Review: Mephistos – just a tail of a boy and a girl
Four very lovely, very striking covers (Click the small covers for bigger), with 1 & 2 being particularly effective, the cool looks, the pensive stares, the open lines, the demon and the girl.
The demon is called Mephistos; Soul Recruitment junior Field Operative. Demon Third Class. Or at least that’s what his work ID says.
The girl is Maria. And she’s the only one who can see through the cloaking spell, tail and all.
They meet, they chat, she’s surprisingly unconcerned about the whole demonic thing.
Well, alright, maybe not quite unconcerned, not when she first sees him…..
(Yep, “and… a tail” – from Mephistos by Naniiebim)
But once all that’s over and done with and they end up chatting, there’s an unusual chemistry developing, one of those can’t quite put your finger on it sort of things. Is she nervously flirting? Or simply nervous? Why isn’t she a little bit more freaked out by the boy with the demon’s tail?
Yeah, he’s cute, all tousled hair, winning smile, and sharp clothes. But the tail?
The whole “You’re a demon” thing in fact?
And like he comments… “you’re far too calm for someone who just said that“.
And how the heck is it she can see through his cloaking spell anyway?
Questions, questions, questions…. but still that unmistakeable attraction thing going on…
Okay, so that’s the first volume. And it’s bloody good. No, actually I reckon it’s bloody great.
But if Volume 1 is a very fast, very strange, yet really interesting relationship thing with added demonic stuff, Volume 2 rather breaks the spell Mephistos was putting me under.
In fact, most of Volume 2 is so loose and confused that it passed me by in a blur. Luckily most of it is (I think) relatively inconsequential to the whole thing with Mephistos and Maria, a bit of demonic house moving with Mephs demon friends / work colleagues casing more trouble.
Thankfully, by Volume 3 we get a little more back on track, as Naniiebim throws Mephistos’ boss into the mix; the voluptuous, the dangerous, the puzzling Bel-Shama. Who decides, possibly just for the sheer hell of it, to put Maria in charge of keeping Mephistos out of trouble.
All the while we get glimpses that there’s trouble brewing, that there’s maybe more to Mephs than anyone is letting on. And with Volume 4’s appearance of a mini hoody demon with a genuinely magic marker, it seems that the glimpses were right; Mephs proves far more powerful, far more resourceful than we’d seen so far. Yet there’s also a sense of him just not getting the whole “being a demon” thing, and the power, the resourcefulness lies behind a character that seems hesitant, uncertain, even carefree.
After reading this the first time I wrote a first draft of this review that talked of the storytelling being frustratingly inconsistent. Multiple reads of all four volumes have tempered that view somewhat, but it still feels like a very good comic that could be, possibly should be, a bloody excellent comic.
At best, it’s flowing, loose and good. In fact, some of the artwork is nothing more than a completely open loose scrawl of lines, and I mean that as a compliment, I genuinely do. You can see from her really loose stuff that Naniiebim has such a control of her line that she’s able to get huge amounts of signal into so little line. Beautifully simple, yet when it’s done well, it’s enthralling to see it done. Like this ….
But then again, at worst, it’s difficult, indecisive and unclear.
I’m relieved to be honest that I’ve not had to do these one volume at a time, as I think the experience of the story is something that benefits a longer read, and there simply isn’t enough in each volume to really make it satisfying. Well, actually, Volume 1 probably has enough going on, and enough narrative and artistic tricks to slow the read down to make it worth a solo read. But not the rest, they’re definitely something best experienced in a quartet of volumes or more.
And the difficulty in deciphering some of that visual storytelling isn’t made any easier by the back to front, right to left formatting. Yes, it’s Manga authentic, but in comic terms it’s still very much a different (visual) language, and some of the narrative shortcuts Nanieebim seems to be trying to take coupled with me reading in a different (visual) language means I’m not sure if I’m missing it, or if it wasn’t really there all that well in the first place.
However, the multiple readings reinforced some of the visual elements, and the storylines filtered through my brain. Like I said, Volume 1 is beautiful, brilliant, funny, enthralling stuff. Volumes 2-4 I just felt a little overwhelmed and lost at first, but by the end, even with the faults I see, this is an excellent series, and one I sorely hope continues in some form in the not too distant future.
And as for when that not too distant future may be, here’s what Naniiebim had to say when I asked her via email:
Mephistos is something I have running continuously when I am not doing illustration work, so if I’m lucky I’ll get to release about a book a year of about 80-100 pages or so [Book 5 is in process of being formulated right now! Because of the structure of the books, i generally have to write and draw it as a full book arc with a natural stopping point, it takes about 3 months start to finish including the ready-to-print and print process]. It’s an ongoing project with an eventual end somewhere in the distance, but for now, I’m just letting it run as it needs to as a story.
So future plans are mostly to keep running a book a year if I can and slowly releasing it online as a webcomic as well. I’m still building cast and evolving the main characters and building their stories as i go along. If people link or check out any of my various networking sites, they’ll get a heads up of what is new out and which conventions I’m heading to. 🙂
Naniiebim has many locations online, but her Live Journal and Tumblr seem good places to start. The Mephistos story is being represented as a webcomic reboot here. You can buy all of Naniiebims books, including all four available volumes of Mephistos in her Etsy store.