Sithrah vol. 4: The Deep – Jason Brubaker

3 out of 5

Sithrah, while definitely improving upon the overall pacing and flow of Jason Brubaker’s previous project, reMIND, is still showing signs of some of the structural and narrative problems that limited that story.

But I can’t undersell how absolutely gorgeous this book is.  Brubaker has really pushed himself to give his characters – primarily Vonna and Dino, in this chapter – the utmost expressive designs and reactions, going for a classic cartoon stretch and smush sensibility, and though we’re essentially dealing with one “set” for this portion of the story, as the duo make the long trek across the sandy “Deep,” the creator finds opportunity to splash the page with amazing concepts – tidal waves of creatures – and explosions of color and chaos, with the extremes of torrential rains and the omnipresent heat providing awesome visual variations.  I also liked that the journey here is appropriately epic and fraught.  Very often in movies – which Sithrah is still feeling more akin to than a comic book – sections of the story which involve some massive trek undertaking as only a part of the tale are over and done with too quickly.  We get one shot of running low on a resource, one followup shot of being near starvation or whatnot, and then somehow the crisis is averted and we’re on to the next sequence.  In ‘The Deep,’ though, Dino mentions that the over-the-sand traversal to Light City is going to take three days, and we feel it, even before things go wrong to extend that timeline.  Capturing our troupe falling asleep because the process is rather lengthy adds to that.

However, as with the aforementioned reMIND, Brubaker is still rather overstuffing his story – different “voices”, way too many ideas – and drawing scenes in an impressive manner, but not always logical for a comic book.  Shots that isolate a beat kinda make sense from a storyboarding perspective but feel odd in this format, although the artist has made huge improvements at better delineating his action choreography.  And while a lot of these ideas look and sound super cool (magic swords; giant statues buried ‘neath the sand; vague references to mystical beings like The Author and concepts like The End, nudge nudge), it always happens a bit too fast without any grounding of the preceding concept, creating a Lost like vibe where the mysteries flow faster than the story.  This distracts from the characters, who initially seem like the focus of the thing.

Brubaker’s storybook construction – a mix of picturebook narration and comic book paneling – helps to smooth this over by creating a unique flow and vibe for the project, but I worry that we’re building up too much to arrive at a wholly satisfying conclusion.