URL: katran.smackjeeves.com
Creator/s: "JoKeRcologne"
Run: 6/10-current
Schedule: About once a month
Section/s: Ch. 3

Website: In September 2010, the creator posted on the site, asking, "btw I got fan-arts should I upload them?" He never did, and I think he should definitely add them to the site. Having other supplemental pages on the site would be ideal as well, but as per an April 2012 posting, the creator's already working on adding a few.

The Halloween-colored layout seems to compliment the grayscale pages pretty well, and the white parts of the pages really stand out (in a good way) against the black background. Having the navigation buttons change color when hovered over's also a nice touch.

The creator recently started a Facebook page for the comic, which I think's a good idea. The page is scarce, though, and the timeline-style layout looks awkward, so I suggest the creator tries to update the page more often, and also tries to make it look a little more professional.

There are some cool bonus pages in the archives that explain some of the miscellaneous elements of the comic's setting, including the fictional language the characters use sometimes, but I expect some of the more casual readers won't realize the pages are there. They should be displayed more prominently, like in an "about" or "extras" page.

Lastly, the creator's only posted four pages so far for 2012, which is a very underwhelming pace for a webcomic. He should try to start updating twice a month, and preferably even more frequently than that.

Writing: It's a fun, high-energy comic that continually bombards the reader with exciting sequences and well-choreographed fight scenes. The chapter jumps right into the action per an in medias res style and never really slows down, frantically jumping between the dangerous situations of the various characters. This kind of writing works to the extent that the creator can constantly present dramatic and visually interesting pages; however, ultimately it ends up being a detriment to the comic, as a story can only sustain itself on adrenaline and flashy imagery for so long before it starts to become shallow and disjointed.

The main problem with the writing's that none of the characters or events are given any sort of context. I'll start with Nirrod, who's supposed to be the main character according to the comic's description, although I would've never thought this just from reading the chapter. There are a few scenes where he's shown hiding from soldiers, but the chapter doesn't try to explain why this seemingly minor and irrelevant character's given so much attention. Next is Reju, who's portrayed as being very important, as his captors have orders to keep him alive, and Zaira says on page 111, "If something happens to you, everything is lost." These aspects don't make sense in terms of the information provided to the reader in the chapter, nor does it make sense why Zaira helps Reju escape when he's presented as the general of the enemy forces. Lastly, Sa-Jeren's fight with the soldiers is cool 'n' all, but... uh... why are they even fighting in the first place? The other enemy general, Moria, says, "The bounty shall be mine," but that doesn't help the reader understand what's going on much. I assumed Zaira's conversation with Reju would shed some light on the conflict, but he only briefly mentions a "coup against Mercho," a "High Council of Katran [...] abusing his position," and, a few pages later, "Tobrn, 'The Slaughterer of Kalimpur,'" all of which are cryptic references with no obvious relationship to the events in the chapter.

I assume these aspects are explained more in the preceding 100 pages, which I didn't read, and it'd be somewhat reasonable to fault my review for not taking the first two chapters into consideration. But I think a chapter of a work should, for the most part, be able to be read and understood on its own, and I'm confident that a more competent writer would've included in this chapter the basic, vital information required for it to make sense and for the scenes to have a reasonable context. At the very least, the creator always has the option to include an "about" page and/or a "characters" page, so that the reader can quickly get caught up with what's going on in the latest pages. From a reader's perspective, if I knew I had to read the chapters posted in 2010 before I could even begin to understand the current chapter, I'd probably just choose to read a different webcomic instead.

Art: Katran has a sleek and attractive manga style that's well-suited for the many action sequences in the comic. As I mentioned in the previous section, these fight scenes are dynamic and cleverly conveyed, and are certainly the highlight of the comic. The creator's also quite capable of drawing the different body types of the fighters, whether it's Reju's small and compact frame or Sa-Jeren's bulky and powerful frame, and this helps him make the comic's various battles more distinct -- Reju's fight's about speed and precision, while Sa-Jeren's fight's more about brute strength.

The inking's another standout feature, and the creator demonstrates expertise in his smooth, professional-looking line art, as well as in the many instances of hatching and crosshatching. The creator also shows a strong sense of composition, often utilizing darker imagery and silhouettes to help establish color contrast.

The main issue I have with the artwork's that there's little to no attention paid to the backgrounds, and it gives the scenes the vague sense of taking place in a generic, indistinct location. This is particularly problematic for a fantasy story, which generally have a noticable focus on depicting the imagined world. I consider the minimalistic approach of limiting the settings to mere outlines like "a village," "a field somewhere," and "the bad guys' headquarters" to be too simplistic for this kind of comic.

Overall: This comic will impress potential readers with its skilled artwork and action-packed scenes, but with such flimsy plot and character development, I don't see much incentive here for readers to stick around for future updates. The situation's a lot like what you get with high-budget action movies that have special effects galore but have lousy acting and a dumb story -- they're fun for a few minutes, but even the coolest visuals quickly begin to get tedious and leave you yearning for something more clever and substantial. That said, if Katran develops a greater focus on exposition and narrative, and manages to stick to a more palatable update schedule, I can see it potentially becoming a top-notch fantasy webcomic at some point.


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