Rob Hanes #12: Stranded On A Desert Island
What do we call the 24-ish pages soft paper comic book these days with the explosion of graphic novels, collections of comics in print, etc.? I guess we stick with "comic book" as meaning a 24-ish page floppy book. Randy Reynaldo is sticking with the comic book format for his series about intrepid adventurer Rob Hanes.
New issues seem to come out about every year or so and I just got a review copy of #12 in the series, "Stranded!" (there's a preview of the book here). In past reviews of work from Reynaldo (from the archives: reviews of issue #11 and issue #10) I've noted that this type of story would work very well on the web where Reynaldo wouldn't be constrained by the format of the traditional comic book and the ever-present archives of a webcomic would improve the ability of readers to catch up with entire Rob Hanes universe and back story. Despite those suggestions, I would characterize my reviews of the past two issues as positive overall.
This issue, however, is the first one I've read where I'm really struck by the limitations of the comic book format on the story Reynaldo chose to tell. This story feels incredibly cramped as presented in the book with a tremendous rush through all of the plot points. This goes beyond well-paced, it feels at times a bit like the cliff notes to the actual story. Which is too bad because it has a pretty good number of twists on what would otherwise be a very shop-worn concept for a story, hero and enemy stranded on a desert island together. But to fit this in 20 pages, Reynaldo rushes through it so fast that none of these twists are really filled in or properly built up too.
I don't want to over-emphasize this point though; this issue is still a fun, self-contained story (Reynaldo always does a good job of keeping each story separate enough for readers to enjoy without having read previous work) that features Reynaldo's always crisp artwork and he does a nice job with the visual design of the new character Suzette French, "notorious fence of stolen antiquities". Still having read a few of these stories now, I just suspect Reynaldo could do a lot more with more space. More frequent updates (for example, smaller chunks every month) wouldn't hurt keeping the comic in the public mind either.
Where would I have liked to have had more to the story? Just for example, more filling out of the French character, surely she could be more interesting then just the girl stranded on the island -- she's supposed to be an internationally infamous fence. More care given to the back and forth between Rob and French too - as it is, the dynamic just comes off as French throwing herself at Rob; she's supposed to be an incredibly beautiful woman who has conned men this way before - she doesn't seem to be the slightest bit any good at this and Rob doesn't even seem to be the slightest bit interested. I'm not asking for Moonlighting level repartee but surely after setting up the situation, more could have been done to tease out the romantic side of this dynamic. More attention to the outside world's search for Rob and French might have made any prospect of their being really lost a bit more tension-inducing (of course we know he'll make it - the series has his name on it, but I just felt zero tension there given the abbreviated treatment of it). More time on the island might have worked too - there's almost no time (in terms of time passing for the characters) gone between getting lost on the desert island to the plot twist that ends it all.
In this issue, Reynaldo also mentions that he is making more use of his webcomicsnation site to post older stories with his Rob Hanes character. These are all from the 1980s and apparently were part of Reynaldo's pitch to publishers (he also notes that Renegade Press picked up the Rob Hanes series back then but closed its doors before putting out issue #1). For dedicated fans of the series they're worth checking out, if only to see how far Reynaldo has progressed as an artist and creator. Also interesting is the news that there'll be a trade paperback series coming out that collects the entire Rob Hanes series. I think that might be a great way to catch up on and collect this series and I'm definitely looking forward to what it looks like.
Note: The creator provided a free copy to ComixTalk for review purposes.