Reviewing comics great and small since 2006
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Biomecha is a series about a lad who loses his arms in an accident, and aquires some prosthetic ones, but they are very hard to control.If anyone has ever seen Red Dwarf series 7, you'll know just the kind of antics artificial limbs can get up to. Cracking open anything less than an armoured tank is next to impossible, and Toshio the male lead has to come to terms with his accident, and learn how to bend his new limbs to his will.
This series is synonymous with its creator Laura Watton. It's the first series to spring to mind when her name is mentioned, It is a now complete series,it's also one of her first series. It's almost like the definitive history of Laura's art development, from her earliest comics in her early teens, all the way up to today. These days these indivual comics have long since been compiled into large perfect bound volumes, with new improved artwork and tweaks to the original work, there is even a volume 2 which goes beyond the scope of this review. Issues 1 - 6 were what was available when I originaly wrote this review, and this comprises most the chapters available in volume one, so you can take this review as a chapter by chapter review of volume 1 that will be added to update it. A review of volume 2 will follow at a later date.
The Review of issue 1
In this issue Toshio makes his first appearance with a crunch, and we also get introduced to the ladies, Reiko, Phyllis and Jo, as Toshio settles into his new life as a student at the All Purpose Cybertechnik High school. After a few little mishaps with his over sensitive mechanical arms, he tells everyone how he got to be that way. His limbs cause him all sorts of bother, and this frustrates Toshio greatly...
This comic was created back in the earliest of Laura's comicking days; even at the age of 14 this first comic isn't bad at all. The art as you might expect has a few quirks. For example some of the buildings look slightly out of perspective, but that's to be expected of a then very young and inexperienced artist, but it is consistent, and it is fairly good. Everything was done by hand, from the inking to the toning, and the lettering was cut out and pasted on the page by hand too. The inks themselves were done by a man named Chatri. The layout is also quite good, and the story in this issue is easy enough to follow. The characters themselves are interesting enough, and have a good deal of expression. Even back in those early days Laura's characters have personality, and were pretty well drawn.
There are a few life issues portrayed within these pages, and there are more to be found throughout the series, but one can see themes such as coping with a disadvantage, and learning to cope with what you have, within the first issue. It also expresses the kind of frustration similarly disadvantaged people must have to go through in their own lives.
Biomecha issue 1 is a good start to a good series, which improves with its creator over the years.
Biomecha is a series about a lad who loses his arms in an accident, and aquires some prosthetic ones, but they are very hard to control. If anyone has ever seen Red Dwarf series 7, you'll know just the kind of antics these limbs can get up to. Cracking open anything less than an armoured tank is next to impossible, and Toshio the male lead has to come to terms with his accident, and learn how to bend his new limbs to his will.
This series is synonymous with its creator Laura Watton. It's the first series to spring to mind when her name is mentioned, It's not only a currently ongoing series, but it's also her one of her first series. It's almost like the definitive history of Laura's art development, from her earliest comics in her early teens, all the way up to today.
The Review of issue 2
In this issue Toshio has been at All Purpose Cybertechnik High School for three weeks, and so far he's only managed to destroy half the school thanks to his hyper sensitive limbs.
This issue also brings yet more characters to the fold, Mr Feld, Miss Takaya, and a young lad called Harlan Harvey. Mr Feld is the guy who is trying to help Toshio get control of his arms. Miss Takaya is a Teacher, and only appears in one or two frames. Harlan Harvey, or 'Harl' as he is called by his friends, is a young boy Toshio meets, after a bit of girl related angst.
Already we see one of the main relationships in the series taking shape, although its hard for Toshio since he can't do all the usual romantic things since he's likely to crush the poor girl in question. This is a big reason why Toshio gets so frustrated
Art wise there are some improvements from the last issue, notably the buildings look a bit more in perspective, and there are slight improvements overall. But there are still little quirks such as; in some scenes the perspective is better than others, and there are little quirks with the way hands are drawn. But this isn't any great detriment to the comic.
The panel layouts are easy enough to follow still, and work well with the story. But there were also some instances where speech bubbles would have worked better if they were positioned better. One or two seemed to be coming from the wrong person. Things overall were better in the first issue than the second in terms of the design. The story itself however is fine, and things are starting to take shape, and Laura's characters are still just as expressive as before, and there is fun to be had as well as angst.
The Review of issue 3
In this third issue, Toshio makes up with the object of his affections, and the doctor who created Toshio's arms, also Harl's dad decides to go out for the day leaving his lab empty. This is the perfect opportunity for Toshio to find anything relating to his limbs, and hopefully learn any secrets. There's also a chance for Toshio to use his over powered arms for something useful too. This issue is also the first in which we know of the cute and some might say pathetic mascot known as Squishy-Chan, as he is rescued from a cage within the lab.
There's plenty of fun in this issue. People pass exams, and people have parties, and people who were all angsty last time kiss and make up. But there are other things that are less happy as well, for instance we learn that Jo is blind, and little snippets of people's pasts and Reiko's father can't come to her review evening after she passes her exams.
Art wise things are still improving. The perspective problems in earlier comics are finally a thing of the past, and the backgrounds are becoming ever more detailed. Characters themselves look better with each and every comic, and that consistency is there as it always has been.The thing I love about this comic is the way Laura draws her surprise and alarm, and other over positive emotions such triumphalism when people pass exams for instance. These facial expressions can be both cute and humorous. The inking is still done by Chatri at this point.
Quirks still exist though, like an occasional weird shaped foot or hand but as before nothing too bad. The layout is also still good, and the speech bubbles are mostly in the right place, so there's little confusion for the reader.
Issue 3 of Biomecha is an improvement on the previous two issues in terms of art, and because the relationship side of things is beginning to heat up. I've quite enjoyed the series so far.
The Review of issue 3.5
This special issue, starts after the Christmas party and moves on to Reiko's own birthday party the day after. Things are certainly happening now!
Everybody gets wasted, has a good time and gets loved up. These students certainly know how to party. Even the young ones manage to find the old mans liquor store and nick some beer. I can totally relate to some of these scenes, since I've probably done them all over and over as a kid.
It's this sort of craziness that adds humour to the comic, and makes it all the more enjoyable, especially after indulging in a little hair of the dog yourself. Squishy-chan also provides some comic relief with his reactions to the various goings on throughout the whole issue.
Art wise, Laura is older and wiser and it shows, instances of weird limbs are down, and there are far fewer instances of any art flaws you could care to dream up. However the discerning artist might find some flaws. The art isn't perfect still, but it is good. This is also the final issue which is inked by Chatri.
The panel layouts aren't bad, but as things get crazier so do the panels. As an experienced reader this is not such a problem for me, but for someone who doesn't read manga or any comics very often might get lost in one or two places.
The speech bubbles and dialogue are all done by hand rather than by cutting and pasting text as in the last few issues, the handwriting suits the comic well enough and is easy to read and follow, and character all display their emotions as well as the always do, Laura Watton has no problems there at all.
Overall it's a good comic. Its funny, and its crazy, and plenty of good things happened to keep me interested. It certainly brought back a few interesting memories for me...
The review of issue 4
This issue begins with the aftermath of the last issue's drunken debacle, there some sore heads and poorly bellies, but "two aspirins later" and people are perking up a bit.
Toshio is with Dr Harvey, the man who made his arms, and they are making adjustments so Toshio might have more control and be able to live more normally.
Dr Harvey also uses the opportunity to find out how is son Harlan is doing now he's living with Toshio, as well as voice his annoyance regarding the fact that Dr Harvey had to give up his life's work. His life's work being the arms which Toshio now has, the arms which saved his life after his accident before the first issue.
Toshio's control is improving though as he gets to hug his beloved without crushing her this time, his main worry in the earlier issues.
Art-wise things ever so slightly better than last time, but characters are as bright and expressive as usual, although bad foot and hand syndrome seems to have emerged again for some reason, there are some particularly noticeable ones in this comic. Perhaps Laura was in a hurry when she was creating this issue?
Layouts toning and background however are very good, and the inking is also quite good too. In previous issues she had a colleague named Chatri to complete the inking, and also employed other artists to produce the covers. When this series was first conceived Laura was doing GCSE's, and then A-Levels and after that an art degree. This is the first issue when every task was completed by Laura herself. The text was produced by cutting and pasting it on just like previous issues.
This issue focuses on more serious things like shoujo angst, and romance than the usual craziness, but then it is nice to see something a little different within the story from time to time. It remains interesting still.
The review of issue 5
In this issue we're at the hospital again after Toshio accidentally crushes one of his friends with his oversensitive arms. His control is getting better, and he can at least hug his friend without squeezing her to a pulp this time. Other relationships are blooming or at least getting a cut of the action in this episode. But this leads to a bit of tension between them since one of the parties has to make some compromises regarding their appearance and this leads to one of them thinking whether they are even really interested in a relationship at all.
Jo also has an encounter although it's not exactly romantic, lets just say its weird, an appointment that goes strangely to say the least. Relationships seem to be the staple of this comic though, and they all seem have an angsty twist or even more in this issue of Biomecha.
It's been a fair old while between this issue of Biomecha and the previous one, two years in fact. The creators art skills and even her techniques have changed since then. The art is of much higher quality than before, and the characters whilst as expressive as ever look ever so more mature than ever too. In fact Toshio has looks to have gone from goofy kid to angsty bishie in one swift stroke.
Toshio has indeed become a man, and Laura is becoming a fine comic artist. This is the first issue that has been produced with computers. There is evidence of Photoshop toning, and text will have also been done using the same program with fonts from Blambot. Having done comics this way myself I can appreciate the benefits of using such a system, although there are a few errors that one can pick out, such as tones not being applied in separate layers which causes tones to merge with the frame borders.
But she can be forgiven for this since the using a system like that for comic production was brand new at the time, unless you use the system yourself, you probably wouldn't notice anyway, and it doesn't distract you from the comic at all.
Layout and design is spot on, and at no point was I confused. The font chosen for the dialogue is brilliant, and gives it a really professional comic feel. The whole package has However benefited from the influence of Sweatdrop Studios, the quality of the printed article itself is very good, with its perfectly guillotined pages.
For an A5 stapled fanzine, it's very good indeed, as other issues were probably not made by professional printers. As a current worker in the print industry I can attest to the quality of the end product.
As I have said before, Biomecha is focusing on more mature subject that being relationships. But don't forget the creator started this series as a girl of 14 and is now by this point a woman in her 20s, and as people get older so their perspective on life changes, and that's what this comic is all about. Growing up and moving on, but at the same time on thing will always remain constant.
Will Toshio ever be able to control his arms and live a normal life?
All images courtesy of Laura Watton Davies.
Review by ukmangaxl.com