Tuesday, July 1, 2008

5 Shots

by Jemir Johnson
Creative Elamentz Studios
Reviewed by Chris Buchner

For the right price, anything can happen.

That’s the tagline to Jemir Robert Johnson’s graphic novel 5 Shots. 5 Shots explores five different cases of Light Star Investigations comprised of Randy Michaels and Jocasta Navarro; two street-smart detectives who always manage to crack their cases thanks, in large part, to Jocasta’s ability to read minds to get the information they need.

“Dead Line” is the first tale in the book with art by Luis Serra. Jocasta is under a tight deadline to find something to keep a made man and his soldiers at bay. However, she encounters interference along the way that could eat up all her time and result in her partner’s death. By far, this story has the strongest artistic offering in the book. The pencils and inks are clean and crisp, offering a very professional finish to the story.

“Sunset” follows with art by Bill Young, depicting a case in which a debutante goes missing and Jocasta’s investigation makes her a target. Young’s artwork is very different from Serra’s. While Serra has a more realistic look to the characters, Young’s style exaggerates their features a bit more in an almost cartoon-like manner. While the characters still look good, the backgrounds suffered some in proportion and detail; looking sketchy, unfinished and often drawn by an unsteady hand.

“The Knight in Question” is next up, displaying the artistic stylings of Matthew Wilbekin. The story follows a rapper living off his “street cred” who ends up watching his best friend get killed. He hires Light Star to find the truth behind the murder, but what they end up finding is a secret that could make their client into their enemy. Wilbekin’s is the weakest style in the book. Each panel is either plagued by proportion and anatomy issues, or just appears unfinished due to the background choices.

“Forward Fast” is the second tale in which Young’s artwork accompanies Johnson’s writing. This tale depicts an average case that goes horribly wrong when their cover gets blown knee-deep in the lion’s den. Young’s style remains consistent from “Sunset,” with cartoon-style characters and sketchy backgrounds.

"Burning Flag" is the last tale of the book, combining the pencils of Shawn Decker with the inks of Wilbekin. This tale explores part of Jocasta’s past as she has to reunite with family and work against one-time friends in order to honor a favor she owes. Decker and Wilbekin together offer the most detailed use of shading in the book, adding depth and detail to the art. However, there are some minor anatomy issues and many of the actions come off as overly stiff. Overall, it’s a very strong effort.

Each story is authentically written by Johnson, allowing the feeling of the street to come through in all the characters' dialogue. Each tale is compelling with its own twists and turns, allowing the obviously deep characterizations of the main characters to shine through no matter the situation. There is also the added appeal of the mystery of Jocasta’s abilities. Is she psychic, or just good at reading people? The artwork quality varies between the artists involved. Most of it accompanies the stories very well, while one really stands out as the weakest of the bunch. It is a nice touch to have each story accompanied by a “cover” image by the story’s particular artist, not only breaking up the chapters but making each section feel like its own separate comic book. Most of them were beautifully rendered with greyscaling, pushing the limitations of the black and white format to present an outstanding image.

Overall, 5 Shots is an original and fresh read that will keep your interest from cover to cover.

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