IntroductionStardust is the latest anthology from Sweatdrop Studios. It is a collection of short stories which were originally entries for Tokyopop's Rising Stars Of Manga UK competition. These are entries which were rejected by the judges; but this by no means implies that the stories contained herein are poor. All of the stories herein you can count on as being each individual artists best efforts and are to the Sweatdrop artists' usual high standards. There are some which I felt may have deserved to have been included in RSOM, but that's not my decision unfortunately, those which I feel were worthy contenders will be marked with a star, I shall also say why I felt they were so good. What has impact for the judges of RSOM and what impacts on me are totally different things.
Strange Harmony by Joanna Zhou
Strange Harmony is a story about a girl; Melissa and her bling bling cousin; Jasmine.
Jasmine gets dropped off at her cousins in the country and she's then got to adapt to this new world of scraping up road kill and Melissa has to adapt to her cousins shizzle bizzle G slang. Show me your crib means your pad your house, where you live, not a cot!
It's a simple story and very funny, with a nice miracle at the end. Great artwork as well, in Joanna's unique cute but robust and chunky style.
Dollhouse by Jacqueline Kwong *
Dollhouse is a dark tale about a girl who wished she could live forever.
Her father makes dolls, very striking things like dollfies. Serra is a girl who can Speak to these dolls, and one night one of them makes her an offer but she got more than she bargained for...
The story has a message it wants to get across and does so to great effect; it could be applied to a number of real human situations.
The artwork is superb especially for someone as young as Jacqueline. It's very elegant, technically very good, and full of atmosphere.
This entry deserved a place because the story is very well though out. The art was very good, and the final message had impact for me at least.
On with the show by Rebecca Burgess
On with the show is about a rich boy who turned his back on his family fortune for the sake of his passion; acting.
Our wealthy friend has a message that you must follow your passion no matter what people think in order to be happy. Wise words.
Art-wise Rebecca has improved quite a bit in recent comics; the same is also true in this one. Things like anatomy and bringing characters to life are getting better and better for Bex, but she has still managed to retain her cute and unique style as well.
The only problem is that some pages are way too busy, less detail spread out over more pages, or perhaps less background tone might work better in future.
Bad luck by Selina Dean
This creepy little tale is of a woman who meets a creature of ill omen and suffers immeasurable bad luck. It starts off with just missing the bus, and moves on to more and more terrible things. When she attempts to kill herself she is rescued at the last moment by the cause of her bad luck and has to remain with him forever...
The artwork is in Selina's traditional chibi style which works for just about everything imaginable. In this comic it's supremely neat and tidy with all the details of background management carefully thought out.
Just one minor quibble, if this is set in the UK; then why does the girl throw herself In front of a Kenworth?
New Years Kiss by Sarah Burgess
New years kiss is about a love triangle of two men and a woman. These two young men work together in a shop and fall in love with one of the customers. The ending will probably be a big surprise to most people.
The artwork is not as good as it could be, at times it just looks rushed, messy or too sketchy, the style has improved little over the past year or two.
Fortunately though the story and the way in which it's told is much, much better. If anything Sarah is very good at background management and frame layouts, so even if the artwork is wanting, the story flow is easy to follow and full of interesting twists.
Reya by Morag Lewis*
Reya is the tale of Reya; a girl who wanted to become a magician.
In the beginning a group of them come into town and release a tiger into the village; presumably to scout for some talent and a village girl ends up being taken away by the beast.
The main message in this story is that no matter where you come from, or your natural talents you can still be what you want to be as long as you are willing to learn.
Morag's artwork is rather good, and with the sheer amount she produces she improves all the time. Her characters are drawn in her usual style, and are anatomically very good; the only thing I would suggest working on is the feet which look strange from time to time. The tiger looks brilliant!
The backgrounds are superb; being very detailed but not overcooked; Screen tone is totally absent instead everything is pen stroked which looks very good especially on buildings. Perspective is the only area that could be improved on; mostly it's really good, but the odd weird looking stool or house can be spotted if you look hard enough.
Overall, a fine story with fine artwork to match.
I felt this comic was worthy of a place because the art is unique and mostly very good. The story one of the best in this anthology, and along with the artwork makes for a very good read. The message at the end also has relevant meaning in many areas of life.
Different for girls by Laura Watton and Jake Laverde*
This story is about the dating game and things many ladies will probably have had to deal with over the years, from being dumped, to actually suffering the embarrassment going on a date with someone and being dumped mid date for some woman with big knockers!
It's also about seeing which people really love you.
The artwork is characteristically Laura, but at the same time it's without a doubt the best incarnation of her style to date. It's improved a great deal over the years. Gone are the funny hands, weird feet and other anatomical insistencies. It's all technically very good, but at the same time light hearted and cartoony when it needs to be.
Frame layout and background management is also very good, although I would not have used big thick chunky fineliner for the frame borders though, except maybe on some of the cartoonier bits which need a bit more exaggeration.
Overall it's very good, and the characters likeable or hateable as and when they should be. It's full of well portrayed emotion.
This is another of those comic I felt should have been in there, it's everything a manga should be; it's well drawn, it has impact in all the right places, but most of all it's upbeat, has some meaning in real life. It made me smile.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF SWEATDROP STUDIOS.
Review by Wayne Hallows
All images and artwork are copyright of their respective owners, UKMANGAXL and all written reviews and are © Wayne Hallows 2006 - 2018