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Ku-2 by Logan DeAngelis, reviewed by Chris Daily

Ku-2 is a weekly comic strip that looks very professional and unique at a first glance. The site design is sharp, the Blambot-based fonts are crisp and cool, and the navigation bar does that spiffy highlighting thing. Then, when you start reading the comic, you wonder where all the professionalism went? It's obvious that Logan DeAngelis puts a lot of work into Ku-2, but the effort might be better spent fixing plot holes and basic artistic inconsistencies.

Ku-2 is a weekly comic strip that looks very professional and unique at a first glance. The site design is sharp, the Blambot-based fonts are crisp and cool, and the navigation bar does that spiffy highlighting thing. Then, when you start reading the comic, you wonder where all the professionalism went? It's obvious that Logan DeAngelis puts a lot of work into Ku-2, but the effort might be better spent fixing plot holes and basic artistic inconsistencies.

While the stories in Ku-2 dabble in science fiction and folklore, it's mostly a confusing jumble of overused plot clichés, where weak pacing and flat characterization is hindering anything and all that is working. Ku-2 centers on a punk named Quatro and his default friend-via-space, Ku-2. Quatro is a foul-mouthed nobody who likes getting into trouble, and girls even more so. He's not an especially likeable protagonist, being more akin to Transmetropolitan's creepy and unforgiving Spider Jerusalem.

Thankfully, there is the alien Ku-2, who embodies not only the heroism, but also the squeaky-clean innocence that makes him a nice contract to the fully-saturated Quatro. He resembles what the AOL running man icon might look like on steroids, and speaks in iconic symbols, which Quatro can apparently understand just fine. Other characters, such as surfer chick Maxie Ho or Quatro's Scottish caricature of a roommate, Kenneth, are dialogically stereotypical and one-dimensional. Kenneth's speech is especially insulting, with such memorable lines as, "Mucheele joost tol me aboot tha trooble with those fookers!"

While the first chapter serves as exposition for the 2 main characters, the second chapter, "Up from the Depths," involves Ku-2 fighting a giant squid who appears to be the resurrected entity of an ancient evil Hawaiian god. Quatro also meets Maxie, who serves as the tough, smarter, and snappier but still lovable sidekick/love interest. Maxie and Quatro's instant pairing and emotional attachment is too convenient to be believed – it only works because the reader might be familiar with cheesy action movie romantic subplots. Any character development on Maxie is lost when she gets marked for death by some naked fortune teller lady, gets spooked, and quickly becomes typecast as the helpless female. The evil squid appears, kills Maxie, and Ku-2 miraculously pops up to save the day. But hey, nothing a little magic healing water won't fix, and POOF, Maxie is brought back to life. Upon their return, a brooding figure with a mouth in his back warns of impending doom for the trio, but we never see him again, another example of a dangling plot element that might take a long time to return to, if at all.

One of the good things about this storyline is how DeAngelis takes time to introduce Hawaiian culture and folklore. Several pages are used to illustrate the story of an epic battle of creation between the Hawaiian gods, and serves as a loose model for the main storyline. Too bad there isn't much more to the main story than a battle between strong forces and a week romantic subplot – it's a great setup, but the delivery is rushed.

The fourth chapter introduces the current storyline, "Old Haunts," which is already tripping over some of its own plot holes. One might wonder how, no matter where Ku-2 goes, he blends right in. Only after getting into a fight outside of the club, people start to actually notice him as an alien. Why they didn't notice him before is never explained, but we do learn that Ku-2 has some kind of power to make people forget he's even there. Perhaps this power is why people don't give him a second look, but this has not been proven and for the time being remains yet another dangling plot point.

The art of Ku-2 inspires a modest level of discomfort, mostly due to the cluttering of too many contrasting illustration techniques on a page, and a valiant attempt at but fumbling execution of anatomy. The use of heavy blacks, thick lines, dot halftone patterns, and high contrast sets up a very moody atmosphere for the comic. This is nice, and echoes elements of Lichtenstein paintings or woodblock prints. The heavy use of halftone patterns for shading adds to the printed look to the comic book format pages. Where this backfires is when DeAngelis mixes the halftone with greyscale inkwash shading, sometimes using both in the same panel (like the last panel of this page).

While Ku-2's character design is clever and eye catching, the human characters never quite achieve that dynamic energy. More often than not, the anatomy of the human characters looks too unnatural and compromised to work for the panel environment in which it resides. Proportion is off constantly, and profiles or three-quarter shots of the body seem to give the artist trouble. The way Maxie is drawn, for instance, makes it hard to tell that she's a woman sometimes, not just because of her body position, but due to her Dragonball-esque hair and large forehead. It's obvious that the artist is not trying to achieve realism, but it's also apparent that the distorted comic style he's aiming for is not quite on target yet.

A refreshing artistic change can be found in the first part of chapter three ("Hi-Ku!"), when Quatro is telling a story, and the illustration style switches from status quo to a full color chibi animation look. While this break from the normal style is only a few panels drawn over two pages, it is some of the most vibrant artwork in the collection.

With some plot filling, character tweaking, and maybe an anatomy book to inspire the artist to master his technique (which is better than many webcomic artists, but far from perfect), Ku-2 could easily strengthen itself, and become a formidable presence in both the sci-fi and weekly storyline online comic community. The very successful Ku-2 character is a highlight delight, and a unique iconic character on which to focus. More emphasis on Ku-2 and less on the tired plotlines of the human characters might bring this comic to life. Otherwise, readers might really need an alien to help them forget about it.