What's this? A truly independent comic book review? Yes, while most book's I've reviewed are from actual independent publishers, this time around I've decided to review something that's more in the underground comic realm, and being that it's from 2006, places it in the Hidden Gems category.
Originally published online on Bodega Distribution's blog, Daybreak is Brain Ralph's third published comic book, although I haven't actually read the previous ones, I have browsed his first, Cave-In. And, going by the title of this article, you should know that Daybreak is (currently) a 3-part series, with each book spanning about 50 pages and going for $10 each.
The story of Daybreak, at least within the first book (since I haven't read the follow ups yet) is an interesting one. And by interesting I mean that I don't know exactly, as the book never really explains what is going on.
What I could gather however is that the reader is a character within the world, which has been destroyed by some unknown, beast-like creatures. And essentially, you are guided by an unnamed, one-armed young man who is helping you survive.
Because of Daybreak's quite different way of treating the reader like a character, I have to say, it is unlike any other book or comic book I've ever read. And for better or worse, the lack of explanation adds a lot more mystery to the series.
But at the same time I see that as a weakness, because by not explaining anything, even by the time you get to the end of the book, it really feels like it's alienating the reader, even when it's actually including you. Regardless, the writing works for the book, and there's a nice touch of humor for the post-apocalyptic world.
What caught my attention of Daybreak when I was browsing the underground comics shelf was it's artwork. Brian Ralph's style is very much that modern, minimalistic cartoon look that's been gaining in popularity these days in both comics and animation. Not that I have anything against it, in fact I find that style really appealing.
What's even nicer is the paper the artwork is printed on. You obviously can't really feel it from the computer screen, but it's got this recycled paper feeling that just works so well with the look of the artwork, which is all printed in one tone of brown. It's much different looking than anything else I've ever pulled off a bookshelf, and I think that's something to be appreciated.
Daybreak is certainly one of the more visually appealing, and visually distinct books I've read recently. And it's really nice to see something published with that minimalist cartoon style, in a finely printed book at that. But at the same time the artwork can't make up for the writing, which isn't bad, but it's just ... in a sense annoying. Why? Because you're not given any explanations for the setting despite being an included character, and by the end of the book you still don't know.
I mean, I understand the point of getting the reader to buy the following book, but when I'm not sure what's even going on, I'm even more unsure if I'd want to spend another $10 to just be left without answers again. But in its defense, you could get a book like Star Trek: Countdown, which has less pages, and unappealing artwork for about $20; in that situation, Daybreak looks a bit better.
Overall Score: 8/10
If you can't find Daybreak at your local comic shop, Amazon.com thankfully carries the first two books, but it doesn't look like they carry the third yet.
For more on Brian Ralph, visit his website, BRalph.com