My god, you guys, Moth City is a terrible place to live! Factional violence between the island governor’s corrupt forces and the local Communist seditionists, the Chinese National Army just around the corner, and the citizens in abject poverty.

he is technically slow-walking from a tremendous hydrogen explosion, which is pretty bad ass

Beautiful sunsets, though.

Moth City by Tim Gibson is one of the new style of digital comics akin to a motion comic; the story progresses in less of a “page turn” and more of a “panel swipe” approach. Marvel’s “Infinite Comics”, available on Comixology, has a very similar transition style.

That covers delivery, but what about genre? Genre? Here, have all of them. This is a super science story with a noir romance (or two?!) set in a fictional 1930s Asian island. The only thing we’re missing is superheroes and talking dogs. Sorry, Pet Avengers.

Gibson is tackling every aspect of this project, which is admirable. The art, writing, plotting, and possibly even publishing are all his. Considering the complexity of art and plot, his is a pretty rare glimpse into a singular artistic endeavor.

Moth City #1

Let’s talk about that art for a second! Gibson’s style is an effective mix of Michael Gaydos and Michael Oeming, with a just a touch of “Calvin & Hobbes” Bill Watterson in the sweeter smiles.

Every character looks to have been individually designed. As this is not a Big Two superhero rag, we are not seeing the same nose on every face, in turn on every body, designated only by hair color and costume. This individual design is in part due to Gibson’s understanding of anatomy, which is also very important when violence escalates as issues progress.

The lettering is either done by hand, or is well engineered to look like it; I’m reminded of the European comics that eventually trickled their way into old issues of Heavy Metal. Cheap digital lettering is the hallmark independent comics, which Moth City has, happily, avoided completely.

Color plays a huge part in this series. Muted rainy harbors bring the cold ocean air to you, while simple shade differences in types of orange differentiate the frame of a burning building from the fire consuming it. In one scene, shading tricks evoke the long, deep suffering of an old man more than any words could.

In truth, a lot of the words get in the way of the story. My top complaint of Moth City has got to be the “noir” narration panels that crop up. Across four issues thus far, they are unattached to any known character, and have no character of their own. Additionally, the actual content is a kind of Francis Coleman execution of high minded theme exploration. Like another piece I recently reviewed, it breaks up the flow of the story and forces more work on the reader to find a voice and character for the content.

When I find myself actually excited by what’s going to happen in the next panel, I know I’ve found gold. That’s why the only other disappointing element is that Gibson isn’t using the panel layering as much as he could! He certainly uses it to its full effect for every single glorious moment of tension at the end of the issues, and during some of the deeper character moments (the violent ending of issue #1; the father’s confession of weakness to the daughter near the end of issue #2), which is why I found myself kicking the metaphorical pebble and saying “aw nertz!” to missed moments like an extra cigar glow to punctuate a threat in the middle of issue #2, or an extra panel layer of grabbing the dress before removing it in the first part of issue #3.

One of my favorite writer/artists, Darwyn Cooke, has an animation background, as does Tim Gibson. Cooke’s strength is treating the page like an animation story board, only showing you the the definitive actions of a sequence; he follows up on this by using as few words as necessary. At its best, Moth City does both of these things, and does them well, especially the unexpected, and welcome, humor in the beginning of issue #3. Gibson has stated that this is his first comic book; I have no doubt that as he discards what doesn’t work and strengthens what does, we will be seeing great things from him.

For now, if you can spare the $2.99 an issue and want to see an interesting, though flawed, though occasionally surprising work, Moth City is a fine choice.

The first issue of Moth City is available on Comixology for $0.99 (#2-4 for $1.99) and Thrillbent.com.

About The Author

is a Storyteller character sheet in a d20 world. He loosens his bowels across the literary landscape and complains bitterly when the landing doesn't favor punctuation. His head hurts very much right now and is unable to come up with a hundred words about himself because of this.

Cory has been writing on and off for DTC since 2008 as time permits. He has enjoyed genre fiction ranging from old 50s comics dug up from a grandmother's attic to modern, world-spanning tales of Moral Significance. Resident "Marvel Guy" and Bendis Apologist.

Turn-on's: walks to Oakland Chinatown, old radio shows, adherence to and respect for internal story logic.
Turn-off's: this headache, over-strong tea, blatant disregard for internal story logic

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