Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Weekend Revue #3: Serious Engineering

Get In. Buckle Up. It's Gonna Be A Long Ride.

This Is Serious Engineering

"Freedom isn't free." We hear it a lot these days. It's used to defend everything from your weird neighbor wanting to own a ridiculous number of guns to some of our *cough* more energetic leaders wanting us to *cough* put boots on the ground in another country. The phrase has been used by so many unpleasant causes that it's starting to look a little grubby.
But at its core, it is true. Freedom isn't free. You have to put effort into the things you want. Meet resistance?

Put in more effort.
This is Serious Engineering, created by Roman Jones and Viky Machacku. This is the story of a girl who changed her life.  She's Corelle Lowell.She isn't a superhero, she isn't rich or famous or endowed with special powers. What she has on her side is a goal and a quiet resolve to reach it. She doesn't have a dream; dreams are things you wish for. She has a goal to work for. Corelle wants to be an engineer. She comes from a family that can barely pay the rent. She has every disadvantage. But she wants to build things. 

So she builds herself a whole new life.

The Rating

Rarely have I read such a powerful and affirming story.

The Raves

There is SO MUCH to love about this story. There's its snarky and definitely rated R humor.

There's the goofiness. There's the perfect layout of plot structure and the creation of atypical characters that are FOR ONCE treated as ATYPICAL, as in a different way of thinking, rather than 'broken' or (my all time bette noir) 'special'. There's an exploration of what poverty really does to the people crushed beneath it so profound that I choked up once or twice. I choked on the profound and deeply moving way that characters displayed how you really help someone suffering from a serious emotional trauma: by sitting there with them and letting them know they're not alone.

But I think it's the lucid honesty of the story and the protagonist that makes this story shine.

A lot of difficult themes are explored in this story: loss, pain, poverty, emotional and physical trauma, the failures of our culture. But we're looking at the world through Corelle's eyes in this story, and Corelle doesn't preach. She doesn't rail against fate or fall apart. When she is faced with monumental problems, she takes a moment to experience them.
Then she gets up and gets to work quietly solving them. No angst, no whining, no falsehood. Just Corelle, her problems, and how she solves them. Quietly, patiently, she deals with each obstacle, whether it be her poverty, her family, or a life threatening illness. Corelle's resolution and her quiet, reflectively profound narration of the story of her life and its changes is at turns moving, laugh out loud funny and heartbreakingly evocative. And it's always honest. 

The clarity of the story is matched by the clarity of the artwork; crisp, clean lines and sharp color contrasts create a delight for the eyes, and the color palette keeps the whole thing vibrant and breathing. In fact, use of color is one of my favorite parts about this work, along with a really witty use of background detail to enliven the scene. Keep an eye out for jokes and easter eggs.
The character design is fun and innovative without crossing the line into camp more than a handful of times (it's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there) and both the body language and facial expressions are spot on. There's use of a lot of manga-style visual intensifiers, but they're used deftly and at the perfect emotional moments, which means they do what they're supposed to and enhance the visual experience rather than detracting from it. Bravo!

The Razzes

At the beginning of the work there were some problems with overly small, squashed speech bubbles and small print;  I had to enlarge my screen to read well! But the artist has since realized their error and now the pages are both beautiful and beautifully readable. Which is great because the reader regularly is given extra treats in the form of splash pages with lovely quotations, and struggling to read those quotes was a shame.
I would like to make the suggestion to keep an eye on background shading: take this clip.
It's good, but the background looks a little flat. I'd suggest adding blended shadows to the inside of the window lintels to give a sense that they have depth; adding shadows only to their edges makes them appear to be cardboard cutouts leaned against a wall.  Details like that are pretty minor, but they can jar the eye of the reader.  And keep an eye on that proof reading. It's a bugger, but it needs doing.

The Revue

A wonderful affirmation of the fact that, no matter what's holding you down, you CAN rise. You CAN choose your own life. It will not be easy, but it will be WORTH IT.


  1. Great to see love for Serious Engineering, which is (seriously) about the best comic out there right now in terms of characterization and emotional follow-through.

    1. Agreed! I fell in love with it myself. We need more stories like this one.

  2. Love this review! And speaking of proof reading:
    Revue: "a light theatrical entertainment consisting of a series of short sketches, songs, and dances, typically dealing satirically with topical issues."

    1. Haha, yep! I did know that, and since I often get flippant or sarcastic I figured it fit. Besides, I appreciated the pun. Nice double checking ;)


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