Creator/s: Ben Fleuter
Section: Pp. 56-83
FYI, Derelict just got reviewed at The Webcomic Overlook. But I've been wanting to give the comic a read anyways, so here's my take on it.
Website: It has a great-looking industrial feel to it that seems devoid of life -- much like the comic itself. The banner at the top looks particularly cool, and it has the update schedule on it as well, which is a smart move.
The extras look awesome, with videos, a playlist, and even a TV Tropes page. I'll definitely hafta check this stuff out later. There's also plenty of random drawings (some as vote or donation incentives) and fan art, and the webcomic has a store with a few items. And if you wanna talk about it with other readers, Derelict has its own subforum, which seems fairly active.
Some minor issues: The archive page doesn't have the latest 10 or so pages, the supplemental pages have "Updates Mondays and Fridays" in their < title > tags, and the bottom of the site still says "2011."
Writing: The creator's writing's improved quite a bit since the days of Parallel Dementia, which is sort of a significant statement since PD's already a well-written webcomic.
Derelict's a starkly "silent" comic, and it's a quality I'm enthralled with, although I'm unconvinced it'll come across particularly well with a general audience. Derelict muscles through a series of tremendous sequences without really elaborating on the situation other than through the comic's many visual clues. Major elements, like the monster invasion, and some minor elements, like the reoccurring pinwheel, aren't given any substantial context. I'm attracted to this style since I don't mind having to interpret the context -- I enjoy doing that, actually -- but it's possible some readers won't quite grasp the comic's subtleties, or will feel neglected for having to invest a certain extent of effort. Sophistication and depth are positive qualities, though, and Derelict's fans surely appreciate the comic's mature approach.
As for the protagonist, I'm surprised how complex the creator's able to make her despite her barely having any dialogue or interaction with anyone. Rather, her character development's entirely conveyed through the visual cues I referenced above. The first quality that stands out's that despite being in a very unfortunate situation, she's not really as moral or heroic as the reader might expect. She displays a glimpse of compassion when she hesitates to finish off the hijacker, and he uses that momentary vulnerability as an opening to try to kill her. This experience seems to result in the protagonist's actions later on in this scene, when she has the opportunity to rescue some hostages, including a child, but chooses not to. She seems more reluctant this time around to jeopardize her own survival in order to help others, instead coming across as notably selfish, and maybe even a bit evil. Compare this protagonist, for example, to Ripley in Aliens, who's heroically portrayed acting as a sort of surrogate mother for the abandoned child she finds.
Another of the protagonist's interesting aspect's that, while she's shown in military gear and often fights monsters, she never comes across as comfortable in a combat role. Instead, she seems to rely more on quick-thinking, technology, and sheer perseverance, in contrast to the archetypal "action hero," who's more oriented around skill and inherent ability. I mean, what kind of combat veteran pukes after winning a fight? I get the impression that, if this world hadn't gone to hell, the protagonist would probably be a regular person.
Art: The creator's only enhanced his superb knack for coloring over the years, and every page in Derelict's a showcase of elaborate detail, intuitive design, and technical know-how. The creator's also continued to show a preference for the color purple, which I think has developed to become somewhat of a signature of his coloring style. But the quality of the coloring's obvious, and I'm more interested in the penciling, which I viewed as the weakest aspect of PD back in the day. The creator's certainly improved a ton in this area, and is clearly pushing himself to the limit of his abilities, constantly featuring challenging and unusual panels that are very well-executed. While this would be admirable in a collaborative comic, it's particularly notable for a solo creator, who's deliberately providing himself with these artistic hurdles. The amount of effort the creator puts into the artwork is outstanding, and I feel like I don't even need to link any particular pages as examples since every page is a highlight.
The comic's nightmarish monsters have excellent designs and look terrific. On top of their anatomy and clothing being very detailed, the creator's clearly comfortable with drawing them in a variety of poses and perspectives, and even goes so far as to inscribe elaborate runic characters on their arms. The foreignness of the monsters is one of the major strengths of the comic, which is fortunate since Derelict's setting seems to mostly be populated by them.
That said, there are a few issues with the character renderings I was consistently bothered with. The main one's that in the rare scenes where the protagonist's head is fully shown, it always seems too filled-out for her relatively small frame, like the head belongs to an overweight person. I sense that making the character less attractive is intended as part of deviating from the action-hero archetype, but it's a bit too unrealistic for the comic's gritty style, and if the character's gonna look abnormal, I'd expect her to look malnourished if anything. I was also distracted by this guy's fluctuating arm structure, and I don't get the impression the creator was particularly comfortable drawing his muscular arms. The characters on this page and this page could've been drawn a little better too, I think. Of course, I understand the artwork's deliberately cartoony to an extent, and that human anatomy's an intentionally minimal element of this particular webcomic's artwork, but I think the creator still has a bit of practicing to do here. Oddly, this deficiency's somewhat of a by-product of the creator's artistic competence, as the professional-level coloring suggests that there's professional-level line art to go with it.
Another standout aspect of the artwork's the eccentric panel shapes. The creator displays an extraordinary intuition for page design, regularly varying panel shapes and sizes, and using color contrast, both in individual pages and between the comic's various scenes.
Lastly, the creator should consider using a different font. There isn't a lot of dialogue, obviously, but when there is, the text always seems cartoony and out of place. It's possible, as well, that the font might work better if the text wasn't all in uppercase. On the plus side, the hand-drawn monster noises, including the invented language, look excellent.
Overall: The creator's gone from being a promising amateur to bordering on professionalism, and as a result of his dedication and cartooning acumen, Derelict's probably one of the best comics on the web today. It's invigorating to see a creator push his creative limits so much and come out with a project that's not only ambitious, but executed properly as well.