this one is getting past me. But a quick Google search on the term does not yield me any usable results. Could it possibly be a shortened form of the word INVASION? I don’t know. I guess Invasion could work as a title…except there is no invasion in the book. So, the title doesn’t give me any clues about this book.
The cover to the first issue is pretty generic with some paramilitary/henchmen looking guys firing at something. It is a vague shape with two glowing red eyes and what appears to be two nostrils blowing out smoke or sand or some brown substance. Difficult to tell what is going on in the picture or to get a feel for what the book will be like. But, the cover does promise that this is part one of three of “ALL OUT WAR!”
Opening the cover gives us the first clue that there could be trouble ahead. On the inside cover, there is a “Very Special Thanks” section. In it, the author gives credit to his cousin who “concepted the opening pages of Vaison #1 which proved to be an invaluable resource for the beginning stages of the conception for this book.” In one sentence the author misspelled the title of his own book, invented the word “concepted” and misused the word conception. Three errors, one sentence, and the actual book hasn’t even started yet!
On to the first page of the book. The page is divided in to two columns. The first column is approximately 250 words which lays out the history of the Enforce Council which was formed by an ancient race known as The Enforce. The Enforce have lived among humans and look and act just like humans. But they have their own enemies. One enemy is Devour. In a run-on sentence it is revealed that, “He is a primeval curse brought to flesh by their enemies as a nemesis to the Enforce race no Enforcer has ever been known to survive an encounter with the beast, whose very existance [sic] is shrouded in their mythology.” I could go on about the poor gramar and misspellings, but I think you get the point. I trudged through this information dump of a column with the expectation that it would have some bearing on the story at hand. I was wrong.
The rest of the book (and indeed, the next two issues) never make any reference to the Enforcers, their history on earth, the political upheaval facing The Enforce Council, or which enemy has actually unleashed Devour. That entire page could have been removed from the comic and it would have had no impact on the story. Why go through the trouble of explaining that The Enforce look and act like humans if there is no reason in the story for them to not be humans? there is no reference in the story to them not being humans. They are completely undecipherable from humans. It does not add to the story to make them something different. In fact, all that exposition detracted from the story.
Turning the page we get the first page of story. It is a full page illustration of an explosion with a massive sound effect of BOOOM crossing through the center of the page. there are three caption boxes. Caption 1: Daylight… Caption 2: A remote area in South Africa. Caption 3: There’s a full explosion in the forest, bombs are blowing up trees, tearing up the ground and lighting up the sky!
Where to begin? Caption 1: Do we need to know this? I’m pretty sure that the blue sky in the first panel of the next page will establish that it is daylight. Caption 2: Ok. Sure. South Africa. Why not? Like everything else so far, this has no bearing whatsoever on the story and is immediately dropped and forgotten. Caption 3: A classic example of telling, not showing. The fact that they have devoted an entire page to this explosion should give the reader an understanding of the power and force of the blast. the words are completely superfluous.
The overtelling extends to the next page where, in the first panel, the caption reads: …After the bomb was deployed the fighter pilot contacts his captain… Guess what? His speech bubble transmits that same information. This is problem in almost every panel of every page of each book. By the third book it gets a bit better. But not much.
The next panel on the page introduces us to the aforementioned captain. Captain Mike Anders, Jr. Captain Anders is, for all intents and purposes, the main character of the book. He is also the most developed of the characters. But that is not saying much. There are other characters who are named, but they only appear for a panel or two and then are never seen or heard from again. The entire book is basically Anders, and Lietenant Wolfford (commander of the chopper air support unit) coordinating attacks by nameless, faceless soldiers against a large demonic dog.
No. It is not nearly as interesting as it sounds.
For 72 pages (three 24-page issues) the action goes something like this. Anders orders an attack using some type of weapon (guns, bombs, lasers, bazooka, what have you). It does not work. Then Wolfford attacks from the air using some type of weapon (guns, bombs, lasers, bazooka, what have you). It does not work. Repeat.
Eventually for some unknown reason, after approximately 50 pages, one of the air attacks seems to have a temporary effect on Devour. But Devour quickly shakes it off and continues his mindless rampage. Back to the useless bombings. Somehow Anders has an idea of how to stop the beast and orders the choppers to drive the beast toward him.
I’m going to stop here and warn you that I am going to spoil the ending of book three. If you have any intention of reading these books and do not want the ending spoiled, I suggest you stop reading now.
Ander’s big plan is to “implode” a landmine.
Devour is driven towards Anders. just as Devour is on top of the land mine, Anders detonates it. This creates a massive hole 50 feet deep which Devour then falls in to. Amazingly, all the dirt which had been in the hole then falls on top of Devour, burying him.
They put the massive beast which is capable of shrugging off repeated assaults by heavy artillery in a hole and buried him. And the beast isn’t even dead. He is just down there. They can tell he isn’t dead because they have a sensor which is picking up his heartbeat. But, hey, he’s under ground. No way he could possibly get out of that! So they all go home.
So, after 72 pages of boring “action” where unnamed and faceless characters just shoot at a big black target and then get wiped out when he fights back, the solution to the problem is unoriginal, improbable, and impractical. I am fine with a 72 page fight comic if there are characters I care about or a creative solution to the problem at hand. None of that was present in any of the issues of Vasion.
What makes this even worse is that Vasion is not a web comic. Why does that make it worse? Because webcomics are, if not free, darn cheap to produce. Vasion is a print comic. A color print comic. The means that someone paid a lot of money not once, but three times to have these comics printed and shipped. Someone should have stopped this creative team and pointed out that this was not a good product! It would have saved them a significant amount of time and money.
That is why I am publishing this review. Self-publishing is expensive. There is, at best, a minuscule return on investment. Not every book is a winner, but quality books have a way of finding n audience. Maybe not right away, but momentum builds.
Make sure that what you are putting out there is of a high enough quality that it warrants your investment. Show your book to people you trust. Get honest feedback. Listen to that feedback. Vasion did not have to be this big of a mess.
Unfortunately it is a mess. And, even though I know it means that someone is ging to be eating a huge printing bill, I cannot recommend you buy this book.