Ythaq v1 header

The Sci-Fi Love Boat: “Ythaq” v1 – v3

Last week, I did a brief explanation of the publishing history of “Ythaq” in North America.

Today, I’m digging out my original review of the first three albums — repackaged together by Marvel Comics via their Soleil license in 2009 — and re-presenting it here.

It has been tweaked here and there to read better, but not significantly changed.

The original column saw print in March 2010 at ComicBookResources.com.  If I ever can find the link to it, I’ll edit the previous sentence to include it.

I’ll be back afterwards with more thoughts.
 

“Ythaq” is Not a Sound Effect

Ythaq Marvel HC v1

When the science fiction equivalent of the Love Boat crashes into an unknown planet, three disparate survivors have to work together to survive an unending series of perils, alien species, and adventures.

“Ythaq” is an uneven, though entertaining work, that only gets more ingratiating the further along you get. Unfortunately, one big production issue nearly dooms the book. We’ll get to that later.

The story starts off with a bang (almost literally), and we’re left with an up-and-coming ship’s officer named Granite, a young good-looking engineer (and poet) named Narvath, and a two-dimensional and uninspiring spoiled brat in search of her sugar daddy, Callista. The boy’s in lust with the snob, and the officer is falling for the boy without any reciprocity. It’s all on the nose and obvious stuff, but handled mostly well.

There’s a great twist at the end of the first album that nearly redeems Callista, even though she returns to her old ways intermittently throughout the rest of the book. At that point, it becomes almost comedic and only occasionally grating.

ythaq innocent main characters

They were young and innocent once.

If you get wrapped up in the new worlds and the adventures, you’ll find some nice eye candy and solid set-pieces. If you’re more hung up on motivations and complex characters, you might find the book wanting. We never get into the “origins” of these characters, which might be part of the reason they all seem so two dimensional.

The diversity of locations and aliens and adventures in the book is a strength in that it gives artist Adrien Floch plenty of opportunities to shine. His thin lines – slightly manga inspired, perhaps? – and detailed backgrounds give your eyes plenty to rest on. The environments are as detailed as the characters interacting in front of them. The coloring by Crazytoons works beautifully, staying bright and colorful, not getting moody and “realistic” and muddy. “Ythaq” features bold colors with simple shadows that a lot of North American superhero comics colorists could learn a thing or two from.

Most impressively, letterer Joe Caramagna fits an enormous amount of text into the word balloons of each page, no doubt helped by the translation from Nicolas Meylaender and Stephanie Logan to keep the number of words fitting for the balloons.

 

Try Everything

The houses of Ythaq

Where the book falters, though, is in the feeling the reader gets after a few dozen pages that the writer, Christophe Arleston, is tossing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks.

Every couple of pages, it often seems, they introduce us to a new contentious race, a new setting, and a new quick run out of there. It’s very episodic, often losing the overall point of the narrative in preference to just giving us a moment the author thought would be cool to throw into the book. It has all the plotting of a video game.

Second, adding onto that, people suddenly develop characteristics when it’s necessary, and then drop them a minute later. I laughed at a point late in the book where the characters are floating above a desolate landscape, and one is instructed to use his race’s well-known great eye sight to see what’s going on below. Hey, it’s convenient at that point, so let’s add it in!

Chekov is rolling over in his grave, looking for the gun that was never hung on the wall.

It’s a bit of a cheat that Arleston throws so much stuff at you that new traits can be brought in almost randomly. They get lost in the overall noise, without the sort of whiplash feeling you often get from a writer pulling things out of thin air to write his characters out of that corner they painted themselves into.
 

Size Matters

But the worst thing about a book that I still enjoyed despite spending all these hundreds of words railing against it: The size.

There has been no bigger travesty committed in American comics in the last decade than DC publishing Francois Schuiten’s gloriously detailed highly-rendered architectural drawings in a shrunken standard America-sized comic book. There ought to be an Act of Congress to prohibit such things from happening. (Pelosi’s a supporter of the arts, right? What’s she doing next weekend?)

“Ythaq” has a similar problem, though perhaps not as pronounced. “Ythaq” has a lot going on with every single page. It’s four tiers of panels, all of them with plenty of background detail, and lots of word balloons and caption boxes floating around. Reading “Ythaq” is an exercise for the eyes, where “exercise” is the polite term for “strain.”

If Cinebook can produce these styles of books in an oversized and easy-to-read format, I don’t see why the mighty Marvel Comics can’t.

Ythaq size comparison to Cinebook's album size booksx

If they can’t, they should hire someone to figure it out for them, or farm them out to someone who can. Compare the reading experience of this to something like “Orbital” or “Lucky Luke,” and you can feel the difference. Not just see it, but feel it.

Perhaps I’m asking for too much. Perhaps I should just be happy that anyone is translating these books and reprinting them here in any format short a tankoubon.

But why settle for that? Why not demand more? The notion that an oversized book is dead on arrival is a funny argument to make in a world where Omnibuses were flying off the shelves at Amazon a couples weeks back, where “Absolute” volumes are revered items, and even Image is producing oversized pamphlets, such as “Vikings” and “King City.”

Did you see the beautiful new Titan Edition of “I Kill Giants?” It’s gloriously large for a style that would likely work just as well at digest size.

 

No, Really, I Like It

Adrien Flochs starts off strong with great action/landscape shots in Ythaq

I’m a sucker for spaceships and great landscape drawings.

Don’t let all of that grousing take away from what is a pleasant enough popcorn read, a summer movie of fun and colorful adventure with lots of imagination and attention to detail.

“Ythaq” is the kind of book where the plot matters more as the story progresses, but that still wows you with its smaller set pieces and imagination necessary to get there. You’re not going to get too attached to the characters just yet, but I’m hoping the second book starts getting into more detail there. I’m hoping the three leads have “origins” that’ll make them much more palatable and sympathetic to the readers. We’ll see.

“Ythaq: The Forsaken World” is available today for $25 in hardcover format. The second hardcover collection, “Ythaq: No Escape,” should also be out, though I’m having troubles tracking it down at the moment.

 

2017 Update

Yes, I did track down the second hardcover eventually as you can see in the image I added with it above..

I have to admit that my memory of this book is that I liked it more than this review would seem to indicate.  Whoops.  On the other hand, when I think of the book, I think strictly of Flochs’ artwork.  I’ve forgotten the story almost entirely.  Since the art was the saving grace of the book, that all makes sense.  I also notice lately that I’ve been more interested in comic books with strong art with settings in imaginative environments.  This book fits right in with that.

My original review compared the page size of “Ythaq” with that of Cinebook’s “Largo Winch.”  That’s silly, because the page sizes are the same.  I updated it to include references to a couple of the larger Cinebook books.

As mentioned earlier, Joe Caramagna’s lettering for CB Cebulski’s translation has been replaced in the new digital editions of the series.

This review sounds a lot like the one I just wrote for Mark Millar’s “Empress” at ComicBook.com. (When someone posts it, I’ll link it in here.)  It is all plot and that feeling of the Saturday Afternoon serial over characterization and, at times, common sense in its characters.

I still want to read more of the series, though I’d have to go back and re-read these first six volumes again as a refresher.  I bet we’ll see more translations soon as EuropeComics is working remarkably fast these days in pumping out these translated editions. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

 

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