Thursday, April 16, 2009

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Wise Intelligence

Wise Intelligence #1
By Ryan McLelland, Adam Talley, with Ian Harker

Ryan McLelland, whom you might recognize from around comics in the past few years, among other things, he’s had a column on, contributes reviews for, and also started a series called Philly with Arcana Comics.

Back in the day, Ryan wrote about making his comic Wise Intelligence as part of his indie comics column on Newsarama, and actually created an issue of the book years back. This however, is a new first issue for Wise Intelligence, billed as number 1 or 3, which features a main story (of standard comic length) by McLelland and Talley, and a short comedic backup by Harker (as well as some extra inside and back cover art by other artists).

WI is the college days slice of life tales of four dudes, making their way through higher learning… you know, how to fit school around drinking and girls? Having never gone to college myself, I can always enjoy a peek at all the stuff I missed out on, and I can still easily relate to the young college age male, and their pursuits; video games, beer, girls, and the various versions of the post high school guys one can know and be buds with. Here, McLelland simply aims to capture those youthful days, and exploits on the comic page, and for that he does fairly well.

His cast ring true, and his stories feel genuine, and artist Adam Talley brings a fun comic strip style approach to the mix, which helps keeps things in the light vibe McLelland is working for. However, Talley isn’t quite up to the task of making it really come to life beyond the perfunctory, and it can be difficult telling the similar college bros and gals apart. Also, there’s nothing extraordinary about these stories. No high concept using the college buddies to jump off from. It’s all played very straight. There’s not even modern Superbad-raunch-humor-with-heart at play here, or crazy off-the-wall debauchery to take things to another level. So ultimately, I think that’s WI’s fatal flaw. Because if you’re going to build a comic around something as simple as four college guys, it needs an artist to really bring it to life and sell it, and unfortunately Talley is not at that level. Which is a shame, because the guest artwork, on the inside cover for instance, gives us a taste of what WI truly needs.

But, don’t get me wrong, if you’re looking for an earnest tale of college life, from the young male perspective, WI is a solid read. And perhaps McLelland has more wrinkles waiting in future installments, or Talley can continue to evolve and improve, because he’s got a solid foundation to work with. It just needs a little extra something, either in story, or art.

Give Wise Intelligence a look if college life appeals to you, either from the outsider perspective of not having experienced it yourself, or for the first hand look back on simpler, youthful times.


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