by Mana & Andrew Glubrecht
Reviewed by Fes Works
So, a quick heads-up about the Webcomic Beacon Reviews, Trial Run. There will be one more after this, and then December will only have Comic of the Week picks. We will open for another round of review submissions in December, for a new bout to start in January. Stay tuned www.WebcastBeacon.com or @WebcomicBeacon for details as they come.
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So I’ve talked about backgrounds a lot on webcomic websites, and this one takes the cake thus far! But let me back up a bit. This is “Flycoren Kausim”.
The first thing that jumps out when I load up the website is the header and background. And what a background it is! It’s not fixed, but I think that is fine, since it is also designed to work as the header image for the logo.
There are several images of difference characters from different scenes, all blended in together. It feels like something you would see put together for a movie poster. It’s a full-sized image that is fairly well designed to look great, or at least decent, with a variety of computer screen sizes. Even with the narrowest possible size, the BG image works as just the header image.
If I were to give a grade for the background image alone, it would be an “A”.
The title logo, however, could use a little more work. I mean it’s fine, but it doesn’t really pop as much as I feel it should. Especially the “Kausim” part, to which I didn’t even notice at first. That and the fancy script typeface for the “F” in “Flycoren” is… well, I could not reall tell what letter it was untill I re-checked the name of the comic elsewhere.
In the header is also the phrase “An Online Comic – Updates Mondays”. Which is fine except that this part pops WAY MORE than the logo does, which should not be the case. Because the eye pulls to that phrase, instead of the logo. It also all takes up a huge amount of space. It is 40-50% taller than what I personally recommend, but it does work very well with that background.
There is a lot going for itself here, but I think there’s room to improve. I’d give the header a “B”.
Below that is a styled menu bar. Very nice presentation. Then there is a sidebar and the main comic area below that. This is where my first really big issues with the design come in. There is a large amount of dead space under the menu, before the comic. The comic is pushed down farther than it should be. ESPECIALLY with the header/logo taking up so much space.
I have a 1280×800 screen, and the comic is more than halfway down the screen. If I were on a tablet or netbook, I may not even see the comic at all. This goes against my rule of thumb for webcomic websites: The first third or first row of panels of a comic page should be visible without scrolling.
Additionally, attached to the comic image itself is another header?? Complete with the name of the comic, who it is by, plus the copyright, year, and website url.
There is no reason for this to be at the TOP of the comic, especially when you already have a logo on the page, just 6cm above that. Additionally, why isn’t the creator credit in the logo, but here? In any case, I can understand the need to brand the comic image as well, but put it under the comic page. Right here it is both redundant AND pushes the comic down needlessly.
Tighten up that dead space,, and move that 2nd header, and you move your comic up by 4cm. That’s a HUGE difference!
Aside from that, next to the navigation on the top and bottom of the comic (my personal preference), they utilize the space well enough. They have an ad in the space next to it on the bottom, and they use a rank-link for a webcomic listing site, plus an archive dropdown, at the top.
It all works well enough, though it is a little crowded for the top. The navigation links have text along with images. Having ONLY the navigation would probably look much nicer overall. Especially the top. Which kinda brings me to the sidebar.
The webcomic listing site image link is ALSO in the sidebar? Pick one spot. In fact, remove the link from the navigation, as well as the archive link, and keep those in the sidebar.
The giant “Subscribe or Like us” is OK to draw attention, but gets redundant with the 4 line text explanation of how an email subscription works. Honestly just delete all of that text. The text field with the value of “Email Address” and the “Subscribe” button is all you need.
So far, the biggest problem with the website design is redundancy. So much space is wasted, and design can be a bit tighter. Delete that text and the rest of the sidebar should line up with the comic navigation more, and help remove some more deadspace under the comic. Aside from this, no other issues with the sidebar ads.
Under the comic, with the “inner background” for the main area, actually has a nice transitional image before it goes to the blog (and lower sidebar). I actually like that the home page of the website will also show the blog’s comments immediately, so one can get started in the conversation right away. May not work for everyone, but I kinda like it like that.
The lower side bar is OK with with the ad on the top, and a dragon image link for the comic’s branding below it, but the middle is a mess. The affiliate section mainly. I highly recommend that they get all of the affiliates to have the same image sizes. It would really make everything look WAY nicer right there.
Below that is a user login field. Now I’ve not even read the comic yet at this point, but with the comments available on the home page, and a login field immediately available, I’m going to assume that reader participation is probably fairly decent on this website.
Overall website design, I give an easy “B+” right now, but for sure an “A-” after a few tweeks are made.
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I am hesitant to give “A”s easily, and an “A+” would be something that would really blow me away. We’ll see how this grading aspect goes. To be clear, the grading system I am employing is based both off of what would be off of effort, function, structure, and aesthetics; which is all a part of the readibility and enjoyability of the webcomic reader experience. So basically: F = Failure, D = Below Average (bare minimum effort), C = Average (standard functionallity and structure), B = Above Average (more customization and care), A = Exceeds.
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OK! On to the comic itself! Another story comic, so I will start by at least reading the first chapter, and end by reading the whole last chapter to present.
Well, the first thing that really stands out in the artwork are the characters… of which I have no idea what they are. They don’t really look like humans, elves, or even humanoid animals. The first characters almost look like cow people… kinda. The main point is that the character design is somewhat familiar yet unique.
Hmmm, the character design is mainyly human-like, with the ears changing, possibly by “sub-species” or possibly meant as ethnicity. The color schemes plus the ears seem to indicate the type of “animal” plus human. I’m getting flashbacks of Blue Sub Six for some reason. In any case, I am liking the character designs.
Oh, there’s tails too!
More on the art. The backgrounds and surroundings have more detail than the characters. Typical of many cartoons, sure, with the characters colored more in flats and simple shadow. It’s all real fine, really, though I would prefer more coloring detail in the characters. Characters are mostly in flats, with barely enough shadowing (or highlights)… It’s simple most of the time, and more detailed other times.
I mean all of the art design is very good and consistent on the whole. It’s all good. My sticking point is that the characters’ coloring could stand a bit more color detail to better match the backgrounds and surroundings level of details.
It could be my personal tastes, but the shadowing is really simple, and should be improved upon. It should contour better than it does. If you really look at it, the shadow lines don’t behave as they should with the body contours indicadted with the actual line art. Well sometimes it does. Shadowing is very inconsistent, and now I’m paying too much attention to it. If anything should be improved with the overall art, is the characters’ shadowing. And maybe more with highlights.
Overall, I give the art a “B+” for the style.
Now the story! Starts off innocent enough but soon adds a foriener that gets wash upon shore. So this has a number of potential directions for the drama to unfold. Chapter one is fairly solid for an introduction. I started reading through more of the chapters. I can say that there is certainly the makings of a complex storyline here.
The pacing is actually pretty good overall. I really don’t have any major complaints about the storytelling. It has a few characters I like following, but this is really a plot driven comic.
If you like stories set in a fantasy environment, with inter-country drama potential, this is for sure a comic for you to check out. I’ll be adding this to my bookmarks.
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Alright! One more comic to review for the trial run for next week!