Sunday, March 5, 2017

Simon Nero

Four kids, faced with an onslaught of invading forces, take up arms to save their country and loved ones…

The Rating

This comic has nothing about it that stands out as its best feature. Every aspect of its quality is poor and has seen no meaningful improvement in 17 chapters.

The Raves

Judging by the comments, Simon Nero does have a dedicated fan or two. But I don’t see anything here that I can recommend as a major selling point. Instead, I will attempt to summarize the story for curious onlookers.

The main character, Simon, witnesses a horde of robots (Or maybe just people in armor? It’s hard to tell.) attack his home and kill his mother. While his father fights the robots off, his friend, Diana, rescues him by using a crystal that somehow teleports them far away from the attack. Meanwhile, Kendrick, a man who fights with a power called Dark Armor, saves a girl named Rin from the attack, escaping as the invaders round up their captives onto a slave ship. They meet up with his brother, Xavier (who has the same Dark Armor powers), and Levy, a scientist. Diana meanwhile tells Simon her personal backstory, which…really doesn’t make sense, given that he was there to witness said backstory. It really just serves to drive home that she used to not have friends and also that she has a crush on Simon.
As if it wasn't already obvious.
Eventually, the separate groups converge in the city of Octavius, far from the scene of the invasion, and Levy proceeds to beat Simon up for not being able to protect his mother. Diana (understandably) is enraged and attacks Levy, which gets her knocked out for her efforts. Somehow, this leads to Levy and Kendrick deciding to train these kids to go to battle, and the kids agree to this. Unfortunately, before they can proceed, they have to deal with Xavier's powers turning him into an unstable, bloodthirsty monster. This intricate problem is solved by punching him in the face.
I've seen episodes of Blue's Clues with more natural-sounding dialog.
A three-year time skip ensues and the kids reunite (the boys and girls are separated during training to, in the comic’s own words, “prevent distraction”). What follows is two and a half chapters of nothing but the characters sparring. And for some reason, suddenly now the boys and girls are allowed to spar together because

The city is attacked and the characters boldly go into battle. It turns out the attack was launched by Hale, Simon’s older brother, and at this point, I couldn’t even tell you if this character had appeared in the comic before or not. Let’s just assume this was supposed to be a plot twist. Either way, the fight ends with Kendrick dying and the characters making a tactical retreat and staying with Simon’s aunt and uncle. While making new plans, the group learns that Levy and her experiments are the secret behind Kendrick and Xavier’s powers, and Hale was apparently an experiment gone terribly wrong. And that’s where I’m going to stop the summary.

There is a prequel, which you can also find on Tapastic or on the series blog. I won't be reviewing that today, but if you enjoy this story, you will most likely want to read the prequel, which covers more ground on the characters and setting.

I guess if I had to choose anything at all about the comic that stands out, it would be the Dark Armor. It’s interesting that it has a tendency to turn an otherwise ordinary person into a violent berserker. That’s hardly an original concept, but it’s not a bad one.

Now, the wonderful thing about webcomics is the high accessibility. Anyone can make a webcomic. There’s no minimum standard, and I strongly believe that should continue to be the case. Shutting the door even slightly undermines one of the biggest merits of the medium as a whole, its unfiltered, unrestricted freedom to be creative and to express creativity. So, slowmostevo, if creating this webcomic makes you happy, by all means don’t take this admittedly bleak review as an indication that you should stop. But if you want to attract more of an audience, you’re going to have to do better than this.

The Razzes

Simon Nero is in need of massive improvements in just about every aspect except for the website, since the comic is hosted on Tapastic. A somewhat plain-looking site with an irksome archival system, but it’s still functional and simple to use. The fact that the comic is at least accessible is the reason I gave it a 1 instead of a 0; whatever I might think of the comic, I’ve still seen webcomics of a similar (lack of) quality with far worse choices in platform.

The Eight Deadly Words

“I don't care what happens to these people.”

This is about the worst thing you can ever get as feedback. See, in a character-driven story, which I am assuming this comic is meant to be, having a cast the audience doesn’t care about means the audience won’t care about the story, either. How do you make people care about what happens to your characters? Well, for one thing, you need to make them sympathize with the characters.

You might be thinking that means the reader needs to feel sorry for them. And you’d be wrong. Sympathy isn’t derived from seeing trauma after trauma piled onto a character. Sympathy comes from being able to relate to the characters. They need to act and think like a real person would. And for that, you need to learn about character development.

Character Development

Let’s start with a simple exercise. Look at these 100 Character Questions and see how many of them you can answer. The first step to writing a good character is understanding who they are. The next step is understanding motivation. What drives your character is as vital to the story as any plot device you throw at them. The problem is, some of your characters have shallow motivations. The girls, for example, seem to get easily distracted by romance in situations where a character really shouldn’t be thinking about that. These are people in life or death situations! You need to make them take it more seriously.

You also have some characters who are extremely unlikable. Being boring is one thing, but being outright detestable, especially for a non-villain character, is a big problem. Levy is the biggest offender of them all. Having her beat up two teenagers is not a good way to endear an adult character to the audience. It doesn’t make her seem “serious” or “stern”, it makes her seem cruel and abusive.

On the other hand, you have Simon, who seems driven by his desire to protect his country, and also his guilt at failing to protect anyone. That's honestly not a bad starting point, but these personality traits only seem to come into play when the plot decides it's important for him to feel guilty. Otherwise, he shows little personality beyond being blandly nice. There's not much progression on how he deals with his trauma, nor does he seem to have a goal beyond the vague "save my country." But why does he want to save his country? Why does he care about saving his family? What attachments does he have? How did he feel about them? What personal goals and desires did he have that were forced aside when his home was attacked? Ultimately, we don't know much about who he is, just what he does. And what he does is run away, train, battle, run away...later, rinse, repeat. It's time to start exploring why these events matter to him and what the stakes are.

Pacing and Plot

Pacing is another major problem with the writing. You have this tendency to rush through conflicts without properly developing them. For example, Xavier's Dark Armor-included bloodlust being resolved by simply punching him is what we call a deus ex machina. You can’t just throw in cheap fixes like that. Conflict in a story is good, but not if the resolution is contrived or anticlimactic. Furthermore, it seems that Xavier's Dark Armor going out of control only happens when it's convenient. He doesn't go into a frenzy during sparring, battle, or any other event that would likely trigger it. It makes the potential threat of his Dark Armor seem insubstantial and the singular event where it does go out of control look like rushed filler.

A lot of the comic seems like filler, in fact. Like a lot of shounen manga, you draw out fight scenes for a long time, but many of the fights seem to accomplish nothing. The sparring matches are the biggest offenders, seemingly intended to show how the characters have grown, but not really demonstrating any growth other than them apparently being better at fighting. The fight scenes might be more enjoyable if the art was better, but the visuals aren’t exciting enough to make the action fun to read. Instead, it just becomes a big empty hole in the story where nothing happens. Besides, action for the sake of action doesn't work well even when it does look good. Without a purpose that brings about story progress, it's nothing but pointless violence.

Here's another exercise for you: can you answer the journalistic questions as they apply to the plot? These questions are tied closely with the 100 Character Questions from before. The events of your story are mainly instigated by character actions, so it's important that you understand your cast and be able to answer who and what made things happen, and why, when, where, and how. These are simple, exceedingly direct questions, but being able to answer them is vital.

Sequential Art Essentials

The art needs massive improvement. I’m going to hit on what I see as the most vital aspects you should work to improve on and offer you some good, solid resources you can learn from. To get you started, I suggest reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It’s one of the best primers on sequential art out there.

I also recommend you take some art classes. Start with something basic like beginner drawing, or a figure drawing class that provides live models. The best way to learn how to draw well is to learn how to draw something as it is, and not as you imagine it. Cartoon art isn’t meant to look exactly like real life, but having a good foundation in practicing still life and model drawings is an essential foundation for any aspiring artist.


This is an all-important principal to any medium of art. Composition is defined as the way an image is arranged, such that the eye travels the picture. Perhaps you’ve heard of the golden spiral, also known as the golden ratio. It looks like this:
Notice how this asymmetrical shape grows in size at an exponential rate. This shape is naturally pleasing to the human eye and we tend to follow its movement from the inside-out. This pattern appears quite frequently in nature.
Shamelessly lifted off Pinterest.

Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830
It's also common in art. Not every example of this spiral pattern is as clear-cut as what you see here, but the point I’m making is that good composition has a central point that immediately draws the eye, and the rest of the image follows a roughly circular motion around the image. The golden spiral is merely a mathematical concept to explain why certain compositions are more pleasing to look at. Now let’s compare these images I showed you to a random section of your comic.
Ah. You see now how unbalanced this is? In the first panel, you have a character cut in half by a panel. In the next, you have her dangling out by her leg. In the third, there’s a huge empty space that makes the shot look bottom-heavy. The fourth panel is probably the best-composed, but it would have looked even better as a bust shot, bringing her further up the panel. In all of these shots, the eye is stuck in one spot. There’s no background, no interesting angles, it’s just one singular piece of the panel occupied by a character surrounded by empty space. I’m not saying every last panel needs to follow the golden ratio, but it’s a good starting principle to give more consideration to how you compose these shots.

If you want to read more about this concept, check out this article on The site has a lot of useful tutorial besides this one.

Aside from that, there are also serious problems with the composition in terms of understanding what the characters are doing. In comics, composition also refers to the readability of the action, and your readability is confusing. Even stick figures can be composed in such a way that it's easy to understand what's happening. In fact, we see xkcd do that on a regular basis. The trick is to clearly show where everything is in relation to everything else. The panels have this sense of detachment. Action doesn't clearly flow from one shot to the next. Which brings me to my next point...


If you’re going to insist on drawing action scenes, then you must understand gesture. For starters, watch this video.
Notice how there’s an emphasis on curves. Your art is stiff and angular, but the human body tends toward round, squishy shapes. You need to loosen up your line work a lot. Just look at how static this shot is.
There's also a lot wrong with the anatomy here, most glaringly the girl who's throwing a punch from her forehead.
Improving your anatomy would be a welcome change, but if you practice gestures, you’ll find yourself naturally getting better at anatomy in the process. Trust me, your action scenes will improve by leaps and bounds if you take the time to practice gestures on a regular basis. But lest you think I'm suggesting you need realism to make something dynamic, remember, even stick figures can be effective at conveying movement. 
I cannot stress this enough. If you want to draw action, learn to draw gestures.


This is one part writing and one part visuals. First of all, your writing is full of typos and grammar mistakes. You badly need to either spend more time editing, or get somebody to beta read for you. The only thing I like about the lettering is the rough texture of the sound effects. It looks jarring and loud, which is exactly how it should look. The dialog font you’re using for the later portions of the comic is also good, but you need to work on the shapes of the word bubbles. You seem to be stuck on either circles or…whatever this is.
The text size also varies without rhyme or reason. You should try to stick with a standard size indicating regular volume.
A change in font size normally indicates a change in volume, but that’s not happening in this scene. Pick a standard size that’s easy to read and stick with it. Don’t change it just so you can fit it all inside the bubble. Make the bubble fit the text and don’t make the text larger or smaller unless you’re trying to convey that somebody is shouting or whispering.

But mostly, please work on those typos and maybe take a writing class to learn how to write dialog better, because nothing about the way the characters talk sounds remotely natural. I could go on about other specific ways the art and writing don’t deliver, but working on these things before all else will help put you on the track to improvement.

The Revue

We all have to start somewhere, and most of us start at the bottom. It’s going to take a lot of practice and dedication to improve this comic, but if this is really something you love to do, then it’s worth it to try a little harder.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the review! I love the brutal honesty you put out. I put the comic on hold because of real life but after reading your review and looking back at my comic as a whole I might revamp everything and have it all planned all out first.


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