There are some interesting things happening in Fire Proves Iron. Created by the husband and wife team of Page and Michael Malbrough, there is only one volume of the comic available at the moment, but it was recently picked up by Ten Ton Studios, suggesting that more is on the way soon.
As an introduction to the story, volume 1 attempts to pack a lot of disparate characters, plot notes, and historical information into a short amount of space, as well as build mystery and tension. Ultimately, it’s too much. The info dumps on the history of the Precarians, Mechans, and the city of New Promise are a bit to obvious and lengthy, and the time spent with characters feels short and lacking in information.
Ultimately I finished Fire Proves Iron confused and unsure as to where the different story threads connected. There is a story here however, complete with the ever popular issues of man versus machine, exploitation, and power. I’m confused, but I would read volume 2 without hesitation in hopes of getting the pieces put together and seeing where the story will take me.
The style of the comic is a large part of why I’m still intrigued. Malbrough interrupts the story at various points with text, either a few lines or with an entire poem. The poetry uses computer typefaces and the layout of the text is a bit crude– I found they broke my concentration from the comic and made reentry necessary, a dangerous thing to do to your readers– but the idea of it is interesting and worthy of further attempts at integration.
Drawn in black in white, with lots of grays and shading, the comic feels heavy and mysterious. The characters have a similar look overall to many of the cartoons being made right now– that strange merger of American style cartoons with anime, shaped further by the limitations of fast and cheap animation. By using pencils however, not drag and drop coloring, and just by virtue of being a hand drawn comic, Malbrough minimizes the sloppy feel the cartoons have. They haven’t quite refined their look, but I can’t help feeling it could all come together fairly soon and with some more practice.
Fire Proves Iron: Grounded Stars
by: Page and Michael Malbrough
Self published, 2004