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Syndrome Graphic Novel Comic Review - -

Story 8.5
Art 8.5
Value 6.0
Total 7.6
Publisher: Archaia Comics
Release Date: 9/9/2010 (US)
Reviewer: Troy Mayes


Syndrome Graphic Novel

Reading Syndrome, the debut graphic novel from writers Daniel Quantz and R.J. Ryan, its hard not to have your breath taken away. The story is both outrageous yet fascinating, the artwork simple yet shocking and the characters familiar yet different. 

Itís 2010 and a notorious killer, dubbed The Bible Killer, is about to be put to death in Arkansas. At the last minute a brilliant, noble- intentioned doctor swoops in and takes The Bible Killer to a secret facility. With the help of a slightly crazy Hollywood art director and production designer and an out of luck actress looking for her big break the doctor is about to perform the greatest social experiment known to man with the ultimate prize waiting at the end, the ability to cure evil. He sets up a Truman Show like experiment where the Bible Killer will constantly be tested, in a controlled environment that he thinks real is but in fact is completely staged.  

Quantz and Ryan aim high with their first graphic novel. Syndrome toys with the idea of personal freedoms and the ability of someone to encroach on the freedoms of someone else, even a killer, to potentially benefit the greater good. That idea of Ďfor the greater goodí is behind a lot of Syndrome. Luckily the comic doesnít become preachy with its noble intentions; instead itís optimistic, idealistic but a little flawed. A world free of rape and murder would indeed be fantastic, but should we attempt to create it any cost? Ultimately, thatís what Syndrome is asking you and youíll find the answer a bit murkier than youíd think. Prepare to feel a little cheated though as the ending of this particular tale is wrapped up a little too quickly. (SPOILER) I thought this was going to be a self-contained graphic novel, but it feels like there must be a plan for more because there was a definite Ďto be continuedí ending that leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions. Sure they didnít have to wrap everything up but thereís no real closure whatsoever.   

Quantz and Ryanís story is aided by some really tight editing. The flashbacks and changes in perspective, by and large, feel like theyíve been implemented at the right time and the way they frame and parallel certain panels allows for a few genuine shocks and a great deal of insight into some of the characters. Overall, itís an extremely well put together book that has a nice flow to it.  

I found myself invested in the characters and this mainly occurred with Alexei, the art and production designer, and the doctor. The doctor was a very well rounded character and Quantz and Ryan put a lot of effort into developing his motivations, his background and his goals. You fully understand where heís coming from and what heís doing but you wonder whether heís tainted by his past. Similarly you understand why Alexei is partaking in the experiment but you arenít given very much background and you donít know his goal, which makes him a little mysterious and interesting.  Also he seems a little crazy at times although sadly that aspect wasnít developed enough. Quantz and Ryan also make the experiment feel like a character. Itís a truly amazing idea and fully justifies its Truman Show comparison.  

Probably the only downside is the fact that Syndrome is a wordy book. On the whole itís generally a well written book with some great conversations between characters but there is a lot, if not too much, dialogue and at times it can be a lot to process along with the artwork. There are panels that are filled with dialogue and narration but, interestingly, theyíll also implement a series, like when Alexei is looking at his model, of 11 panels that contain no dialogue. The book seemed to jump from one extreme to the other. Funnily enough they were able to demonstrate an ability to speak through their art, which is no small feat. While the dialogue was too much sometimes, it did help to give Syndrome a very well developed supporting cast where you had a sense of what all the minor players, like the casting guy, were like due to their dialogue.  

David Marquezís artwork and design is clean, clear and well thought out and contributes much to the successes in the editing mentioned above. Itís equally as much about what Marquez leaves out of the panel as it is what he leaves in it. The comic also has some intense violence but it fits the nature of the comic. The Bible Killer needs to be portrayed as intensely evil to almost justify what is going on and to provide the reader with a reason why such drastic measures must be taken. Also the fact that Marquez has chosen an art style grounded in realism thatís quite detailed helps to sell the grand social experiment idea, which wouldnít have worked so well with an out-of-the-box art style. One irksome thing about the artwork was the use of black in some of the blood. It was annoying because earlier there was just the use of a bright red and then all of a sudden they through in this black. Itís mainly an issue of having consistency throughout the comic and a testament to the art that only such a minor fault was found.  

Syndrome contains some interesting characters, a brilliant and thought provoking plot and setting coupled with some solid artwork that really suits the piece. The major downside is the unending which feels too unfinished for a self-contained graphic novel. The reader has no closure on anything really and itís a thoroughly frustrating end to an otherwise great book.    


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