3 out of 5
While improving in general pacing and the framing and scope of its art, the second volume of Rickety Stitch – in which our lead “stitch,” a minstrel who also happens to be a walking and talking skeleton, seeks the secrets of his past – is still stuck with the over-arching problem that limited its first volume: despite its colorful characters and ideas, much of the story feels like bog-standard fantasy stuff, and tied to that is the unfortunate sense that Stitch’s quest, the bread and butter of fantasy, isn’t all that interesting. Writers Ben Costa and James Parks have dialed back the apocalyptic, black and white flashbacks / dreams a bit, which is for the best – they were too vague and cluttered in part one to make an impact – but Stitch himself doesn’t have all that much personality beyond pleasant witticisms, and his buddy, the gelatinous goo, doesn’t speak; his desire to learn more about his unremembered prior life as a flesh n’ blood being feels like it sprang from nowhere (like it was dropped into the narrative just to give it purpose…), and so the book’s structure of traveling the Middle-Route Run via a caravan staffed with gold-hoarders and mercenaries, on its way to the next stop in Rickety’s past-hunting journey, can only have that same middling (no pun intended) momentum.
Thankfully, where book one dragged a bit due to our writers rather over-wordifying conversations, there are many more scenes here which better enmesh the whole text and visuals aspects of comics together, leading to improved comedic beats (I actually chuckled at some of the humor this time) and significantly better action. Costa, manning the art, improves in panel composition, and the printing isn’t so digitally clunky this time – sound effects feel like they happen on the proper plane. Issues still exist – there still is a tendency to use more words than are probably necessary, and overall, the book tends to “feel” funny versus actually being funny – but overall, the patter and flow is much more comfortable. We’ve also earned a modest catalogue of characters and running gags that our creative duo can lean in to, and so while I’m criticizing the relative shallowness of the story, the world is feeling more full and real.
I realize that book deals probably require an over-arching storyline that takes us from volume 1 to X, but I sense Rickety Stitch could probably function better if it was a little less married to its quest storyline, and instead had time to just spotlight Rickety’s and Goo’s antics for several books, eventually building up to something bigger. We were shorted on that initial getting-to-know phase, so we can only rely on the books charms. The Middle-Route Run has those charms, in sharpened form, so it’s enough to get you through from start to end, pleasantly so, and with a couple laughs.