ARCANE: What the Hell is Normal Anyway?
In celebration of Cosmic Lion Productions new series ARCANE, "Allegedly" Blog will be delivering to you yet another Content Critique! Veteran Storyteller and Senior Editor at Starlight Runner Entertainment, Steele Tyler Filipek, brings us a narrative saturated in the dark arts of the occult. Set in a suspiciously calm world, ARCANE follows our new kid on the block, Hogan. Like any teenager, Hogan manages to turn his world onto its head after butting into the someone else's business. Next time he'll think twice, but before he figures that out, Hogan will have to overcome the loads of trouble and despair waiting to befall him. Take a moment to place a prayer onto yourself, because the Content Critique of ARCANE Issue #1 is about to begin.
Huh? That's what I was left with upon first seeing the cover of ARCANE's wicked first issue. I tried my to do my best to get an idea of what to expect before diving straight into the story. After all, most people would agree that the simplest addition to a line, character, or moment can forever change it's interpretation and the level of care/love a property holds within its audience's heart. Immersion to any story demands these little elements, and in this scenario, I found myself staring harder at this cover than a bigfoot hunter would at trees. Despite straining my eyes, I only had one take away: this is not a story restricted to one time period....Well, long story short, I should start wearing glasses. There is more than one detail situated within this cover, and that's the only tip you'll get!
First Page: Information Overload
ARCANE's protagonist, Hogan, appears front-and-center on the first page. In a series of five panels, top-to-bottom, Hogan is drawn saturated in dread. Now, as you digest what's said, as you learn that Hogan's mouth is closed and just hearing the words of someone else...or perhaps something else? Five separate panels—five separate iterations of his face—each iteration inching closer, and becoming more graphic than the last. All these details help make it readily apparent that Hogan is flashing through several conversations; strangely enough however, these conversations which seemingly pertain to him are paired with visions from several different moments in time, through a lens which could not possibly be his own...or could it? This odd sequence effortlessly portrays why Hogan is depicted in such a frightened manner.
As a reader, My journey begins and ends with my interest in the characters participating in said journey; as a result, I selfishly search for a character possessing qualities identifiable to me. This neurological hijacking taking place within Hogan on the first page may seem like nothing more than a horrific moment unfolding before the reader, however this is an "Allegedly" Blog Content Critique, and we do not simply accept what's on the surface. What I took from this instant is how disorienting it can be when one feels as though they've become a tool for someone else's interest. In my experience, the most disorienting moments in my life occurred after parroting the brainwork of another without really understanding how, or why the cognizance from said brainwork spawned. These voices entering the Hogan's mind, the visuals vying for attention, all of this gives the impression that this will be a story of boy having to address this mental parasite privy to him before slowly manifests into something utterly maleficent. I apologize for the depth, but it is exciting to be welcomed into a story with an instantly identifiable character. From my perspective, Hogan is a character representing the mayhem of maturity, or what is often experienced as we try and grow into our own shoes.
The simple truth is, no one wants to follow a character whose personality adapts to best serve the situation/plot at any present moment. This might get you to your ending, but you'll have sacrificed both your audience and realism; at worst, a character can be so unrelatable that they appear to lack any human characteristics. Now that we are on the same page regarding what makes a good character, lets discuss what I believe to be the most powerful moment in this issue.
Settling on a favorite part of a story is normally an easy task as it could be an entire arc of the hero/heroine's journey. Alas, I was dealing with a mere issue in a tale far grander than what is conveyed presently. After several readings of the inaugural comic, there is one story beat in particular which left me gripping the page tighter than all others.
For context, issue #1 introduces plenty of side characters, but the story purposely follows two especially close: Hogan, and a mysterious wise man. Granted, it's hard to say for certain whether this character was designed to give off the impression of the archetypal wise man, but he exudes this deep knowledge of the reality which is absent from the rest of the cast. Either that or he is a homeless man gifted with both balls of steel, and one hell of an imagination. Given that their isn't a homeless man plot twist and he is the archetypal wise man, it should be noted that up to this point these two characters have entered into each others company due to Hogan having what may be an insecurity. You see, an example of bullying took place at school which left Hogan questioning his own beliefs. He played the role of a bystander as a boy was shamelessly ridiculed by a fellow student. Shortly after this moment, Hogan, left ruminating on these thoughts of his stumbled upon a dispute. Several individuals gathered around the aforementioned mystery man and began striking him; as a result of his earlier display of poorly-placed passivism, Hogan unthinkable rushed into action in defense of the mystery man.
Hogan: "How did I even get involved in this?"
Mystery Man: "A better question is why did you?"
It is this moment which glues my eyes to the page greater than any other. Here we get what may be the best example of atmosphere built into the comic thus far. As a reader, Hogan's inability to act according to his belief systems is glares at us. But all of this background culminates into a brief fist fight; as a result, you're left in a conscious rooting for Hogan as he finally transitions from the indecisive, to the decisive! Additionally the art is strangely drawn in this moment as if darkness itself was slowly consuming the light...it must be a coincidence that Hogan erupts into a blinding rage shortly after? Alright, someone resurrect Billy Mays—you ain't prying my face from this comic without him.
Ah, as ARCANE issue #1 comes to a close, we find ourselves returning back to what life felt like for Hogan. This deceptively quiet world welcomes not only him, but the audience yet again—but only for just a moment. We know, Hogan knows, and the evil desperately in search for his location knows that this quiet world which was once his is now long gone. Perhaps it is more apt to suggest that this normal world is now long gone. As he tells himself, "What the hell is normal anyway?" you want to shout in agreement with him. But, while stating this in his mind, he grips closely to his chest a photo of his family, a family now broken by what I can only assume to be divorce. In this moment, Hogan captures the paradoxical essence of the teenage experience: embracing the future, while holding onto the past. What a way to end an inaugural entry into a story about how an apathetic teen found himself neck deep in chaos.
The land of the brave is filled with many quality authors, producers, editors, etc. Albeit, seldom have I found one of these talented individuals with such a high willingness to acknowledge the presence of an up-and-coming writer like myself. Steele Tyler Filipek, he is one of those seldom few. Thus, I am not just appreciative of his contributions in the space of media, writing, and storytelling, but of his character as a whole. For the interested readers today looking to satiate their enthusiasm for creative expression in the space of writing, I encourage you to do so, and I encourage you to seek out those select few veterans willing to share their treasured insight. And, for the readers interested in purchasing your own copy of ARCANE issue #1, expect to get an occult themed extravaganza as you, myself, and Hogan try to uncover the story's most well kept secrets!
Get your copy of issue #1 here: https://cosmiclionproductions.com/products/arcane1
Huge shoutout to the creative team behind this project:
Written by: Steele Tyler Filipek
Art by: Mac Radwanski
Edited by: Max Haskins & Jesse Bowline
Tones by: Ben Granoff
Cover Artwork by: Chris Anderson & Christian Messey
Published by: Eli Schwab—Cosmic Lion Productions