Looking for Beauty in the Oddity

Oddriel by Adriel Flores Roman (Self-Published): Oddriel arrived in my “to review” stack as a very attractive and professional looking package. I enjoyed the creator’s wit being on full display, even before I cracked the book open. There were pull quotes (from his mom!) about the brilliance of his work or how handsome he was, and that just takes some stones to pull off. It’s tough to be funny in print, but those little tricks succeed. My favorite was the ominous teaser passage “A Young Boy Looking For His Soulmate. A Russian Experiment Gone Wrong. A City That Needs To Be Protected.” And then… in the tiniest of fine print: “*This Paragraph Does Not Depict Any Actual Content.”

The image you see up top is not from this actual book, but is rather one that I pulled from Adriel’s (largely graphic design oriented) web-site, because I think it best represents the strength and style of the cartooning he’s capable of producing. It reminds me a bit of the style of Arthur Dela Cruz, who did a book for Oni Press a decade ago which I just adored, Kissing Chaos, and then abruptly disappeared from the scene. Oddriel is a collection of strips and miscellany. The intro from his dog continues the humor and describes the author as “sometimes swearing like a vulgar cheap corsair during a drunken night.” As we move deeper into the accompanying text pieces, I found them to be *sorry!* a little preachy and condescending. I think part of the vibe is that they stemmed from writing artist statements in a university setting, where it seems from my lay understanding like you're encouraged to hype yourself and discuss how important and unique your artistic vision is. The point is about finding beauty in the oddity, but the tongue-in-cheek self-congratulatory style, with a tendency to over-explain, was just off-putting for me. I usually prefer when artists just let the work speak for itself.

Moving into the actual strips, I found Adriel’s figure work to be handsome. The characters are affable and easy to look at. There’s some nice variation in the line weight, though I do think that inking the pieces heavier, and altering the figure scale on occasion, would add some much needed depth and texture to the overall composition. Even the inclusion of some color would be great, judging by the graphic design samples on the web, the creator’s use of color elements is bold and iconic, something comics also live for. The introductory piece is a very interesting idea, about illustrating one of those aforementioned “artist statements,” and essentially answering the questions: Why do you do what you do? Why art? The results are a little fuzzy, and I think could be made crisp, for the greatest impact, with a strong editorial hand in play.

"Teddy Knight" is the second strip, a sort of Toy Story gone rogue as the kid slumbers in his bed. It also reminded me of a book called The Stuff of Legend wherein toys come alive to fight the equivalent of WWII, which takes that concept to the aesthetic extreme. "Teddy Knight" was full of a burst of unexpected energy, but seemed to be over just as it got going. "Unresolved Issues" is the third entry and the most personal piece in the book. Attempting “dream comics” is a very tricky business though. Initially they seem like easy source material for autobiographical creators, but unfortunately it’s a universal rule that dreams are only interesting to the people having them, and a total snoozer for everyone else. Adriel is able to visually capture the sense of confusion and insecurity that comes with low self-esteem.

There’s also a teaser for a promised web-comic entitled "Beast," about a TV persona who is also a vampire. The premise of the tale felt a bit unwieldy, but it’s full of nice perspective shots and use of negative space. At a technical level, there are a couple examples of an entry level mistake that Paul Pope refers to as “the halo-ing effect,” where trying to draw actual figures against an all black background, instead of the mere representation of the figure’s contours and shadows, creates an unseemly border outline. There’s undeniably some raw skill here, but additional polish is required to moves Roman’s work to being ready for the prime time mini-comics scene. Overall, I like the packaging, enjoyed the humor, but found some of the writing to be lackluster. With some writing practice that clarifies the delivery of the concept without editorialization, and some effort to work out the small journeyman technical glitches in the art rendering, I think Adriel Flores Roman could grow to be a creator to watch. Grade B-.


At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Adriel Flores Román said...

Hello Justin!

Thank you very much for the review and the key points to improve my work. It's definitely great to have somebody experienced to look at your work and tell you what works and what doesn't.

I'm thrilled, pump and excited after reading your wise words. This is definitely a great way to start the year!


At 1:04 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Adriel,

Thanks for stopping in and thanks for your maturity in the face of a less than glowing review. Definitely something the interwebs could use more of.

Keep at it,



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