13 Coins

URL: www.13coinscomic.com
Creator/s: Martin Brennan, Michael B. Jackson, Simon Bisley, Ryan Brown, David Withers
Run: 10/13-current
Schedule: Monthly issues

Presentation: The comic's available in an iOS app that boasts interactive 3D covers, but, unfortunately, the app crashes on my iPhone every time I get to the main screen. I was able to get my hands on some PDFs from the comic's publicist, though, which is how I was able to write this review.

Writing: One of the webcomic's main selling points is that its creators wrote the game Hitman: Absolution, which is essentially a euphemism for saying that they don't have any experience making comics. However, their work at Square Enix doesn't seem to be something to be particularly proud of, as PC Gamer criticizes the game's "embarrassingly bad story," The Guardian bashes the "awful" plot that "descends into a farcical mess," and Giant Bomb complains about "the general stupidity of the plot." It'd be nice to be able to say that the creators learned from their mistakes and managed to come up with a better story this time around, but that just isn't the case at all.

My main problem with the plot is how unoriginal it is. I'll start with the main character, John, whose backstory is as follows: He grew up thinking that his parents were killed in a car crash, but he finds out that they were actually superhumans who were murdered by a villain, and that he's a superhuman as well who needs be taught how to utilize his powers. If that description sounds really familiar, it's because it's the exact same backstory as the one in the Harry Potter series. Other key elements of the plot are similar to popular video games. The idea of there being superhumans who are descendents of a fallen angel is the same premise as in Diablo 3, and the scene where the bad guys break into John's house and kill his girlfriend is similar to the beginning of Max Payne, where the bad guys break into Max's house and kill his wife. Also, the scene in Issue 3 where John's easily defeated when training with Samuel, the leader of the good guys, reminds me a lot of the dojo scene in The Matrix where Neo gets beaten by Morpheus. The strangest similarity, though, is when Samuel says to John in Issue 2, "If you want to live, you've got to come with me," which sounds just like the iconic line "Come with me if you want to live" from the Terminator movies. It's alright for creators to include homages to other stuff here and there, but there just isn't enough original material in this story.


The characterization's underwhelming, as John's just a tough, angry, foul-mouthed badass with a tragic backstory who's neither interesting or likable. He's also repetitive, as his lines include, "You need your fuckin' meds, man," "This is crazy," "A house full of fucking lunatics," "You're insane," "You're all fucking crazy," and, again, "This is crazy." It makes sense that John's hesitant to accept the existence of nephilim, but having him respond to everything he learns in such a dismissive manner gets boring quickly. The villains are even worse, being ridiculously cartoony even though one of the creators said in an interview that a theme in the comic is that "no-one is all good and no-one is all evil." The Fallen kidnap, torture, kill, and threaten to eat innocent people, brag about how they don't value human life, and say lines like, "The Fallen cannot be stopped. Evil always finds a way." The worst writing goes to Senator Graham, though, who's supposed to be a sleazy politican but is written in an unrealistic and over-the-top manner.

When he's introduced in Issue 2, he grins evilly while basically admitting to a group of reporters that he's racist and hates poor people, and then, in his next scene, he's shown naked in bed insulting some black prostitutes he hired. And later, when he visits Râmêêl's mansion, he thinks about stealing a valuable antique that Râmêêl says he's "very fond of." But not only is he despicable, he's really dumb as well. For instance, he has a stash of photographs of himself having sex with prostitutes that he leaves around for some reason, conveniently advancing the plot by giving the bad guys material to blackmail him with. What's really bad, though, is when, in Issue 3, Graham goes from scared to delighted in just a few panels, making a vague deal with the creepy, Gollum-like Râmêêl without hesitation. I don't think the creators could have made villains that are more "all evil" if they tried to.

One somewhat original idea the creators play with is that all the mythological creatures are angel-animal hybrids. I get how they might think it's a cool idea to incorporate different stories like that, but having horny angels that "mated with anything" is really stupid. The comic does a poor job explaining it, too, as all Samuel says about it is, "Werewolves, vampires, cyclops -- are all monsters fathered by the Fallen who mated with beast." Okay, so, werewolves must come from angels having sex with wolves, but what animal resulted in vampires? Am I supposed to imagine that an angel got it on with a vampire bat somehow and had Dracula babies? And I couldn't think of an animal that's like a cyclops, but I did some research and found out that there's a tiny crustacean called a water flea that only has one eye, so that must be it. As dumb as this concept is, it's easily the most interesting part of the comic, and it's bizarre that the creators just threw that bit out there and moved on, leaving readers like myself confused, grossed out, and a little disappointed.

Art: This part's excellent, as the creators brought on an Eisner winner who's worked on Batman, making him a perfect fit to illustrate a gritty action comic. The artwork's appealing and solid all-around, with the action and gore being particularly noteworthy.

An unusual technique is used in which the characters' faces are sometimes digitally painted while the rest of the panel is colored traditionally, and while I liked it at first for the abstract feel it gives, now I'm on the fence about it. It's great how much detail the faces have, but they can sometimes look doll-like, especially with the female characters, and the contrast between the styles is jarring for a serious, realistic story like this.

My main complaint about the art is that sometimes it's oversexualized in a trashy manner. The biggest offense is when Graham and the prostitutes are shown fully nude in Issue 2, which is followed by several illustrated photographs of Graham having sex with women and ejaculating on them. I understand that the comic's rated "17+" and is intended for mature audiences, but these graphic drawings don't benefit the story at all except to make it even more blatantly obvious that Graham's a scumbag that the audience should dislike. I was also put off by the portrayal of Helena in Issue 3, who's wearing a skin-tight outfit and has multiple close-ups of her butt and crotch, and there are several instances where Rachel's butt is the focus of the panel. As a reader, it feels condescending when a comic tries to hold my attention with sexy images, as if throwing in some cheesecake was enough to make me overlook the glaring flaws with the characterization and plot.

Overall: 13 Coins' flashy artwork is highly appealing, but the writing's so amateur that I don't see how putting a price tag on this comic can be justified. The publisher seems to agree, too, as while Issues 2 and 3 were originally each $2.99, Issue 2 was dropped to $0.99 after a month, and then, recently, both issues were made free to download, which suggests to me a bit of desperation. $2.99 is about what I'd expect to pay for a print comic from DC or Marvel, and it just doesn't make sense for a digital download from a brand-new publisher to be valued at the same amount. And on the webcomics side, there are plenty of comics much better than this that I can already read for free. The App Store's certainly interesting as a business model for webcomics, but I don't see how it's supposed to work unless the creators already have a well-established fanbase. All these guys have to go off of is their failed attempt at writing a video game, and their new project's just as "stupid," "farcical," and "embarrassingly bad" as their last one. 13 Coins is ultimately just a below-average webcomic with a publisher that coughed up dough for professional artwork, publicity, and technology.



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