Wayward Sons: Legends
|Original review author:||Dr Hendra|
|Webcomic name:||Wayward Sons: Legends|
|Author:||Benny R. Powell|
|Start Date:||May 31, 2010|
|End Date:||Last update was in December 12, 2014, announcing the comic will return in late 2015, which the author has yet to bring himself to do.|
|Genre:||Adventure, Action, Romance (bafflingly enough)|
|Defining Flaw:||Where to start... What about disrespect towards history, lacking in suspension of disbelief, clichés, etc.|
I like to think myself as a mythology buff since I was born in Indonesia, a country so steeped in myth and folklore that I can recite a lot of them off the top of my head. Much of Indonesia's folklore and myth bleed into its history, so I’m also big fan of ‘hidden history’ and ‘all-myth-is-real’ stories. Norse and Greek are among my favorites (second to Indonesian myth and folklore) since it contains among the most bombastic, colorful, and stone-cold badass characters ever conceived.
So I went into Wayward Sons trying to meet it halfway. After all, it’s a science-fiction re-imagining of mythology, which in my mind sat just below a showdown between a T-rex made out of Gatling Guns and a talking Gorgonopsid piloting a Gorgonopsid robot and above the reboot of Battletech that removes all the stupid from it.
Personally, the downfall happens when I realize there’s no stakes involved and the feeling that the author don’t even try to put the good guys in danger.
Story and Plot
Wayward Sons: Legends follow the story of two factions. One faction is a group of intergalactic law-enforcers led by Suras—who’s supposed to be sound like ‘Zeus’ but only reminds me of ‘Asura’ for some reason—is supposed to be the good guys. The other is a group of criminals led by Kronos, who is a war criminal. In the past, Kronos was a military commander who wanted to use a super-weapon of some kind against an alien threat. This led to a civil war (why?) as Kronos started bombing worlds to force them join his cause. Eventually, Suras won and imprisoned Kronos by exploiting the fact that the latter did not equip his ship with a surge protector.
Suras then decided it would be a good idea to leave a prison-hulk full of criminals alone and unguarded except for some ineffectual E.T. rip-off. What the fuck do you expect happens next? The good guys gave chase and crash landed on a primitive planet called Earth. The crash somehow gave everyone involved superpowers and immortality.
The locals, being the genius intellectuals we were at the time, came to the only rational conclusion: that these superpowered aliens were gods. The heroes make a token effort to convince them otherwise, but it come across as disingenuous when they wield magic swords and carve a whole mountainside city in one night. Then the story doddered on to detail the struggle between Suras, who wants to help the humans and thinks everyone should be nice to each other, and Kronos, who wants to oppress the humans and thinks everyone should be dick-pistons as they try get back to the stars. It meanders through several eras, locations, and you know the drill.
Let me say that when it comes to reviewing art, I have a bias leaning toward manga-style and styles that start from it because that’s what I grew up with. The only western-influenced sequential art I’m exposed to is a comic starring this guy and I don’t really like them visually which influences my taste. That said, I will to review Wayward Sons art alone this time, trying to be as strict and unbiased as I can before I break down crying because of stress.
Overall, Wayward Sons: Legends boasts beautiful art with great line-work, color, and backgrounds. There are some weak perspectives here and there, especially when it comes to action-heavy scenes where the flaws in foreshortening become noticeable. Also, the action scenes have the curious tendency to look more static than they should, but now I’m just nit-picking. Suffice to say that the art is the best part of Wayward Sons: Legends.
This might be a minor niggle, but there is a problem with most of the characters being too Anglo-Saxon for Mediterranean people. Scientifically speaking, Anglo-Saxon and Mediterranean is Caucasian, but the latter usually sports strong nose, thick eyebrows, and curly hair. Also, why do they follow the standard of beauty of our time? Supposed-to-be-Aphrodite, for example, would be considered fucking ugly due of her big breast, narrow hips, and loose, long hair. This might stem from the artist being familiar with only a limited selection of body types. I won’t fault him for this if this is case, but it takes me out of the experience somewhat. Then again, historical accuracy only matters to people who jerk off to Walking With Dinosaurs. However, the author seems to be reluctant to expand his horizon so most, if not all, of the named female characters have body like an hourglass with two melons nailed to it. Personally, this feels like an insult since Mr. Powell here obviously studied in a professional art class while I’m stuck prodding and sketching actual corpses and body parts in a wet university lab to learn anatomy.
Also, why do the lizard people have mammalian breasts? This is a personal gripe, but after Expedition by Wayne Barlowe and the brilliant xenobiology web-project, Fuhara and Snaiad, the ‘Hat’ aliens that Wayward Sons use seems quaint and stupid. I know it is supposed to be a fanservice-heavy comic, but the writing seems to suggest that Wayward Sons: Legends wants to be taken somewhat seriously.
First off, I want to ham about a little concept called ‘Emotional Weight’. This is what makes playing Spec Ops: The Line and reading Gunnerkrigg Court satisfying because we invest emotionally in the character thus becoming genuinely involved and immersed not only in the story but also the world and how the characters interact with the setting. There are many ways to achieve this but the easiest is to keep a tight cast whose action drives the plot. This way, you actually feel something when something happens to them. Wayward Sons on the other hand boast a large cast with constantly shifting focus. Most of them don’t drive the plot and those who do drive the narrative like Suras and Kronos spent significant amount of time being in the background. As such, the reader has no reason to invest their emotion to the characters that the comic shown because their action won’t have a significant push. When Suras or Kronos are shown, I can only sympathize with the latter since he is the acts like an actual living being and possess a character arc instead of Suras, who just makes me want to puke from his goody-goody-impossibly-noble-hero bullshit. For a specific example for the lack of Emotional Weight, take a look at this scene. If you lack context, you might think the scene quite moving (I don’t). However, once you read ahead, it will shock you how small the effect of his death has on the overarching plot. Even his lover roaring rampage did little to win the current battle. If you guess that Suras will be the one that dealt the fatal blow, you’re absolutely correct. See what I mean? Other than Suras, Kronos, and a very select few of the character, the effect the rest of the cast has on the overarching plot is tangential at best.
The frequent time-skip (seriously, I counted about 3 so far and there’s a chance I might’ve missed one and two) also don’t help with the. By applying a time-skip, it forces a narrative to show the audience a character at the end of his/her/it's particular stage of development without delving into “how” and “why” the character grow and change. This makes the characters seem a little batty-nugget since their personality can change quite a lot between time skip. For specific example, compare how Hermaz (supposed-Hermes) act after the latest time-skip to how he did in his last appearance before the skip (read on a bit). Personally, I want to know how the slightly immature Hermaz becomes a Rorschach/Batman wannabe.
In addition, I have no feel for the stake here. For starters, whatever the antagonist does seems to be doomed to fail while the good guys never had any significant setbacks. The best powers all goes to the good guys too. For example, which one is more useful in both combat and mundane situation: the power to turn into a giant or the ability to manipulate gravity? The power to turn into a dragon or being able to command the ocean to your whimsical will? Whenever a character develops a power, you can bet that 80% of the ones with useful power will go to Suras’ group. Also, the bad guys and the good guys come from the same galactic empire, right? So why the scramble-egg on fucktoast doesn’t Kronos have the technological advantage Suras’ group has? When Suras’ lackey is using the technology to create magic weaponries to supplement their power, Kronos’ group has to do it the other way around with human-made weapons. Furthermore, the comic make promises of plot twist that might harm the good guys but it never happen. For example, there’s a point in the story where the good guys managed to pull a heel-face turn on Kronos adopted son, an Egyptian prince named Menes. We’re treated to a scene where we found out that Kronos really loved him as a son so he started having second thought about his betrayal. It’s a nice twist right? But at the very next page, it was untwisted when the Supposed-Aphrodite-in-disguise-as-Isis revealed she was pregnant with Menes baby. This is just one example of many. By the end of it, I actually feel sorry for Kronos and left wanting to power-bomb Suras’ eggy face to the nearest bollard.
Character interaction, especially romance, is bland and rushed. The author seems to be under the impression that interest to the opposite gender = sex. So when a character kiss you can bet your ass that they’ll be naked under a blanket in the next panel, or page if you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on what kind of person you’re). In fact, the romance between Typhon and Ekidna, two lizard-people with the ability to turn into dragon is the most real since they've been dating for a while and don’t just jump to sex. With no built up, the sex has no weight in them and comes across as gratuitous. Some relationships do have the implication that the participants share a history from before the story start, but it’s handled so awkwardly that I just can’t be bothered to care whenever Benny and the author try to add drama to them. Other character interactions can be divided into exposition, supposedly-funny, supposedly-witty, or macho twattering.
Lastly, the character bios and information sheets interrupt the story. To the author’s credit, it’s quite detailed but why should the reader care about this? This is just exposition that you should’ve weaves into the narrative. If it breaks your fragile heart to omit the character bios and information, put it away from the main comic or do it between chapters. Why? Because it breaks the flow of the narrative and don’t add anything substantial to the ongoing plotline.
Benny R. Powell used to work in Marvel comics on famous names such as Fantastic Four. According to this interview, Mr. Powell seems to have experience on the comic industry. Well, at least he’s trying. I don’t feel anything wrong with him and he seems to be rather agreeable. As far as my meager research turned up, he hasn't kicked up any storms.
To put it bluntly, Wayward Sons: Legends is the most I've been disappointed at something (well, maybe not since Jurassic Fight Club still take that award). I came in expecting a serious science-fiction re-imagining of myth only to find a bland soft sci-fi that just adds GUNS, SUPERPOWER, and BOOBS to a story that already have enough superpower and boobs in the first place.
Seriously, there’s a piece on the hive of scum and villainy fanfiction.net that do sci-fi re-imagining of myth better than this webcomic.
- The actual comic.
- A fanfiction of Mahabharata that managed to accomplish the Sci-Fi re-imagining better. Too bad it’s discontinued.
Wayward Sons: Legends is part of a series about keenspot