This review has waited long enough to happen, so here it is. Today we’re talking about Bartez by Ryan H. Peraro and Gale Williams.
I first found this book at Intervention Con in 2014 (may that convention rest in peace, because it’s no longer a thing). Ryan was there, selling copies of this book, as well as other swag for the Bartez name. I got this book, numbered 56 out of 500 copies, and… I think I got a pen, too? I can’t remember – it’s been a little over 5 years since I got this book. Bear with me.
I remember reading this once, liking it, and then setting it on the shelf again. Well, recently I re-read this beauty and now, I want to talk about it.
From what I have gathered, this is Ryan’s first foray into writing for comics and graphic novels. And I must say, for a first time comics writer, he did a DANG good job of writing.
I’ve worked for a small collection of comics writers before. And one thing I noticed with first-time comics writers is this: they can get WORDY. As in, stuffing in as much dialogue as possible instead of letting the action and art help to carry the story. Aka, lots of “tell, don’t show,” when it should be “show, don’t tell.”
That said, Ryan does not have that issue. Which is remarkable, considering this is his first book. And to that, I say: kudos and major props, my dude.
The artist Gale Williams has made comics before; notably her semi-autobiographical webcomic, Patbird & Galesaur. Which, I will get to one day – PATIENCE, my buddy.
On her art in this book, I’ll be blunt: you can tell she went to school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’ve noticed that there’s a particular kind of quality to the art that you can spot in the grad students of SCAD if you’re looking for it. You can see it in this book, in Check, Please!, in Distillum, and in a few other books. It’s the big, emotional eyes with the bold line quality, and the dang-near perfect use of blacks to delineate background details that make the foreground pop easily.
I’m not saying that the art quality of SCAD students of this grade are bad. What I AM saying is that it’s almost a house-style, and you can spot it if you know what to look for. I’m still sorting out my opinions on this house-style effect and whether it’s good or bad.
Anyway, let’s talk about the story. What’s it about?
Bartez follows Jimmy Barton, a guy who works in IT. He is, to be honest, kind of a quitter. He tries his hand at a lot of different hobbies and quits as soon as those hobbies get difficult. This is a habit he’s had since high school, and surprise-surprise, the 10-year anniversary of his graduating class is coming up.
Of course, he’s trying to hype himself up by making a website celebrating all his accomplishments in high school. Because he’s not just a quitter – he’s a massive dork.
To be honest, I sometimes had difficulty relating to Jimmy as a character. However, that’s because my personality is very different from his. Which reminds me to make this very important point that a lot of people forget about when reading fiction, and analyzing fiction for reviews:
The characters don’t have to be likable for you to empathize with them. It doesn’t matter that you can’t stand the character. What matters is if the writer can write a compelling character despite that character’s lack of similarity to yourself, the reader.
To that end, Ryan writes Jimmy VERY well. Yes, Jimmy and I are not alike, but his struggles are written in such a way that I could still empathize with this guy… even if, on a logical level, I couldn’t stand him.
It helps, too, that Gale’s art has a simplified vibe to it. When I first read the book, I wanted to compare it to Bryan Lee O’Malley. And considering the bold lines, the large and expressive eyes, and the exaggerated posing of the characters in a lot of these pages, the comparison could be apt.
The key words being “could be.”
Obviously, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is O’Malley’s most popular and widely-known work. Scott Pilgrim also drew its reality as a video game. As in, a love interest’s ex-boyfriends were boss-fights and their defeats resulted in item drops.
Bartez re-imagines reality as, strangely enough, more like an espionage story.
This may surprise you, but the book doesn’t open with Jimmy Barton. It opens with one spy murdering another one. And you find out later through some exposition that the spy who died was one of Jimmy’s high school friends.
A high school friend who took his crush, but still a friend.
And believe it or not, the spies tie back to Jimmy Barton’s high school. But that’s getting into spoiler territory.
In short, you should read this book. Now, I only have volume 1, but this is part of a 3-volume series. You can find out more about it (and purchase the books) at projectbartez.com.
Give the book a try! I know I’ll be getting volume 2 soon.
Thank you for reading!
You. Are. Awesome.