Time Flyz #1: Pyramid Peril

TimeFlyz #1: Pyramid Peril (2007)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Action / Historical / Youth ]

Writer - Ben Avery
Artist - Adi Darda Guadiamo

Publisher summary: Kidnapped by superbugs! It's bad enough being abducted by cyborg insects. It's even worse being turned into one of them. Now they want Laurel to help battle an evil time-traveling super spider! It's more than an ordinary girl can take. And after Laurel's captors whisk her back to ancient Egypt, she escapes from them. But when she's attacked by the monstrous Darchon, she realizes she needs the TimeFlyz as much as they seem to need her.

UC's Review - Ann's Review

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 16 December 2007

As an adult reading a series geared toward children, reviewing TimeFlyz is a tenuous venture. Still, it manages to be much better than it sounds at first impression, and perhaps younger readers will find it a good introduction to graphic literature.

The trick to writing children’s books is to gear it toward their level but not use this as an excuse for lazy writing (as children tend not to care about plot, flow, dialogue, etc). I feel Time Flyz is a mix of both, but it really was much better than I had anticipated. So far the flies have rather one-dimensional personalities that are shown in a heavy-handed manner; the dialogue between Tak and Mother Mass is fairly clichéd and gets old quickly.

This is a shame, because most of the dialogue between humans is good. The more intelligent dialogue works well but the young characters also show moments that are appropriately (and amusingly) childish. Unfortunately, this hasn’t shown itself in any of the flies’ banter and that aspect of the writing feels dumbed down at places.

Though not an action series, TimeFlyz conducts the action competently. Sometimes the panels can become too chaotic and unclear (which is a problem for many professional manga-ka as well) but the flow is solid and carries the story. The plot is straightforward, setting up for an episodic series with a few twists, but it is better than much of what children read or watch. Time will tell how well this aspect plays out (and if they keep making time references – please, enough).

Having ancient Israelites actually speak in Hebrew characters was a great surprise. Great enough that I’m willing to forgive the lack of promised translation. Hopefully this kind of attention to detail will continue throughout the series. Unfortunately, the English dialogue had a problem that some other series share, apparently some kind of text conversion issue with apostrophes.

Certainly the target audience won’t object to this, but I was annoyed by the technobabble. Yes, we’re suspending our disbelief, but it should still make logical sense. They also threw in the word quantum in the manner that would make physicists worldwide shake their heads. Perhaps this complaint should be set aside in a story for younger children, however.

One discordant note was that Laurel is apparently the destined One. Doesn’t that conflict with the central theme of her not being someone special and make her simply another extraordinary member of her family? It would be more meaningful if she was simply someone caught up in events doing the best she can (or someone who deals with life problems without fantastical adventures, but that’s another matter entirely). This matter may change based on who programmed the flies and why they sought out Laurel, unless the creator is just God or a God stand-in.

Even now I shudder at the Z in the title, but I have to be honest in saying that TimeFlyz isn’t that bad. It promises to be an enjoyable children’s story and the first volume actually has some of the best overall plot composition of Zondervan’s titles.

Reviewer: Psycho Ann | Contact | 11 May 2008

While not exactly the first of the Z-Graphic Novels I've read, it's the closest one on my desk and therefore my first to rant about review. Like what UC said, we're definitely not the intended audience, but I was surprised that I did enjoy this first volume despite having reservations about it. I really don't like anthromorphic anything, series starring "your average" young girl, time travel theme, but TimeFlyz (arrgh, the "z"! The "z"!) manages to keep this out-of-the-intended-audience one interested.

Since this is a first volume review, it's a bit lengthy and nit-picky as a first impression.

General art: This is my biggest complaint of the volume: I can't tell the flies apart. Well, I can, it just takes me extra seconds to gather enough visual and contextual clues on who is who (which really ruined the pacing for me). Even on the cover, the color schemes of the flies are so similar it really looks like they're a bunch of nondescript background characters instead of being stars of the cast. Man, even tokusatsu, particularly Super Sentai chars, had to resort to color-coding to set the characters apart. (Yes, I had to mention tokusatsu because my very first thought when I saw the designs was: "... Kamen Rider.")

Other than that, the art is pretty good with a unique style. It's cool seeing improvement throughout the volume as everything gets better. The expressions read well (even on the flies) and I had little trouble following the story (except for when the flies are there and I'm trying to figure out who is who in the action scenes).

I do feel that there's a bit of awkwardness in trying to get the young manga style look. There's always something a bit off in all the big, shiny-eyed human characters while everything that isn't trying to be "manga" come off natural and very professional. But, wishing they would let him just do his own style would probably defeat the purpose of labeling this "Christian manga."

Inking & shading: In the pages, the flies have nearly identical shading, and then coupled with the similar line quality on the flies no matter where they are standing, some panels are just incredibly difficult to read. Like the moment I saw the first double-spread (pages 2-3), I had no idea which limb belonged to whom (the last page is also not unlike a eye-training puzzle). Things get better towards the end of the book (everything art-wise does) but picking out an individual fly from a mass of legs, wings, etc, is still not easy.

I'm glad to see the line quality visibly improve. At first, the same line widths really flattened the art, and you really don't want that when you have a such a clean, graphic, look. Things become a bit stiff, and, as I mentioned, a bit hard to read when there's overlapping and depth involved. Then there's a lot of tone shading, adding spottiness to the mix. For readability sake, sometimes it's better to ignore "accurate" shading and just concentrate on simplifying shadow shapes and portraying depth. Especially when you got similar line quality and characters with six limbs. Again, this aspect improves immensely by the end, so everything I mention is mostly fixed by then.

I find the oversaturation of zoom/action/speed lines a bit... disorienting. Yes, this is an action story, but in the first half it just seems like there was way too many zoom/action/speed lines of the same density on a page. The sequence where Laurel almost gets stung by the wasp, and subsequently meeting the flies, is a good example. Everything is moving at a quick pace and it does show how sudden her life turns for the worse (or awesome), but it made me wish the backgrounds can be opened up a bit (with lighter densities of the lines).

Taking shonen manga for example, randomly grab one and take a look at the fight/action scenes. Most of the time, there's either a range of density used in the background action lines across the pages, and/or they leave quite enough white space to keep the effect from suffocating a panel. And it also keeps from having that Indie-Movie-Student-Project effect where the reader would end up wishing the camera would please stop zooming in and out constantly argh.

Of course, I recognize that most of the action/zoom/speed lines in TimeFlyz are screen tones and filters (I use them myself), and they certainly save time in filling backgrounds. So it all comes down to the time-quality balance (how's that for nutshelling this section?). Curse you, Deadline and Budget Constraints...

Type: Pretty good typesetting, especially in the SFX. A few typos and text character conversion errors slipped through. Oh, and I'm always wondering why American comics generally use such little speech bubbles. I think it's because they want to show as much as the art as possible, but sometimes it just ends up looking like the speech bubble was tacked on as an after-thought. Also, small bubbles/boxes means trying to fit the copy to the edges, leaving little white space. The leading (space between lines) is particularly tight in TimeFlyz, and with the vertically inclined speech fonts my eyes just sees columns of letters sometimes rather than read normally across.

Maybe I'm just used to manga, where they aren't afraid to cover up art with relatively large speech bubbles. This provides breathing room, makes reading easier, and actually could be a clever cropping tool. And it doesn't make me have to search for small speech near the center (as I don't like to hold my comics wide open; it ruins the binding).

Misc. story thoughts: I generally agree with what UC already mentioned up there. Laurel manages to avoid being an annoying, bratty, tsundere, character surprisingly quick. Which is good, because even her two pony-tail look was already making go "meh" (imagine an annoying, bratty, tsundere, young girl with two pony-tails... yes, you may shudder.). She's not dumb and steps up to her responsibilities. It's nice to see her mature without having to wait volumes for character development (refreshing, really).

Then the pseudo-science... none of it really bothered me except for this one bit that I've seen happen a couple of times (first memory of it was in an episode of Sailor Moon R). It's the "now your body weighs x times more than usual bwahaha" trick. I never really understood how that works. Does it mean every single cell is now x times heavier and reinforced to withstand their own weight? But what about the air and liquids? If the muscles are all uniformly heavy enough to keep the target from moving, wouldn't that mean they won't be able to speak or even breathe or hold their bladder? And if the target isn't uniformly heavy throughout, well, that would just be a messy end, wouldn't it? Blood vessels will collapse, the lungs too, and the eyes... okay, I'll stop.

Basically, this would be one of the most gruesome (but effective) powers if things worked realistically. I never imagined I would say this in a review of a young reader's comic, but having the power to make your target instantly mush into a puddle would be the envy of evil villains everywhere.

Okay, I'm done.

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