Route 148

Creator/s: "VM"
Run: 9/11-current
Schedule: Saturdays

Website: It has a distinct "highway" theme to it that goes great with the traveling aspects of the comic.

The "new vs. old" chart is a cool and unusual feature, and posting the older material in PDF form seems like a terrific bonus for the more interested readers.

I didn't know people still used LiveJournal, but it seems to be a perfectly fine way to keep in touch with readers.

Lastly, the comic's been updating very consistently since it started. Nice.

Writing: My first impression's that reading this comic's sort of like watching a David Lynch film, which is both a good and a bad thing. It's good in the sense that I'm generally a fan of Lynch's stuff, but it's bad in the sense that his movies come across as hyper-artsy and esoteric. I would never recommend his less mainstream movies to anyone but the most open-minded movie-watchers.

That said, while the effort and focus is clearly there in Route 148, I don't see the creator as handling this challenging writing style with even close to the level of skill Lynch shows. Of course, it isn't very fair to compare the skill of a celebrated professional to the skill of the creator of this amateur comic, but at the same time, I feel like if an "expert" of this style can still only do it in a largely grating and unappealing way, then it presents a blatantly uphill battle for a mere amateur to try to do it competently.

Oh, yeah, and since I haven't mentioned any details at all, just to clarify, I'm referring to stuff like the visual transition with the birds, the contrast between the lack of emotion and the violent illness, the sudden time/location/subject changes, the isolation, the early omen to set the mood, etc. I don't have time to get into the specifics, but basically, it seems like the creator's very concerned about getting the complex writing style to work out mechanically but is also neglecting the fundamental dramatic demands of the story. Thinking about some Lynch films like Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, they're all very dramatic, maybe even overdramatic, but Route 189 here instead seems more dry and undramatic.

This comic's writing is very ambitious, and I give the creator a ton of credit for attempting something this unusual. But other than that, I don't feel like praising this comic's writing because I don't plan on continuing to read it, I wouldn't recommend it to someone else to read, and I don't think it would appeal to the general webcomic-reading audience. That said, the creator clearly demonstrates as least some level of competence, and I think this comic would become more readable if it developed into more of a normal writing style. The creator can always reconsider an avant-garde approach later on when he or she's more experienced.

Art: The artwork's done in a very realistic style that's certainly the main draw of the comic. The figures and backgrounds are all rendered exceptionally accurately and cleanly. The grayscale shading and coloring's also top-notch.

What concerns me about the artwork most is that the characters aren't expressive, which is a notable problem when the artwork's very focused on showing faces. It seems like the faces are always in a default expression, so it quickly gets boring reading the faces for inflection. I see how this could possibly be intended to reflect a sort of muted, stoic atmosphere, but even there, it creates a visual gap that the comic doesn't really try to fill.

One nice touch I noticed is that T-shirts young Jack and young Linton are wearing, a Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles shirt and a Nirvana shirt, respectively, do a good job of quickly showing the characters' age and culture gap.

Lastly, the multiple speech bubbles aren't done right. When this comic has multiple bits of dialogue, it has one bubble's tail point to the next bubble. This is weird, and instead, the two bubbles should just be one connected object.

Overall: Route 148 demonstrates a firm grasp on the mechanical foundations of the art and writing, but the creator really needs to work on developing the comic's dramatic aspects in order for it to be less of a chore to get through. It's great to come across a fledgling comic that's so overly artistic, but its No. 1 focus needs to be on delivering an entertaining and engaging product.


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