One of the interesting challenges that fledgeling comic book creators face is that people tend to underestimate exactly how hard it is to produce sequential art. It’s a process that involves many, many revisions, re-drafts and more revisions, and making a single 24-page book is a daunting task, especially if you don’t have much in the way of time and resources.
So it’s safe to say that even the most humble indie comic book is a remarkable achievement. There also tends to be a large gap between issues of books, because quality takes time. Jon Laight and Phillip Knibbs’ odd sort of superhero book, Brethren Born, is an interesting example of how time improves talent.
So far there are only two books in the series (with more planned). Issue one starts in the modern day with a super-human vigilante running around the streets beating up criminals. We then flashback to a mysterious laboratory, where a young man called Newton seems imprisoned. The lad is trying to escape what appears to be a rather sticky fate. Layers of mystery are added and overall it’s a decent (if not terribly original) tale of superhuman shenanigans and government conspiracy. The pacing, however, is slightly off and the art is not as clean as it needs to be.
By issue two, however, things have greatly improved. Writer Jon Laight has learned to pace his tale more smoothly and the dialogue is much better, if slightly stilted in places. Artist Phillip Knibbs delivers a far, far smoother style this time round and an inker (Luca Cicchitti), colourist (Santiago Ramos) and letterer (Rob Jones) have been added to the production process. The extra talent is visible on every page; issue two is a lovely thing.
As a side note, we have to applaud the addition of a letterer. In these terrible times of comic sans, it’s good to see that an actual human being is in charge of the lettering. A good font-monkey is a rare and precious thing in indie comics and it looks like the Brethren Born have somehow nabbed one for themselves.
The story also improves; Laight continues with a disjointed storytelling motif and we can begin to see that this is a riff on standard superhero fare.
Brethren Born is an interesting sort of project. No individual element of the book is anything special. The writing is okay. The art is good but not great. The plot isn’t anything new and yet; combine all these pieces together you get a book that really works.
Issue three of Brethren Born is currently seeking crowdfunding, which is pretty standard practice for indie comics these days. It will be interesting to see where the team goes next with the book; given the impressive difference in quality from book one into book two, we suspect that much like it’s lead character, it’s going to continue to evolve into something rather impressive.
BRETHREN BORN ISSUES 1 & 2 / WRITER: JON LAIGHT / ARTIST: PHILLIP KNIBBS / PUBLISHER: LEVEL-8 COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW