Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo vol. 3: The Battle of the Bards – Ben Costa & James Parks

3 out of 5

One of my over-arching issues with the Rickety Stitch books is clear in several panels in its third (and final?) volume: what should be a quiet and reflective moment, one character reaching out a hand to another’s shoulder… is given a comical “pat pat” sound effect. Multiple times there’s intended to be a silent panel – either for a comedic beat or a dramatic pause – and there’s a huge “. . .” ‘sound effect’ – an ellipses – hanging at the top. The book is both over-written and under-written; the excessiveness of the text has been tapered down to the same levels as in volume 2 – which was much improved over the talky volume 1 – but it’s still very “loud,” which is what the examples up above represent to me. At the same time, that loudness doesn’t equate to much, as characters are pretty generic, and little extras, like the constant songs Rickety sings, are equally generic – vaguely rhyming; not really about anything. The noise doesn’t enhance the story.

But: at the endpoint, you can see that creators Ben Costa and James Parks were aiming for some big things, and they’re conceptually pretty fun: a Bard show-down on the literal surface; cryptic power-grabbing conspiracies going on in the literal underground – the former is where Rickety’s adventures have taken him, and the latter is what his dreams have been about. These storylines are brought together fairly successfully, mingling together many of the characters we’ve seen along the way. However, the over- under-writtenness rears its head, as the first half of the book does a good job of building things up and plotting out some mystery, but it boils down to typical evil nonsense, and makes the loose attempts at lore that’ve been threaded into the previous two volumes feel even less relevant than they already did – there’s not really any huge reveal, or any twists on already learned knowledge. On the art front, we are, again, on par with volume 2 for the most part – bright colors; expressive panels – but the Big Ol’ Events that rock the latter half of the book are coated in digital smoke and dust, and all that does is add a layer of “bland” atop everything.

So it’s a mixed bag, as it has been along the way. The initial sections of the story – focused on Rickety preparing for the show-down – are enjoyable because they’re not trying so hard to be about some massive quest, or faux-world building – they’re just Rickety hanging out. The latter bits which bring things to a head are probably too big for the book’s britches, but again, I appreciated the paralleling of plotlines in general, and our writers do a good job of keeping the energy going throughout.