Voltaire: The Terror In Tibet
things, I'm a traditionalist. I prefer e-mail to instant messaging.
I like a real phone compared to a cell-phone. And I truly
believe that taking digital pictures, while cheaper, is far
more work than dropping off a roll at the local Photo Hut.
And when it comes to books and comics, I've never been able
to read them on a computer. Give me paper any day.
was asked to review my very first web comic, and here we are.
Voltaire is a web comic that appears weekly at www.moderntales.com
is the official website. The story follows the escapades of
Athena Voltaire: aviatrix, stunt woman, and adventurer for
hire in 1930s New York. Along with her limey sidekick Harcourt,
Athena has been hired to take a group of Englishmen up Mt.
Everest. Little does she know, the group she is taking are
occultists far more interested in the dark secrets of a Himalayan
temple than a fun time mountaineering. On top of that, the
Thule Society (Nazi occult organization started by Himmler)
is also after said temple and the dark secrets within. Athena
and her British manservant must survive with both sides trying
to kill them and discover the secrets contained in the Temple
on Mt. Everest.
is only thirty web pages long, not a full page of panels,
but rather half a page. I've never seen a comic where the
artwork and the story were so unbalanced, and in favor of
the artwork for once. The story moves along at far too quick
a pace and the plot is so choppy in parts, I had to hit the
"Back" button more than once to figure out what
was happening. Another problem with writer Paul Daly's script
is that there's no real transition between story installments.
Athena and Harcourt can be in New York City on one page, in
Heathrow Airport in the next, and then the characters are
smack dab in the middle of Tibet. It is incredibly difficult
to keep up with the story.
themselves are about as predictable as possible. Harcourt
is a drunk English sidekick, who seems to have almost no real
use to Athena other than to throw in a semi-funny line here
and there, or say "right-o" or "chap"
every couple of lines. The Nazis are your standard Teutonic
fair, and are about as useful as characters as the stone pillars
in the background. Athena herself is a bad combination of
Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, answering all questions with
"yeah" and shooting her way out of pretty much every
situation. Character development is non-existent in the story,
and the plot would be fine if it were more detailed and actually
had a sense of consequence. Nothing in the story engages the
reader or creates a feeling of suspense. It's a boring script
that barely makes sense at some points.
point of the whole endeavor is the artwork by Steve Bryant
and the coloring by Chad Fidler. Their work here is the best
I've seen in an online comic book and it far outshines the
terrible script. It appears that Bryant and Fidler are both
using technology to their advantage; the coloring is very
rich and the background work appears to be digitally touched
in some aspect. I was impressed by the picture resolution
I got on the computer screen, as it seemed on par with paper
comics. Bryant has a good grasp of anatomy and seems able
enough with backgrounds.
are two problems with the artwork. The first is that the artists
are both trapped by the very small panels they're drawing.
The one thing that web comics have over regular comics is
that they are not as trapped by the page. A webpage can be
infinitely large (in theory) and the artwork could be better
spaced out to allow the reader a better view of the artwork.
Maybe they're under some file size constraint by their server
or website provider, but it still limits the artwork. The
other problem I have is with Bryant's work specifically. A
lot of the panels in this web comic are headshots, and while
it might be tempting to use a photograph as a picture reference,
Bryant crosses the line into tracery in the fourth installation,
where he clearly copied the face of Aliens and Millennium
alum Lance Henrikson. It's somewhat sloppy, but even the paper
comics pros have been accused of it (Greg Land springs to
for the archive is $2.95 a month and $29.95 for a year, allowing
the subscriber unlimited access to the stories, plus subscriber-only
bonus material. I'm sorry to say that Athena Voltaire
has not changed my mind about whether my comics should come
in a bag or in my e-mail, but I'm impressed with the level
of visual artwork in web comics today. I do not recommend
Athena though; if for no other reason than the $2.95
you spend to get access, you can buy a single issue of a better
comic, and get the same amount of story, though hopefully
of better quality.