3 out of 5
I recognize that storytelling tropes are tropes because they’ve worked successfully at some point, and also that even the most tired of devices can be effective in a skilled writer’s / director’s hands, but: the
“Then” / “Now” alternating page structure of comic books – essentially mirroring periodic flashbacks a la Lost – rarely appeals to me, to the extent that I’m not sure I can recall it being used in a way beyond tolerable. (Though I’m sure if I sifted through my reviews, I’d find some good examples – I feel like Jed MacKay may’ve done it well in a Black Cat book?) The issue I take with this is that it generally feels lazy, and yet also forced: lazy in that it’s a shorthand way to try and speed things up to your present day climax while also backfilling us with relevant lore, suggestive of an inability to pare down the narrative to something compelling and yet linear; and forced because it tends to lead writers into doing that shtick where the last line on page X present day leads into the first line on page Y in the past, and that gets tired fast. Plus, they give the whole thing up by page Z anyway, once they’ve gotten us to whatever battle / conclusion they were leading, cocking up any rhythm that’s been defined.
Kulipari #1 commits most of these sins. It also really didn’t need to: the past bits don’t add much to the present that maybe one concise flashback couldn’t have provided, and the time gap between the two halves doesn’t feel so grand as to offer any grand “well how did we get here now?” curiosities.
You’ll note I still ranked this as a “good” read – 3 stars being that approximation – because Joshua Starnes’ script, working off of Trevor Pryce’s story, moves quickly and has good dialogue flow, and Sonia Liao’s character design and visual energy (much supported, I think, by Ronda Pattison’s fantastic colors) add to that peppy pacing, allowing the book to be effectively entertaining despite hindering itself with unneeded structural clutter.
The ‘Then’ sets up our anthropomorphic frog clan (the titular Kulipari), who’ve tasked the earnest and sassy Burnu with collecting some scrolls that will something something Save The Day, and the ‘Now’ joins up with Burnu after some period of time on that hunt, still unsuccessful. Starnes drops the shtick once Burnu stumbles across some gator-type beings also searching for scrolls, and we tussle for the remainder of the book.
There’s a whole bunch of lore stuffed in an inside-cover preamble which I’m guessing (from Wikipedia) is due to there having been a book series prior to this, but that’s fine, you don’t need all that context to get the “character on a quest” gist. Starnes, as mentioned, make good use of his dialogue, avoiding being too chatty or attempting typical comic book banter, and thus succeeding in getting across the voice of Burnu such that he seems worthy of following around for these pages. The scrabbly letters from Troy Peteri work like Pattison’s color assist in that they prop up the script as well: I’m generally not big on kitschy lettering, by Peteri’s colored, crayon-esque lines add just the perfect dash of attitude to the words, giving it enough of an “other” vibe without it being distracting. Over to the art, I’ll praise Ronda once more, who I feel like gives a lot of depth to the pages, but obviously that’s supporting Liao’s work, who struggles with the fight choreography, but perhaps more importantly never breaks a sense of page flow, despite that.
So while there’s a stronger version of this issue, and I don’t know if there’s anything here that screams of originality, it’s bright and colorful and is a breezy read, which can be an ideal formula when you just want to pass the time with some anthropomorphic frogs going on an adventure.