Monday, June 13, 2011

The Meek

Quick Overview:
Title: The Meek
Author/Artist: Der-Shing Helmer
Started: December 2008
Ended: -
Cons: Inconsistent updates

Before I begin, I'd better just get my personal bias out there right now. So here it is: This is my favorite comic ever. Where do I even start. OMG.

My opinion of the comic is colored by my opinion of the creator. From what I can tell, Helmer has incredibly high standards for herself, and would rather work herself ragged with research, revision, and refinement than produce a half-assed page. The Meek originally appeared as a series of sketch comics on livejournal which were heavily revised based on reader feedback, so the webcomic you see today is the result of a lot of preparation and hard work. Helmer is also humble, silly, and not afraid to make fun of herself or listen to thoughtful criticism. Between her uncompromising dedication, positive attitude, and fantastic product, she has pretty much turned me into a drooling groupie.

The story: The Meek weaves together the stories of three characters — a na├»ve teenager, a tormented emperor, and a vengeful outlaw — that each have the potential to change the world, for better or worse. So far, the stories haven't overlapped much. The first three chapters are basically an amazingly substantial introduction. 

It sounds like the main meat of the comic will deal with themes of ruling the world, saving the world, and deciding what the world actually deserves. The title alludes to the biblical quotation, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).

The setting: I hesitated to tag this as "fantasy," because the setting that Helmer has created feels original and authentic, and doesn't follow fantasy conventions. But although the world is firmly rooted in realism, it does have fantastical elements, such as mysterious magical powers, a cryptic prophecy, and the existence of a GIGANTIC DEMONIC TIGER. Oh yeah.
The inhabitable world, known as Dia, is occupied by several well-realized and multi-dimensional peoples with their own distinct cultures and characteristics.

The characters: The Meek's characters are some of the most complicated, flawed, and fascinating I have come across in a comic, and the story hasn't even really taken off yet. There is no good and evil, just people trying to do what they believe in. I look forward eagerly to seeing them develop.

The art: Helmer has a really distinctive style. It's powerful, expressive, and exaggerated, but is also capable of great subtlety and seriousness. Her digital inking is beautiful, clean, and organic, and her coloring is skillful without being flashy or distracting. She strikes a great balance between detail/accuracy and communication/expression.

Also (and this is my favorite aspect of her art), her characters have really specific appearances. She knows exactly what they look like, and she doesn't genericise them to make them easier on the eyes or easier to draw. (For the record, I grew from thinking one of her characters was butt-ugly to thinking this character was rather attractive, based solely on the depth of the personality.)

The writing: The story progresses at a very deliberate pace. The dialogue always sounds believable and natural. The weight of storytelling is shared equally between text and pictures: it's silent when it needs to be, bursting with dialogue when appropriate, and always right for the moment.

The bottom line: Helmer doesn't cut corners, and the result is a high-quality, complex, and totally captivating story that just rocks my socks.

Rating: Five stars, plus a few extra tossed in for good measure.

A note about the age-appropriateness rating: After much waffling, I gave this an "R" because there are boobs in it. It's done in a very non-sexual and non-fanservicey way. Still, maybe not the best thing to read at work. What are you doing reading comics on the clock, anyway? Tsk, tsk.

>> Read The Meek here! <<

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