Creator/s: Kat Olson
Run: 5/12-current
Schedule: Fridays

Website: The Aztec theme is really unique and creates a great first impression on new readers. The color scheme isn't ideal, though, because the light colors of the text and navigation buttons make them difficult to see, and the dark-colored links make the Archives page difficult to use. The Terminology section is so tough to read against the stylized background that I have to highlight the text to avoid straining my eyes, so I skipped it.

The Aztec-style illustrations on the Cast page are great, and I like them better than the actual illustrations in the comic. Having Lightbox-style pop-ups is a cool idea, although, again, there's a readability issue, as the bolded text clashes with the multicolored background.

Lastly, it might be a trivial complaint, but if the webcomic hypothetically ever got popular, I imagine that the title's awkward spelling might make it difficult to present the webcomic in person. "Massage-drah" isn't an evocative or memorable word, and spelling it out is a hassle.

Writing: Right from the start, it's a style explosion, with a dramatic ritual conducted upon abstract, grim backgrounds. It's an okay introduction, but things start to go downhill with this page, a mish-mash of edgy close-ups that marks the protagonist's entrance. The comic ends up being a high-speed extravaganza with no substance.

The most important part of storytelling is convincing readers that they should care about what happens to the characters. The creator skips this part, seemingly overeager to get to the comic's extended action sequence, which is currently nearing 40 pages in length. Who's Whini, the badass hero who's killing all these people? I still don't know, because the plot that this whole thing revolves around was info-dumped on me in two pages (1, 2). The scene immediately before the action sequence is spent introducing Whini's friend, Rat, who the creator seems to be much more interested in. I can tell that I'm supposed to be rooting for Whini to succeed, but it's only because the story's being presented from her perspective. When she's in danger, there's no tension, because I'm not concerned about her fate. The creator needs to slow things way down and gives readers a chance to actually get to know Whini before throwing her in the midst of an battle thorough enough to be the climax of an epic tale.

The fusion of fantasy with real-life Aztec stuff is the coolest and most unique part of the comic, and the opening scene handles that alright by giving a fantasy context to the infamous human sacrifices. After that, though, it quickly turns into a dumb action comic, and I'm surprised at how disinterested the creator seems to be in the fantasy and historical aspects of the premise. It would've been great if I could've learned something new about Aztec culture and society. If the creator has done research for the comic (which I assume she has), then she should have incorporated some of that in the story by now. As for the fantasy parts, there's some vague notion of transformation that's been hinted at, but that's about it. It's a shame that there isn't more creativity present in this regard, as a non-Tolkienesque fantasy story would be a nice change of pace. The xolobos are kind of cool, but they're basically just cool-looking mounts for the characters to ride.

Art: It's clearly influenced by action manga, with crazy hair, edgy close-ups, and speed lines everywhere. The anatomy and poses are decent for an action comic. Things start to break down in the slower pages, as the creator's weaknesses for character and environmental details are exposed.

For the characters, the biggest issue is the lack of consistency. Every character's drawn in a different style, and it seem as if the creator still hasn't committed to an Eastern style, a Western style, or a hybrid. The most noticeable victim of this problem is Whini, whose broad shoulders, rectangular jaw, and small eyes make her look like a man when she's next to Rat's big-eyed, mangaesque figure. The characters' faces change from Eastern to Western to back to Eastern from page to page, and I've noticed that Whini's gone from having a Western nose with cheek-mouths to having an Eastern snout-nose with anatomical mouths. It's the normal growing pains of an inexperienced artist, sure, but in the meantime, it harms the sense of immersion.

With the environment, the creator either does big, empty expository shots (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), or character-based action shots, with not much in-between. What the comic's missing is the human element. This page is an example of the problem, where two-thirds of it is an extreme wide shot of a chasm, and the background characters and buildings are small doodles squeezed into the bottom. In other pages, background characters are portrayed as shadowy crowds (1, 2). I get the impression that the setting is a bustling Aztec civilization, but the comic does a poor job of actually showing it. For another example, here's this page of Rat and Whini walking through the streets, and it has three abstract backgrounds with a vague outline of a generic building at the bottom. Similarly, here, there are gradients and patterns, but as little is shown of the actual city as possible.

Overall: Masadjra's creator displays a clear sense of enthusiasm in her work, but that's all the comic has going for it at this point. The interesting concept is ruined by a crippling lack of experience, and there's so little substance that it barely qualifies as a story. I doubt that the creator would've bothered to launch the project if she hadn't put some serious thought into the characters and setting, and those thoughts need to be brought to the front and center as soon as possible if the comic's going to get on the right track.


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