Review: River Lee Stories #2

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (24/Sept/2018)

River Lee Stories

Written by Keith Kennedy (‘Lost On The Water’ and ‘Cork 2072’) and Liam Hughes (‘One Eyed Liar’).
Illustrated by Keith Kennedy.
Lettered by Keith Kennedy.
Cover art and design by Keith Kennedy.
Edited by Colin O’Mahoney.

Keith Kennedy has returned with the second installment of his ‘River Lee Stories’ series (review for issue one here). The comic features three stories, ‘Lost On The Water’, ‘One Eyed Liar’ (written by Liam Hughes) and ‘Cork 2072’.

A quick note about the cover (which would also apply to issue one) before we get to the stories themselves. The series is titled ‘River Lee Stories’, yet on both issues the cover gives prominence to the interior story titles rather than the series title. Personally, I’d like to see the series title to be first text that grabs the reader. That way the audience that enjoyed issue one know at a glance this is the second issue in the series.

First story is ‘Lost On The Water’ which is the focal story of issue two. A lone explorer travels down the Lee river searching for the secrets of the waters of the Gearagh. Locals fail to deter the explorer from traveling into the Gearagh when he stops for a brief respite in the last trading post before entering the Gearagh.

The story follows the explorer as he attempts to make his way through the Gearagh. He doesn’t meet many people on his journey aside from another boat crewed by a group tracking outlaws hidden in the Gearagh. As part of the journey, some of the tales relating to the outlaw ‘Sean Rua na Gaoithe’ are shared with the reader through both memory and interaction with the crew of the other boat.

At times it seems that the Gearagh is actively trying prevent the explorer from exiting its waters. It is only through luck that he manages to find a route out of the Gearagh. I enjoyed the story as at times it seemed to take on a magical air over the course of the explorers travels.

The art is black and white (as are the other two stories) which does raise some problems for a story set in a forest with the lead traveling by boat. In some of the panels it’s initially difficult to quickly grasp the lay of the land (or river) that greets the explorer. In panel in particular, it’s unclear if the river arrives at a shore or that the forest has extended over the river thus blocking further travel along the river. In contrast on the fourth page, the forest in the second panel is much easier to read.

There’s also some confusion at due to a variety of styles used to indicate both forest and river, there are times where the same effect is used for both at different points in the story. It means there are occasions where it’s not clear if it’s water, trees (or both) in a panel. Visually there’s nothing wrong with the inking, it’s the number of style changes that was the problem for me. It would have made for a better experience if the style was consistent for the duration of the story.

One last note on the art is to watch for distance between actors in a series of panels. There’s one sequence where the explorer is talking to a woman on a bridge. The initial panel establishes the distance between the woman and the explorer on the river below. Four panels later and it looks like the river has lifted the boat 2-3 feet closer to the woman.

Before we wrap up on opening story, I would like to take a moment to address the lettering. There are some instances of capitals being applied to the first letter of a word unnecessarily, as well as some punctuation errors. One page the patrons of the trading post are reciting some verses to the explorer. The in the last two panels, the explorer speaks what should be footnotes to the page.

There’s also the issue of consistency with the speech balloons as with the inking. The change from standard balloons to something closer to rectangles and back again. There are some speech balloons that would be better on the page (based on the contained text) if split into multiple speech balloons.

‘Lost On The Water’ had some good moments in terms of both story and art but was let down a little by inconsistencies. Nothing that would ultimately ruin the reading experience but there is room for improvement. But I would say I really liked the closing page of the story.

Next story we have is ‘One Eyed Liar’, with the story by Liam Hughes and artwork by Keith Kennedy.

This one concerns a young fella who is cursed by an angry wizard after vandalizing the wizards clock. The story is told via three dogs who are watching the liar carry out the work required by the curse. The curse itself is creatively cruel as only an angry wizard could be.

It’s a good short story with some entertaining dialogue from the dogs watching from the street below the clock. The story is only four pages long but it makes the most of every panel and piece of dialogue.

The art in this has no issues with consistency or figuring out what is happening in a panel. The liar in particular is well drawn in this story with some great expressions applied to onlooking dogs.

The only issue I could pick at in this story is the lettering. The problem of the speech balloons is also present in this story. In addition, I’m not wild about the font used as it contains a mix of upper and lower case letters. Even in the same word at times. The problem also occurs at the start of sentences. Maybe it’s a feature of the font, but personally, mix of upper and lower case letters bugged me (but it may not be an issue for other readers).

Overall, I was impressed with the story and art in ‘One Eyed Liar’.

The final story is ‘Cork 2072’. This story sees a diver exploring a now submerged Cork city in the not too distant future. The four pages are an opening to a story that is to be continued in a later issue. As such the story is introducing the reader to the characters and the world they find themselves in.

This is another well-drawn story that has no problem with readability or the art style chopping-and-changing. And with the exception of one speech balloon, the lettering has no consistency issues.

In terms of the story, the concept is interesting and it’ll be down to how the story develops in future issues that’ll make or break this story for me.

Issue two is a good addition to the ‘River Lee Stories’ series in terms of the stories and art. It’s my hope that future issues will iron out the problems with consistency in some of the art and lettering to deliver what could be an interesting series of stories tied to the river Lee.

River Lee Stories is available at:

Comic Vault, Cork city.

Gadai Dubh, Ballvourney.

Waterstones, Cork city.

Quinlans, Macroom.

The farmers market, Skibbereen each Saturday (if the weather is good!).

If you can’t make it to any of those, then you could try making contact via Facebook:

Keith Kennedy Art and Illustration on Facebook.

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