Closed Gate Review

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Closed Gate Review

Postby mitchellbravo » March 27th, 2012, 8:18 pm

Closed Gate
Author: santiago033
This comic currently has 41 uploaded strips, including 3 filler pages.

First, I'll spoil it for you: I quite enjoyed this comic. The genre isn't my typical cup of tea, but it was a fun read, and I'm interested to see where the story goes. A bit sad to see that it hasn't updated since I did my first read through a few weeks ago, but everyone has a schedule slip now and then, and hopefully the author will be back to producing this comic again soon.

We're looking at an anthro comic in a world somewhat like our own, but with fictional elements such as monsters and different mythical aspects of death. The setting is easy to immerse oneself into, and as the story unfolds, we gain more understanding of the way the world works. The art's pretty sharp, and the comic seems to be doing pretty well for itself. Hopefully my review will inspire a few more people to give it a look, as the author clearly puts a shitton of work into it and does a good job.

So let's dig in.

The banner is simple and clean. It showcases the art, gives us the heads up "Action, Drama, Comedy," and labels itself "The True Anthro Manga." I can say from reading it that all of these things are correct. Terrific! Too often I see banners that are misleading. The only thing about the banner is that it's not particularly "intriguing," but it's nice enough that it would entice someone to read anyway, so I'll not complain on it further.

Let's take a look at the summary you see when you click the comic profile:
"[UPDATES EVERY WEEKEND]
At the dawn of a New Age, the Union is conquering the South Islands one by one. During the Union invasion to his hometown at the island of Terranova, Christopher is shot and presumably killed. To his surprise, he wakes up alive, with the invasion gone and his father missing. Two years later, he sails to Santa Lucia, capital of the growing Union, to learn about his father's disappearance and the Union's real intentions."
I like that the update schedule is included front and center, unfortunately it isn't adhered to (at least not lately, perhaps in the past it had been). This summary does a good job of giving you a general idea of what is to come, kind of discussing the first prologue chapter without being entirely redundant. We have this cool concept, we can tell this is set in a "different" sort of world, and we want to learn more.

The first page plunges us right into the action. Things have already started happening, we don't need to waste time setting up, we can get straight to the meat. This intrigues the reader and makes them want to click on.

Here's a little bit of trouble that I had, and it might just be me, so take it with a grain of salt. I have trouble reading about worlds that aren't more or less the same as our own. I'm really slow at understanding the way a fictional world works when there are different rules that apply. As a result, I found myself quite overwhelmed on some pages, particularly earlier ones where there was a LOT going on. On the one hand, I understand that the author wants to lay down the exposition so that he can march on to the story. Perhaps others who are more used to reading these types of stories would have less of a problem than I did, though, so I won't harp on it too much.

I will say that there are some pages where there is a lot of text. Normally this is a big no-no for me. Once a panel has too many words, I start thinking about how many words there are, and it takes me out of the story. I thought this was going to happen when I was looking at the profile page for this comic- you know how it shows the little thumbnails and stuff? I was certain I was going to be overwhelmed by the amount of text. Once I got to that point in the story, though, I was fine. So I guess I'll sum up this point as, I think the author has reached the exact maximum threshold of words that can be placed on the page. There's a lot that needs to be said, but the writing is strong enough that you don't really notice how much text there is once you're reading it. I would advise to tread carefully in the future though, to make sure you don't exceed this amount.

(An aside to other comic artists who might be reading this review- most comics cannot pull off this amount of text. Part of what makes it work in Closed Gate is the sizes and types of the fonts being used. Narratives, dialogues, scene changes, et cetera, each have a different look to them, making it seem less like a wall of text and more like separate clumps of words. Also, these separate "types" of text are not competing with each other- each serves a discrete purpose and do not interfere with one another. It is best to err on the side of less words in general. Closed Gate is merely one exception that proves the rule. If you know enough about page composition and fonts to break this rule, feel free. Heck, feel free anyway. Just be aware that the preceding paragraph does not apply to everyone.)

Somewhat on the same note, in terms of composition and text layout, I will say there is one problem that occasionally pops up in Closed Gate, and that is that there are times when I can't discern which dialogue or narrative bubbles are supposed to be read in what order. One example is the fourth page of the prologue: in the fifth panel, I wasn't sure if I was meant to read left to right, then down, or up down, and then to the right. I think it's because the distance between the top left bubble and the two bubbles that form a triangle with it are seemingly equidistant. I reread and made sense of it, but it did pull me out of the story for a moment.
Another example is the first panel of this page. It took me a while to properly read through it, which is unfortunate because this is a really neat anecdote being shared and I think the unclear order makes the story suffer.

I like the use of grayscale in this comic. Texture is used very well to keep the comic from looking monotonous. We get a lot of depth and (to reuse the word) texture from this. Sometimes it seems a little sloppy, but I only noticed this in the earlier pages, and I think it improved as the comic went on.

Going back to this strip- this is very nitpicky, but I had one other problem with this page, and that is that the establishing shot of the truck comes too late. The bottom row came along and I couldn't tell what the cat gentleman was leaning out of. I think it might have been better to have the preceding panel (the "STOP!" one) a bit wider, including the truck coming down the road, as the character stands in the foreground waving it down. Small nitpick.

There is some filler in the archive that I think could be moved to another area of the site. It's not too intrusive where it is now, but it slows the reader from being able to get to the next content page, which isn't ideal.

I have a bit of a problem with certain pages that contain text crawling up the left side of the comic. This looks fine in print, but for those with computer monitors like mine that only have so much height, a reader would need to scroll down and then back up to read the text crawl. It looks cool, but it distracts from the comic flow. This is just something specific to comics read on the computer or other devices. As I said, if this was read in print it wouldn't be an issue.

I like the "voicing" for the characters. Word choice and sentence structure give the reader an idea of how the characters "sound," even small characters who only appear for brief amounts of time. That's not to say it's perfect. The bottom left panel of this strip is worded a bit strangely, at least to my "ear." This happens from time to time, the word choice is just a little awkward. On the whole the dialogue is written so well that the few times this does happen, they really stick out.

On a related topic, I like the way that different languages are portrayed by the use of font choice and <>s. Noticeable enough that you say, "Ah yes, so and so is speaking a different language," but not so obnoxious that it distracts.

I really liked this page, the only thing I didn't feel too great about was that these two cops were just like "Should we do our jobs?" "Eh, my morals make me not want to." It just seemed a bit off. I mean, if we're going to find out later that mice aren't fond of slavery for a specific reason, and it's a drop of foreshadowing for that, well then by all means keep it, but otherwise it just seemed a bit unbelievable and unnecessary.

I didn't care for the way the text looks in the bottom left panel of this strip. The intrusion of background color in between some of the letters gives the illusion of commas and apostrophes appearing there, making me read it in a halting way that I don't believe was intended. I wouldn't mind that the white outline conforms to the outside of the text, but within it, it looks speckled and strange.

There are some typographical errors scattered throughout the comic, not so many that it's annoying to read, but it does take away from the professionalism that the comic generally seems to present. Some typos are ones that a word processor would catch, so do be mindful.

One bit that made me sad was that the comic has links to "About" and "Community" pages, but these currently lack content. It will be nice to see what the creator puts there.

The anatomy is clean, crisp, and it's easy to comprehend what's going on in general, even though the characters aren't human. There are some pages (generally earlier on) where it's difficult to tell what's happening because of how busy the pages get, for instance here. I get that this scene is supposed to be chaotic and overwhelming, but you're putting so much work into the art only to have it be somewhat unfollowable. This doesn't happen often in the comic though, so I think it's not a big problem that will weigh you down, just something to keep in mind when you are drawing those action scenes. Let them be confusing and busy, but don't let them get so busy that they seem unstructured.

I would recommend this comic to people who want to read a quality anthro comic with an immersive and intriguing world. The story is still young, so you don't have that much catching up to do- hop on the train while it's still pulling out of the station! If the story carries on as it has been, you won't regret it. Even if it's on something of a hiatus now, Closed Gate is still open for business.
oly: we draw stories about imaginary people
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Do not feet infants to honey under one year of age.
me: Posh, Baby, Sporty, and Scary Ham
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mitchellbravo
 
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Re: Closed Gate Review

Postby santiago033 » April 2nd, 2012, 9:31 pm

I can't express how grateful I am for this! Thanks a lot! I'm glad my work had an overall positive effect on you.

First of all, I want to let everyone know that ClosedGate is up and running again. I'll do my best not to fall into a hiatus for the rest of this semester.

I really appreciate your critique. I stoped by your comic and let me tell you, it's also an amazing piece of work, even though it's not the style I usually dig. I will really try to follow your advise to make ClosedGate a more enjoyable read.

Regarding the dialogue, I know it's clunky at times, and I'm sorry. English isn't my first language, so sometimes I have to read a page four or five times to make sure everything is well written (and even then, errors usually slip). I'll pay more attention to this, as I consider it the comic's greatest weakness.

Thanks for your insight, I can't really say it enough! I hope it helps me to become a better author and artist.

Cheers, and good luck with your own comic! :mrgreen:
Don't forget to check out my comic!!
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The sky isnt the limit anymore
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Re: Closed Gate Review

Postby mitchellbravo » April 3rd, 2012, 12:02 pm

santiago033 wrote:Regarding the dialogue, I know it's clunky at times, and I'm sorry. English isn't my first language, so sometimes I have to read a page four or five times to make sure everything is well written (and even then, errors usually slip). I'll pay more attention to this, as I consider it the comic's greatest weakness.


Wow! That's really impressive, because you really do have a great handle on dialogue and wording so much of the time. Like I said, because you get it so very right so much of the time, the few times were it comes out clunky seem particularly noticeable. You have a better grasp on the language than some people who are native speakers :lol:

Thanks for checking out my comic, I appreciate it! And I hope my review has inspired a few more people to pick up yours, as well. You've really got something cool going on there. :) Best of luck to you!
oly: we draw stories about imaginary people
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Do not feet infants to honey under one year of age.
me: Posh, Baby, Sporty, and Scary Ham
robybang: Together they're Spiced Ham
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mitchellbravo
 
Posts: 6933
Joined: October 11th, 2010, 1:31 pm
Location: too tired


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