Sean Wang Scores a Hit

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It seems the more I work, the further I get behind. A month or two ago, Sean Wang sent me a copy of his Runners: Bad Goods trade paperback. I’m just now getting the chance to sit down and review this awesome trade, and can’t recommend it enough.

The last thing I reviews that Sean Wang was involved in was Image Comics Meltdown, which he provided the art on. In Runners: Bad Goods, Sean is both writer and artist, and he does great in both roles.

Runners tells the story of the crew of the Khoruysa Brimia, a cargo reallocation (aka smuggler) ship lead by Captain Roka Nostaco, that skirts the edge of controlled space doing odd jobs while avoiding the law. Things go from bad to worse during a “routine” cargo transfer, when the sister ship of the Khoruysa Brimia, comes under attack from Hamron the Handsome and his ship of bandits.

It’s only through some fast maneuvering that the crew is able to defeat the bandits and secure the ship. While surveying any damage to the cargo, the crew discovers a strange girl who appears to have come from one of the containers. This causes everyone to wonder if they are trafficking in slaves.

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runners_cover_full.jpgFor the time being, the crew takes the girl aboard in hopes of finishing their job and making some money before Hamron’s ship returns.

It’s not just Hamron that wants the cargo; soon every bounty hunter and cop in the galaxy is after the Khoruysa Brima, the mysterious girl, and cargo. Even when the runners have to dock inside controlled space to make repairs, their troubles don’t end, and it is a series of hair-raising chases and gun battles that ends with the crew narrowly escaping.

The cast of characters are exceptionally crafted by Wang. Three members of the crew are brand new (two are former members of Hamron’s bandits), and throughout the story we discover every member has their role to play, and the ship simply wouldn’t function if any member is left behind. This is the crux of the story.

During a quick stop at the crew’s hidden base, they encounter former crew member Grissom. Several years previous Roka had to leave Grissom behind when they came under attack. While Grissom claims she forgives Roka for abandoning her and causing her incarceration for years, there is still the feeling she is going to get her revenge someday. Roka even feels guilty as seen in a flashback sequence, and this guilt is what leads to a fantastic climax to the story.

Yes, every archetype is present in the story from the mysterious girl who displays strange powers, the cephalopod that provides the comedy relief, the jaded crew member who will no doubt seek revenge, the human who is the moral center for the team, to the larger presence controlling everything behind the scenes. And even though we don’t have the back story on every character in the book, the necessary information is revealed naturally over time instead of spoon fed to us in a giant splash page or corny exposition. This is what sets Wang’s work apart from a lot of other titles out there.

Even the art is outstanding. Black and white art is the cornerstone for indie comics, but unlike the muddy work sometimes seen in B&W titles, the panels leap off the page. For example, during a dream sequence, Sean changes the border from traditional white to black, and as Roka comes out of his dream, the gutter makes a subtle change from gray to white. Each panel is highly detailed without becoming too cluttered, causing this comic to feel more big time than it actually is.

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The only thing that is distracting about the art is the whole Star Wars film feel to everything. From the ship and city design to the Mos Eisley Cantina-esque aliens, readers may mistake this title as something from George Lucas. Fortunately it isn’t Lucas generated, and the whole Episode IV vibe might actually work to the Runners advantage as it give readers something they can easily identify with and accept.

The other big criticism I have of the series is that there haven’t been any new issues released since 2005. This is an exceptional title that deserves to be read. In fact, after reading the trade (three times in a row), I really really really want to see Runners turned into a 3D animate film. And not some realistic CGI generated fare, or PIXAR inspired redux, but animation and design taken directly from the book. Readers should hound and bother Sean Wang (seanwang.com) to follow up on this series that has ended way too soon, and still has plenty of good stories waiting to be told.

The Good

  • The art
  • The story
  • The characters
  • Sean Wang

The Bad

  • Need new issues, and need them now
  • Runners hasn’t been turned into an animated motion picture

If you have a few hours and want to read a really engrossing story, the Runners: Bad Goods is there to fill the hole. Sean Wang has a hit a homerun in this indie title, I only wish he would continue the series. I give Runners: Bad Goods trade paperback a winning 5 out of 5 stars.

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Parting Shot

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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