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‘Doctor Muscles: Journal One’ – Graphic Novel Review


Doctor MusclesI don’t know how it happened.  I really don’t.  I started reading Doctor Muscles: Journal One (collecting the first five volumes of the comic by Austin Tinius, Robert Salinas, and various artists) and I couldn’t have been less interested.  The story?  I neither understood nor cared.  The characters?  They either irritated me or confused me.  The writing?  It felt like it was some great inside joke and the art did, too.  I just flat out didn’t understand what was going on or why.  But, by some great miracle, Issue #4 hooked me.  I found myself mysteriously invested in this strange comic. I suddenly liked the characters; I mean I was actively rooting for them and somehow I found myself understanding the basic scenario that had been utterly confusing for the last three issues.  And, I have no idea how it happened.

I have a few guesses though.  First, I’ll just say that while the art of Andrew Whyte (Issue #1) and Stefano Cardoselli (Issues #2 and #3) was playful and raw, I found the panel flow and general clarity somewhat lacking.  Clarity matters less when you’re illustrating a story that is straightforward, but this sci-fi adventure, with a lingering back story suffered intensely for that failing.  But, it would be unfair to lay the blame firmly at the feet of the artists.  In comics, the art is the flesh of the piece, and the script is the skeleton, and one without the other is simply limp meat or dry bone.  I think the biggest offender in the first three issues was ultimately the writing.  It lacked one small but very critical aspect: exposition.  It’s actually hard for me to type this, but I feel like I didn’t get enough exposition in this book.  Or rather I didn’t get enough exposition early on.  To the credit of Tinius and Salinus, everything that needed to be explained was explained by the end of Journal One, but I’m afraid for some it may have been too late.  I certainly would not have come back after the first issue without prodding.  In the end, however, I’m glad I stuck it out.

For all the flaws in this book published by the indie group Bogus Publishing, what you will finally come away with is a wildly unique science fiction story about a dude trying to escape an alternate dimension and get back home.  Thanks largely to the clean, confident, and compelling art of Antonio Brandao (Issue #4) and Cecelia Latella (Issue #5), the conclusion of this arc will leave the reader satisfied, yet hungry for more.  The story almost mimics the art, coming into sharp relief as the arc concludes and providing the answers to questions that serve more to isolate the audience than anything else.  Doctor Muscles is definitely something to try if you’re looking for a book unlike anything else out there, and are willing to be patient.



Sam Rhodes


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