Skin deep : Orientations


By Kory Bing. 2013. Comic book (part of a graphic novel). A very good read going far beyond the cliché’d summary.

Summary: Imagine myths are real. Imagine finding out that you’re one of them. Michelle expected college to be challenging, but nothing could have prepared her for the revelation that her new friends are more than human–and that Michelle herself is the last survivor of an ancient race of mythical shapeshifters. Worse yet, Michelle’s magical awakening hasn’t gone unnoticed: as she struggles to come to terms with her own terrifying transformation, forces far greater are gathering around her, drawn by powers she’s only beginning to understand…  ”

Before saying anything else, Skin Deep is an online graphic novel published as a weekly updated webcomic since 2006 at skindeepcomic.com. The author, Kory Bing, built over the years a very strong readership (fanbase?) and launched some months ago a crowfunding project on Kickstarter to pay the printing of the first chapters. I was a backer. The project, a success, and I got my books recently without much problems. That’s it for the story: now, it’s the time of the review! 🙂

Actually, I already read the webcomic before backing the print project. The volumes are about the beginning of the story, which I didn’t read for a while. Thus, I simply immersed myself again in the first chapters of the story, imagining myself as a new reader, starting (obviously) with the first book: Orientations.

First, let’s check the book, the object itself. This is a soft cover, but with flaps helping to protect it. And depite being an European with the linking of hardcovered comic books (and used to it), my personal library is fully full (yes, it’s totally possible) and saving some space is great. Also, the pages have a paper of good quality and colors are well rendered on paper, despite a strong and persisting smell of glue and ink.

The fox-totem guy on the right side, Eustace, is my favorite character.

The comic pages have been drawn between the beginnings of the comic in November 2006, and August 2008. I noticed the lineart is at first very thick and kinda rough, and matures as the story progress, but I think the evolution is progressive enough to not being unsettling or brutally getting me out of the story (I like how the final style looks at the end of the volume, too). The text has also been fixed, which makes the reading experience better.

As for the story itself, well, it’s a first volume. We discover the characters and more questions are raised than answered. How the author uses the mythological “monsters” is also very fresh, with a rich and varied bestiary without getting too attached to one cultural area or another (I actually discovered a lot of mythological animals I never heard about before reading this webcomic). The main characters are endearing, humor and drama are well paced, and the bad guys are not stereotypes (they’re kinda funny, a fact I find… refreshing). It can been read by people from 12 years of age, although you can carefully decide to give it to 10-11 year-old children if you think they are mature enough.

The book also has a bunch of bonuses at the end. I found them instructive but put together  a bit confusely, e.g. the “Extra Art” section.

To summarize, if you want a good and entertaining fantasy story, I totally recommend the webcomic. And if you feel rich enough and/or want to support the author (or if you absolutly hate to read comics on a screen), you can also buy the book.

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