Trinary – A Comic About Art Robots

Trinary is a mini-comic done by my good comics friend (and often table buddy at conventions) Ben Wright-Heuman. That said, I’m going to be as objective as I can for this review.

This is one of those comics that you can only get directly from the artist, either at a convention or through his website. So is it worth getting this rare gem?

Let’s do a review.

Trinary is the story of an art robot – a robot specifically designed to make art. However, all the art is rather…same-y. This is largely due to their programming, which shows the robots’ world as black and white.

But one day, there’s a glitch in the scheduled night-time upgrade. The art robot gets a download of a new program that allows him to see 0s, 1s, and 2s.

And that’s when he starts seeing color.

Not expansive color: the only color used in this comic is orange. But it’s with this color that the art robot starts to see and paint the world differently. With this new ability, though, he’s pursued by the regulators of the art factory, who want to get him back to standard programming as quickly as possible.

The Reviewer’s Thoughts

After thinking about Trinary for a while, what struck me as an apt comparison to this comic is Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. Both comics have points-of-view shift, and they show this by using monochrome colors. Asterios Polyp gets really wild in comparison to Trinary, though, because Asterios also shows points-of-view with some views getting grids, some views getting bold lines seen in graphic design, and some views colored in one tone with hatching techniques.

Trinary, by comparison, doesn’t go as wacky as Asterios, but that’s only because Trinary’s scope is more limited. It’s a mini-comic about an art robot seeing the world differently. Asterios is a thick book more comparable to The Odyssey in its subject matter.

That said, Trinary does fall somewhat into the “confusing” category for me mid-way through the story. About mid-way through, we the reader see the robot fleeing the regulators…and then, on the next page, we see the robot painting a canvas. Did the robot run into the warehouse to hide and just start painting? There’s no clear transition for that scene.

“But wait!” you might argue. “What if all the robots look the same?! It could have been a different robot running away!” Well the robots are numbered. And we know which robot got the upgrade. So that doesn’t apply here.

That was the only moment of confusion for me regarding this comic. After that moment, the plot gets back on track and things make sense.

Without spoiling anything, I will say… the vendetta ending was a nice touch.

There are two more details about this comic that I feel are worth mentioning, if only from the angle of a craftsman:

  1. The entire comic is wordless.
  2. The physical copy of this minicomic has orange wire binding.

Final thoughts

If you appreciate the finer details of a comic and how they can bundle together into one package, give Trinary a go. I say it’s worth a shot.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Actionthology!

Ho boy, this is one of the first comic reviews I’ve done for a while that won’t be a glowing endorsement of the book. Bear with me.

So, I got this book at Herdon this year, back in March, thanks to a trade: I traded a copy of my book, Charlie & Clow, for this. Of the selection the editor had at the table, this was the thing that caught my eye that was within the sales price range set in the trade. I originally had my sights on one of the thicker books at the dude’s table, but I only got this one.

And…well, it’s not as disappointing as another book I covered in an old video…but it’s close.

I hesitate to call this a “bad” book. But let’s get into what this book even is.

Actionthology is an anthology of action stories, or stories that involve the theme of action to them. The stories in this anthology include:

  • The Butcher & The Hound
  • Death Mask (Or as I like to call it, “The Most Boring and Obvious Short Story I’ve Read Thus Far In My Career Good God the Melodrama”)
  • Barry Baxton: Man of Action!
  • The Akron Knight (perhaps the most frustrating short in this book to me), and
  • 30:00

I would break them down story by story, but I make an effort to keep these reviews to one page or less. So here’s the keys you ought to know:

Death Mask is the most skippable short story I’ve ever read thus far. It’s uninteresting and uninterested in its main character. The art is crude and the pacing is melodramatic and predictable if you’re familiar with B-movie curses.

Barry Baxton: Man of Action! Has great use of onomatopoeia, but if you’re familiar with superhero parodies, it’s nothing must-see.

The Butcher & The Hound feels unfinished and it’s frustrating.

The Akron Knight is a sample of a much larger webcomic, making this MORE frustrating than The Butcher & The Hound. Also there’s stereotypical Islamic extremists. I’m personally getting tired of this trope.

Really, the only story I “liked” was 30:00, and even then it has big air quotes around it. I saw the twist of the story coming, though it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Still, glad to see the trope at play – and also see that the main character is a woman in this short.

The art in all of these stories fluctuates between amateurish and flat as fuck. Arguably, The Butcher & The Hound has the BEST art in the book, and even then the posing of the action is stiff. Like, watching action figures pose off against each other. Even my favorite short of the anthology, 30:00, has overworked shadows and the line work is so busy you can’t hardly see what’s going on. The Akron Knight uses gray watercolor washes but doesn’t seem to know to let the black inks dry FIRST before applying them.

Approach this book with caution, y’all. There’s neat ideas at the core of SOME of these short stories, but you have to dig to get to them.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

This book will likely be as “mainstream” as I get here on Indie Comics Hub, because the publisher of Delilah Dirk – First Second – is readily accessible. They have books in major bookstores as well as public libraries. So Delilah Dirk should NOT be hard for you to find and get.

With that said, you should really get a chance to read this beauty at least once in your life.

I first read this book back in 2016. I found it, weirdly enough, at the airport bookstore on my way to Albuquerque, NM for an artist retreat/vacation. When I saw that Tony Cliff did both the writing and the art, I knew the name was ringing a bell. It took a little while for me to remember, “Oh, right! Tony Cliff was one of the regular contributors to the Flight comics anthologies!”

Since he already made one of my favorite short stories ever, “Old Oak Trees,” I was 110% willing to read Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is the story of Selim, a lieutenant in the Ottoman Empire who’s not too keen on his position. But it’s a mundane life until Delilah Dirk, adventurer extraordinaire, breaks into the palace and proceeds to wreck the place. Due to misunderstandings and a lot of shenanigans, Selim gets caught up in Delilah’s adventures, and the two set off into the world to plunder treasure, explore the Turkish countryside, and discover what friendship looks like out on the road.

First of all, kudos to Tony Cliff for the research done for this book. You can tell there was a LOT done, because the details of the period and the location are lovingly rendered. It’s wonderful to look at. Plus all the Turkish characters greet each other with an actual Arabic greeting, “Selam-un Aleykum.” I love that little detail.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for road trip stories (which I am), but the locations and set pieces are gorgeous to look at. I remember it took me a long dang time to read this book the first time through because I would just stare at the environments in awe.

The characters Delilah and Selim are charming as heck. Of course, it’s the traditional “hot-head adventurer and the grounded, sensible companion” dynamic. But it’s charming to see these characters and read their banter. The detail of Selim being obsessed with tea is a nice touch. The interest in tea doesn’t play out in major ways in the narrative, but it’s a detail that perfectly encapsulates Selim: a gentle man with a taste for the calm and refined.

Reading this book is like a cup of tea – warm and comforting. It’s a simple adventure story with charming characters. What more could you ask for?

Again, I highly recommend you read this book. It should be easy to get nowadays, and in fact, it has a sequel! I’ll be getting my hands on that soon.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Little Guardians

Oh look – another comic I got years ago that I finally have the chance to review.

Little Guardians is a webcomic, but I got the first book version back when I attended SPACE. I can’t remember what year I got this book, but I got this before Scout Comics picked up Little Guardians for their line-up. I read through this first edition once or twice before, so I gave it a re-read recently, and now we can talk about it.

So first off – this is one of those rare indie comics that’s geared for young readers. Like, middle-school grade and upwards. Most indie comics tend towards an older audience. (Looking at you, send-ups to superheroes and horror comics). So it’s refreshing to see an indie comic that young readers can get into.

Lee Cherolis and Ed Cho did a great job working in the fantasy genre, especially since the writer, Lee, had not written fantasy before. When you read it, though, you can see some of the Japanese RPG inspiration he used to jump-start the process.

Little Guardians is the story of two children switched at birth. Why? Because the title of Guardian is passed from father to son. And the village doctor thought it would be disaster if the Guardian discovered he had a girl. So he and his assistant switched the girl-baby with the son of the local shopkeeper.

I thought there would be a lot more “you can’t do it because you’re a GIRL” in this story. But the only ones who perpetrate that are the shopkeeper and his eldest boy. In a twist, the story is more about nature vs. nurture: can someone become a guardian, even if they have no inherent tendency to do it well? Can someone overcome their upbringing to become stronger than they thought possible?

The book I got covers the prologue and the first chapter, and it sets up the plot and introduces the characters. The book also introduces a young woman who has the powers of a Guardian, but no village to protect. And she can see right away that the shopkeeper’s daughter was not meant to be in the item shop.

This book also features some sketches of the spirits the Guardians have to face. The spirits of this world are generally nasty and mean to do harm, like spawn villains in a video game.

Yep. This comic draws deep from the video game well in its writing tropes. But unlike Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Little Guardians makes sense with these rules. The video game aesthetics are not superimposed on the world like a magnet on a fridge – easily placed but easily removed. In Little Guardians, everything has a purpose.

Also, the characters can be charming and funny as heck. And you can tell this book started as a webcomic because the art improves page after page. It’s great to see.

If you’d like to read this comic, check out their website. The book is available through Scout Comics, as well, with brand new cover art. I recommend you get this for the young video game enthusiast in your life. It’s good!

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: Stoner Knight 2

My buddy Suzie (editor of The Magnolia Press) sent me a care package full of indie comics recently. One of those comics was Stoner Knight 2. And…well, I HAD to bring back the Review Day Tuesday video series for this book.

It’s WILD, man.