6 Gun Mage
|Original review author:||Izzus|
|Webcomic name:||6 Gun Mage|
|Start Date:||July 10, 2013|
|Genre:||Steampunk Fantasy Western|
|Defining Flaw:||Everything used in this webcomic was done better in other manga or anime.|
6 Gun Mage was in the to-be-reviewed section of the BWW forum. Easy to see why.
Let me give you my first few notes on this webcomic, so that you may adequately understand exactly where I found the downfall to be.
Okay, so this is the downfall because by this time you know you're in for a long, dreary, life draining haul.
Story and Plot
Contrary to the name of the webcomic, it is not about a wizard with six firearms. You'd think that a comic with the name "6 Gun Mage" would be about that, but it's not. The webcomic, instead, is about a rationale-inept runaway wizard who never completed her training, and she uses a revolver as a weapon.
Considering that there's no comic in the world called "Gunmage", one can only question why the author would name his webcomic after something it's not about. It was pointed out by someone else, later in this review, that the term "6 Gun" is another way to say "revolver." Gotta keep that shit original.
In the setting, there are wizards who use guns. The basic concept is that they center their magic around the use of guns to do things like manipulate bullet trajectory and locate where people are hiding. Very cool, right? However, they can only use flintlocks because their magic won't work otherwise. And they aren't as good as full-fledged mages, of which only maybe four have appeared, for about ten pages (it's implied that there are many more). And there are many kinds of firearm in this webcomic which are better than flintlocks. Kind of begs the question as to why gun mages exist in this scenario at all, doesn't it, with them being so outmatched by other people and what-not? I mean, it's possible that they can do other shit. But the author doesn't have them do other shit, gun mages only seem to perform parlor tricks with bullets. All we've seen so far is that everyone who isn't a gun mage (who are the most elite fighting forces as stated in the webcomic) can do things better than a gun mage. It's a cool concept which hasn't been expanded upon by the author, and this means that the author just kind of made gun mages almost practically useless, considering that there are better alternatives to the abilities they possess in this webcomic.
Our main character, Kylie, is on the run from the government. Gun mages can only use flintlocks because the power needed to use multiple bullets at once would kill them. So, some dude crafted a gun which offsets this hindrance, and Kylie ran off with it for some reason. She was working for them as a cadet, but just ran away with it because I guess the government wants to do some sort of nefarious crap with the gun (it's never explained why they want it so badly other than it's rightfully their property), so they killed the gunsmith for helping her get away and now they want to capture Kylie. In all honesty, they probably want to put her on trial because that's what they do to people who go AWOL, plus the fact that she stole an experimental technology they could use to better defend their nation. It'd be bad if that kind of thing fell into the hands of the enemy, after all. Can't have it floating around. So really, despite the government in this webcomic being painted as evil, and Kylie being painted as the innocent rogue deserter, the protagonists are actually the government when you think about it. They just want to keep their people safe. Kylie's the bad guy for stealing from her country and deserting for no good reason.
Though desertion may not be the only reason the government wants Kylie and the gun back. See, it turns out that she's a special snowflake. She didn't die while using the gun, and apparently she can also resist having the life literally sucked out of her. So... why is this bad? Why would the government want to antagonistically capture such a valuable asset who was already working for them (yes, she was already working for them) instead of greeting her with a friendly liaison? All they'd need to do is give her specialized training and BAM, best gun mage ever. Terror of the battlefields, hero to the people and what-not. Just because someone is abnormally skilled at something isn't a reason to kill them, it's a reason to have them work for you. And if they just want to study her abilities, it wouldn't be very good if they killed and autopsied her, would it? They'd risk losing a powerful hand in the military for a corpse which taught them nothing. So in the end, considering both options, Kylie ran away for nothing, resulting in the death of the guy who made
her the government's gun. The best option the government had was to make her into their greatest gun mage, because she's more capable than most gun mages, but she ran away for no fucking reason, which makes the entire catalyst for the plot of this webcomic absolutely retarded.
Oh wait, no, it's not a faulty story. The government is just a straight up bad guy with no reason to their rhyme. BOO GOVERNMENT! YAY SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE! FUCK THINKING ABOUT RATIONAL CHARACTER MOTIVES! I guess it's the government's fate in every story ever to be the bad guy. It's like nobody's aware of the wide spectrum of political ideals or bureaus which actually do good things. Fuck, even members of the GOP do good things every once in a while. If our world were like this comic, the Colorado Department of Education would be evil, and so would the English Department for Transport. You know, because the gub'ment is always up to no good and everyone who works for them is evil, what with the free education and road maintenance and utility infrastructure and food quality regulations and disease control.
That's just the first part of the webcomic, too. From there, she gets a job working for a mercenary company (which hires nothing but women for no stated reason) and goes on a few jobs, killing people for cash. Conveniently, there's a bathhouse beneath their headquarters, so the reader gets a dose of cheesecake every so often, and the company is run by a woman with elf ears. In this webcomic, elves are extinct. This is a plot line which isn't even so much as hinted toward ever again.
The elf chick used to be in cahoots with some kind of super gunslinger.
I mentioned him briefly in the downfall section, the one called "Smugs MacGenericscar". Someone deleted half of the fucking downfall section. He's pretty much some smug looking piece of shit who has a generic scar over his eye and neck. He stole the elf chick's coin, and apparently it has some kind of super power or something. It's never really elaborated upon, probably so that it can be used as a deus ex machina or macguffin later on (it can't be the phlebotinum, the webcomic already has one of those). Because, you know, that's the predictable thing. It's the thing you expect. We don't want to overwhelm the readers with original writing now, do we? No, it would require actual effort to create your own ideas, or use old ideas in new ways, or make anything that's, oh I don't know, God damn thought provoking. Best stick to what other people already did right so that you don't have to risk making something bad. Except that when you don't take risks, it doesn't really come off as good anyways. Gee, I guess the author kind of fucked himself there, didn't he?
See now, everything in this webcomic is predictable. If you know your clichés and tropes, this comic won't fail a single expectation. Nothing about this webcomic is influential, inspired, or interesting. From character personalities to the setting to the writing style, every last bit of it has been done before, and done better. For instance:
- Female gunslinger in a train robbery. It was done better in Daisy Kutter. The main character, Daisy, is hired not to stop the robbery, but to conduct it. The action was more fluid and comprehensible, and the payoff to the scene was more fulfilling. Plus, the scene where the robbers wake up a character at gunpoint was taken almost word-by-word from the first episode of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist. Except in there, the main protagonist was the one sleeping. He also used "magic" in better ways than a gun mage.
- Weapon smith makes a unique weapon which is used by the main character. It was done better in Fullmetal Alchemist, Berserk, and a mountain of other anime/manga titles I don't care to name. How they usually come to use and keep the weapon is done more naturally and interestingly. In this, she just kind of... runs away with it after being pursued by the government. Even the whole "heretic" thing, despite having been done to death in JRPGs, has been done better in a majority of them.
- Main character is a dumbass but can still get shit done (cheesecake warning). It was done better in Gurren Lagann and DragonbBall Z. The main characters from those franchises win through badassery and willpower. This comic's main character seems to only succeed because the comic needs to continue.
- The main character is a wizard who uses guns. Fuck man, this is a God damn class in D&D, it's a class in Final Fantasy Tactics, it's fucking everywhere. Pick a source material. It's probably been done better in that.
To speak further of its predictability, when I first created this page, I uploaded a chart. I took it down because nobody could speak to its accuracy (and I made a couple of spelling errors, whoops). No one can predict the future, right? Wait a minute... well fuck, I must be an oracle. Turns out I called it. She was captured and is to be brought in alive. And from this page, it looks like her rescuer will indeed be either Smugs MacGenericscar or the elf chick. The author also somehow managed to use "it's" instead of "its" three times in a row, and misspelled "throbbing". Probably because he rushes this comic's updates so much instead of treating each page with the tender care and love that a comic author should.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Just take a gander through the webcomic for yourselves, if you think this webcomic does something new, you just haven't seen the anime or read the manga that did it better. Nothing about the story is original or novel. There isn't a hint of imagination here, the webcomic just leeches off of what worked for other people and mashes it all together. The author isn't aiming for the top, he's not trying to push boundaries here, he's just out to make a webcomic. And he's doing it badly. If you want to be interested in the comic's story, turn your brain off. Completely. Then drool your way through the pages and rest assured, you will have wasted a good few days of your life just as I have when I read it for this review.
The only entertainment to be had from this comic was from the way this guy draws his art. Aside from the blatant cheesecake which would only improve the comic if it were taken out, Chris appears to love drawing his characters with scoliosis whenever he can. I think he's trying to get them to look like they're making a cool pose or something, but doesn't realize that he's drawing them as though they need invasive surgery, or at least a chiropractor. I think they got all those back issues because they keep turning their heads 90° just to talk or look over their shoulders all the time.
Other than the scoliosis, we have an overabundance of blank space. Now, I know I've unjustly complained about this in a couple of my other reviews, where it wasn't nearly prominent enough to warrant said complaint. However, in this comic, I've found the mother lode. I never thought it could be used so blatantly, but here it is. I've done the math.
Not counting certain flat background effects, such as patterns, gradients, or lines (which the author uses excessively):
Step 1- I might have skipped a few, but of the 200 pages I read, 49 left a certain amount of space just flatly black, grey, or white. Let's round it to 50 pages just to keep things simple.
Step 2- Of those 50 pages, there were varying amounts of blank space, the lowest being 5%, and the highest being 50%. Yeah, he left at least half of an entire page blank. Multiple times.
Step 3- Since 50 is one quarter of 200, I had to add the percentiles together and divide by 4. I got 2.425%. That's 4.85 pages worth of blank space.
Now that may not seem like a whole lot, but take this into consideration:
He uses photoshopped moons and clouds all the time, instead of drawing the skies himself.
He uses background effects constantly.
I did not take the space of word bubbles into consideration when calculating that percentile. Maybe I should have; they're fucking huge.
I may have missed a few pages.
There is no shadowing or shading in this comic. At all. The sun is simply not there, and light is equitable in all directions despite what the laws of physics say.
See, now imagine how much of this comic the author actually draws. It's not a whole fucking lot. He's lazy, he uses every trick he can to try and make it seem like his comic takes up more space than it does. Really, when it comes down to brass tacks, he probably only draws about 55-60% of the actual comic, the rest is empty promises and crushed dreams.
If you want to play devil's advocate, Chris Hazelton does the comic for a living, and he needs to pump out as many as possible to keep up with his schedule. One guy can only do so much when he has responsibility to his family. It's obvious that he treats comic making as a job, a business, and nothing more. Whether or not he cares about improving when he can get the income doesn't seem to matter to him. On the other hand, you've got examples such as Don Lawrence, who produced some of the greatest Sci-Fi Fantasy imagery ever seen in comics. He put out two pages per week for various publications. Not nearly as much output, but the result was golden, earning him two fucking lifetime achievement awards. Proof that if you're making comics, it's possible to juggle your personal life with your professional life if you slow the fuck down and put some effort into it.
It would certainly make the gun mages' combat engagements somewhat difficult if their scenarios had any hint of naturalism. But, thankfully, guns and magic (and apparently Naruto-style shuriken are viable too) aren't the only way they fight. They also use words. Lots and lots and lots of words. Yes, most of the fighting in this comic comes in the form of two people yelling at each other. I'd say at least half of it is arguing, and the other half is actual fighting. Nice "action" sequences, buddy. It sure does take a lot of effort to draw two people talking instead of moving in a coherent and fluid manner, doesn't it?
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a fight where people don't fight, they just talk or yell at each other. Look up any good one-on-one fight, and the most talking you'll see is the fighters taunting each other. Hell, if you want some examples, take Sin City for one. Do you ever see people talking during the firefights in that comic? No, it's all narration through captions, with maybe a quip here and there. And that's part of what makes it a good comic. You're not getting a whole expository essay from the characters involved, you're getting a gunfight. It makes no fucking sense, that when you have two people shooting at each other with deadly intent, they would pause to fucking chat. It breaks the tension. It breaks the immersion. It breaks the action. It breaks the comic itself.
For some reason, sometimes they'll be talking and fighting, but the speech is surrounded by angle brackets. I've seen this used in comics before (Y the Last Man, Fables), always to denote someone speaking in another language. What purpose does it have here? Why are there brackets? Are they whispering? That makes less sense since it's pretty fucking tough to whisper above gunfire. Next time you go to a populated gun range I suggest whispering to the guy next to you, see how far your conversation gets.
That's a main problem with the writing overall. People just don't stop talking. Most of the comic is exposition, hardly any captions, or even just pauses. Character building isn't all about talking, it's about the events they experience, it's about their reactions, it's about their emotions, and how all of these things develop the character. But the author of this comic doesn't think so, despite all rationale. Isn't it logical to ponder, that when people are fighting or idling by themselves, they'd be silent? Facial expression and body language can often speak more than words. But no, they never stop talking. It's just gab gab gab gab. Never concise, always expository, sometimes rivaling Scooby Doo in eloquence. On this page I half expected the guy to say "I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you and your crazy knife-throwing Lolita bitch."
Chris Hazelton entered the entertainment world through the film industry working on films such as "End of Days", "The Hurricane", "Thirteen Days" and "Spy Game". In 2002, Chris produced his first webcomic online and in print, "Building 12". Chris quickly followed up "Building 12" in 2004 with the much more successful and well known webcomic "Misfile". After leaving Hollywood, Chris began pursuing drawing comics as a full time career and in 2006 signed on with Demented Dragon to write and illustrate the comic series "A Steel Wing Shattered".
Aside from this, he does actually know a little bit about guns (despite using the term "kickless" instead of "recoilless", and capitalizing "kickless" despite it not being a proper noun). His YouTube channel describes what he knows about firearms and how he uses that knowledge in the webcomic. To this, I have to give him credit. He has taken the "write what you know" idea and used this knowledge spectacularly throughout the webcomic. It's too bad that he hasn't taken this idea and actually learned how to write a comic before writing a webcomic.
Makarov's Chupacabra Add-On: Regarding the issue with the sudden change of terms for other not-so-smart ones, there is something fishy about the title, you already know that. The term called "six-shooter" universally means a revolver (a pistol with a built-in drum magazine) which holds SIX bullets. While this term is the most popular one, at least online, there also exists the term "six-gun", which I've never heard of anyone (not even Southern tabloids) use before. Picking up the former would at least be more accurate than a term which I suppose he found somewhere online (just like I did) in an effort to sound more "original" than the bunch of comics (which don't exist yet) named "Six-Shooter something something". Besides, six-shooter sounds better. And is more accurate than the latter.
6 Gun Mage is like the magnum opus of a five year old. They haven't lived long enough to think of their own ideas, so they use what they think is cool in an attempt to be cool themselves. There's nothing interesting or groundbreaking here, it's just a ho-hum run of the mill product. Not a piece of art or anything like that, but a product. The characters aren't relatable in the least. The setting is hardly original. The plot is composed of what worked for other people. The author already had a fanbase. He also knows how to construct a plot, as lackluster as it may be. He's not the worst webcomic author out there, but he sure as shit's nowhere near the top, because he's not trying to get there. He's just making webcomics as a job, not as an artist.
It's possible to make a webcomic which rivals Akira, Batman: Year One, or even Watchmen. There is no bar for entry. There is no quality control. It's a two sided coin: you can make a comic that's an absolute cesspool, or you can make a comic as great as you want. But what's the fucking point when you have no drive to improve.
Oh yeah. Money.
This webcomic is just about the money. All the ideas it uses have been used before, it was practically pre-written for the author. That's some shit that anyone can do. Anyone could make this fucking webcomic if they learned how to draw. Chris Hazelton created a job for himself. Good for him, I hope it helps him support his family. But holy shit a little originality wouldn't hurt. The guy might want to take a step back and think of his own ideas if he wants the webcomic to quit sucking. Or he could just ride his fanbase and keep making ad/patreon money off of them. Seems like he's going for the latter.