Author: Kat Rush
Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy, Psychological
Schedule: Multiple pages every few months
As melaredblu mentioned in her review of Dead on Arrival, internet technology has opened up the doors for experimentation in medium and the way we read comics, though it's not being as explored as one would think. In the case of Kat Rush's Moth, the comic uses conventional comic pages and paneling, but uses animation in the individual panels. While I wouldn't go so far as to call this a gimmick, I would say that Moth's use of animation has yet to truly take flight.
The story starts with the protagonist Taylor Gray in a woods full of cocoons connected to tubes and wires. After running into a monster called October, she is awakened to find that she is in a room full of doctors, whom she escapes from. We learn that she is a test subject part of Project Papolotl (which means “Butterfly” in Nahuatl for those keeping track of the butterfly/moth motif) which apparently has something to do with telepathy, as she is shown to be capable of reading minds. But not even her powers can stop October, who further hinders her attempts to get away.
What I like most about the story is that despite how much backstory must have gone into the plot and how easy it would be to just release it all at once, the author decides to keep most of it secret and release small details as the story continues. No one ever outright states that Taylor is telapathic, and for good reason. The project is likely top secret, so employees with clearance have no need to tell each other something they already know or tell people who aren't authorized. Since Taylor is on the run for her powers, it would also make sense to keep it secret. And while some things have gone unexplained like October and the other monsters we see, it feels intentional as Taylor doesn't understand what they are herself. It's a good way to keep the reader engaged, by giving them parts of the plot to figure out and setting up new mysteries to hook them further.
If I were pressed to find something negative about the writing is that the pacing could be a tad quicker. The story starts slow as the scene with Taylor in the diner takes 12 pages and some of them could have been cut or reduced. Same goes for the scenes where Taylor flees to an old barn and escapes the authorities, which is almost 30 pages long. It is a minor complaint though.
The art appears to be a done in pencil, then scanned, colored, and animated digitally. The character designs are unique and expressive, the colors are well-done, and I'll get to the animation later. However, I do have issues with the art. Scanning the pencils in not only captures the lineart and shading, but the early sketch work that normally gets erased. So we can see basic shapes that were used on forms, which can be distracting. There are ways to prevent this such as doing early steps in non-photo blue pencil so it doesn't show up in scans, inking the lineart then erasing the pencils, or removing the unneeded lines digitally. Another issue stemming from the process is that when the pencil lines are scanned, they are naturally antialiased lines. But when the author tries to do animations that pass behind objects, you can see that the lines have an outline that clashes with whatever is passing behind it.
With that in mind, let's talk about the animation itself. The animation loops are done digitally in Flash and vary in complexity from a blinking light to fully animated scenes. Luckily, it never gets to the point of being distracting or obnoxious. Occasionally, the animation can get somewhat clumsy like a scene where Taylor is running away from a barn and because the background isn't receding behind her, so it looks like she's dancing. Sometimes, there is animation for the sake of it, like the security camera light blinking or a news ticker moving across a screen. While these bits feel useless and could be easily left out, there are quite a few scenes that wouldn't have the same impact. One early scene in the woods heightens the tension by seemingly having no animation, only for an animal to dart by in the background. Or scenes that anything supernatural happens such as October and his monsters or Taylor's powers, showing how special or surreal they are. I get that the comic is advertised as an animated comic, but I'd gladly take less animated pages that utilize animation well than several gimmicky pages with a few good ones mixed in.
Moth is an enjoyable read. But as an experimental comic using animation, the technique needs further refining, since the use of animation to improve the medium are a wash. But I do like the comic, and I expect it will get better in subsequent chapters.