(From Dominic Deegan. Click on image to see it full-sized.)
Comic: Dominic Deegan, by Michael Terracciano
Dominic Deegan was one of the first comics I acquired thanks to starting up Tangents, and I immediately fell in love with the wry humor and skilled storytelling. Indeed, it was very early on that I realized that I’d found a comic suited not just for my own tastes, but my roommate’s love of atrocious puns (indeed, some of the better titles of my tangents are thanks to his suggestions).
While I was worried about where the comic would go with the culmination of The Storm of Souls storyline, Michael proved himself adept at not only overpowering his hero, but even pulling a few twists and avoiding the predictions I’d made for the comic’s future.
Indeed, Michael’s storytelling skills have proven apt in keeping the comic interesting and amusing. Further, he’s greatly expanded the comic, going from a 3-panel strip to 4 panels, and later to 8 panels a day (with colored Sundays). Where many cartoonists work within a weekday news strip format, or even a tri-weekly full-page format, Michael does eight panels each day, unless the story calls for something else.
Art – Inking: 4 ribbons
Art – Backgrounds: 2.5 ribbons
Art – Coloring: 3.5 ribbons
I feel like I’m echoing myself here, but as with so many other long-term cartoonists, Michael’s artwork has improved significantly from early works. Then again, if you look at the early works of Charles Schultz, you would be surprised at how different it looks from what he’d drawn in the last decade of his life. And as with so many others, Michael has solidified what works with the comic and created a powerful style all his own.
Indeed, with the eye structure and the extremely distinctive hair style, you can almost always tell a picture drawn by Michael when he draws up a fan art for another cartoonist. At first, I had a problem with this. I must admit I’m used to telling characters apart by their hair, and it’s not as easy to do that with Michael’s characters as it is with other comics I’d read for some time.
However, while some of the hairstyles are similar, if you look at the art for longer than two seconds you can figure things out easily enough. I was discriminating against the art because it wasn’t as easy for me to determine characters as it was with other comics. It wasn’t Michael; it was me.
While the comic started with Dominic and his home, it didn’t stay in that one locale for long. As with any fantasy adventure, Dominic went to different locales, whether to save his brother from monsters or saving a village from cultists. Michael tends to be somewhat minimalist with backgrounds. It’s not that he doesn’t use them; instead, he utilizes them when they’re important. Unfortunately, often he leaves backgrounds as a blank slate, which is why I scored him only 2.5 ribbons on backgrounds.
Fortunately, one of the things Michael hasn’t done is fallen into the cut-and-paste method some cartoonists fall into. This is part of the reason his penciling and inking is as tight and skilled as they are, and why he will continue to improve in time.
For a while, Dominic Deegan was mostly black and white, with an occasional colored strip. Unlike the majority of colored strips, Michael does much of his coloring with colored pencil and maybe colored ink as well. I’m not positive on that. However, it does not appear that Michael uses Photoshop or other traditional coloring tools that are used in comics such as College Roomies or Clan of the Cats.
Michael’s artwork is more than backgrounds or coloring. It must be viewed as a whole. That whole has grown since the first strips. It can grow yet further, with increased use of backgrounds and an integration of that and the already superb inking that Michael has displayed. I include his regular line work in this estimation; though in this case it’ll be a further refining of skills that are already honed to excellence.
Character Development: 4.5 ribbons
Character Chemistry: 4.5 ribbons
I suppose it’s only to be expected that a comic about a seer shows such insight about the characters themselves. The central cast focuses on Dominic himself, his cat Spark, and his love-interest, Luna. There have been stories that focus on other members of the Deegan family and on some of Dominicís comrades, but Dominic himself is the star of the show, with Luna his leading lady. It’s natural that the most development would occur with those two.
Much of the evolution of Dominic’s character is a refinement of his base personality established within the first few weeks of the comic. Dominic is a sarcastic cynic, with an insight (no pun intended) about humanity that is, sadly, reaffirmed on a daily basis. He constantly sees signs of people being stupid, not thinking for themselves, being stuck in repetitive ruts, and so forth. Even when he gives advice, people don’t listen. They just hear what they want to hear.
Despite his gruff exterior, Dominic actually cares for people. This can be shown in his saving Luna’s life when he first meets her, or in how when he later finds Luna destitute, he offers her a place to stay (and indeed gives her his bed to sleep on). It can also be shown in how he worked to save the people of Barthis from an evil cult).
He’s not perfect. And I’m not talking about the cynicism and the like either. He’s paranoid about his oldest brother (who is a most… twisted individual, I’ll admit) and absolutely fears anything dealing with the undead. And while he’s perhaps gotten a small handle on some of those fears, they’re still a part of him and will no doubt flare up again.
Luna herself has grown tremendously since we first met her. Her mother tried to get Luna to kill herself in a plot to get money (the echoes of which can be found in the current storyline). Thanks in no small part to Dominic himself, she’s started to reassert herself as a vital and strong young lady. She’s saved him several times, and she’s grown to love her “grumpy sage” as much as he loves her.
Her growth has been fairly slow, however. This is a good thing, mind you! It makes her a more believable character, for one thing, and has helped strengthen our interest in her. Further, part of her self-loathing comes from her very features; Luna suffers from tuskmouth, which caused her lower canines to grow long enough to protrude from her mouth. And perhaps best of all, Luna isn’t dependant on Dominic. Instead, she has proven quite adept at taking care of herself, for the most part.
Another character who has grown a bit is a secondary character, Gregory Deegan, Dominic’s kid brother. When we first saw Gregory, he was staring up in shock at a Tree Ogre, that featured prominently in a storyline with an Infernomancer (Infernomancers being wizards who sold their souls to demons for quick power. This one the fans have taken to calling “Tim” for lack of a proper name). While he has been remarkably naive, especially concerning his brother, he’s done a bit of growing up.
Indeed, Jacob managed to break Gregory’s belief in him, and later Gregory managed to defeat a cultist attack on the city of Barthis almost single-handed (Dominic gave mental guidance at first). The aftermath of that attack is part of the current storyline. Indeed, while Gregory has done a lot of growing up, he’s still overjoyed to see his father and get help when in over his head.
Jacob has been an interesting character to watch as well. We’ve only had glimpses of him here and there, and he’s been adversary instead of protagonist. Indeed, Dominic hates him, not just because of what Jacob did to Gregory, but because of Dominic’s hatred and fear of the undead. Jacob has shown a single-minded determination concerning his pursuit of necromancy. I’m not sure if he’s grown as a character though, and that’s a bit sad. When compared to the other adversary that has been closest to Jacob in terms of time spent on him (Celesto)… well, there’s no real comparison between the two. Which is why it’s so sad that Jacob ends up escaping (twice now) while Celesto is trapped someplace where it’s doubtful we’ll hear from him again.
There’s a fairly diverse group of other secondary characters, including Dominic’s parents (his mother is an arch-mage and the founder (and teacher at) a magic academy, while his father is a swordsman and bard of renown), Lord Siegfried (Siggy for short), a Royal Knight of Callan (and sometime adversary of Dominic; not that he’s evil or anything, but… well, Siggy has a temper, and seems to get involved in situations that Dominic’s in the middle of), Jayden and Milov, and so forth.
And of course there’s Spark. Spark is an intelligent talking cat (which naturally the Collective loves), but isn’t Dominic’s familiar. Instead, he’s his friend and compatriot. He also has an affinity for alliteration, an overwhelming desire to be fed fish, and a sense of fun that is a nice counter to Dominic’s dour demeanor. While he’s not grown tremendously… well, he’s a cat, and cats grow when they feel like it. And I’ll just ignore the glares from the Kitten Collective…
There’ve been several relationships seen in the comic. The biggie is naturally that of Dominic and Luna. Dominic soon found himself attracted to Luna when talking magic theory with her. Luna herself… well, I’m not sure when she started viewing Dominic as a love interest. At the beginning, she no doubt thought of him as her savior and a friend… but it grew fairly quickly from there.
However, things plateau soon after. While Luna and Dominic started sharing a bed fairly quickly, she’s not had sex with Dominic, out of fear that if she does, she’ll end up losing Dominic.
The romantic in me suspects that Dominic and Luna will probably get married in the somewhat near future, and that’s when they’ll consummate their relationship. However, I don’t see Dominic and Luna not having sex being because Michael is afraid that if the sexual tension ends, the comic will end (aka, the Moonlighting Excuse for characters not getting any). Instead, I suspect that Michael came up with Luna’s back-story fairly early on, and has only now gotten to this point of the story.
Another relationship that has grown has been between Gregory and the nurse Pamela, who is a priestess of the Luanian Church (which I suspect, from what little I’ve seen, specializes in healing). Theirs has been a more physical relationship, and indeed they almost consummated their relationship when Dominic psychically warned Gregory of an impending attack by cultists. There’s no sign if they’ve continued their… anatomy lessons in the aftermath of Gregory saving the people of Barthis (if not the buildings).
Other existing relationships have existed in the comic, such as between the priestess Jayden and the Spiritwolf (spell-using werewolf) Milov, or between Dominic’s parents, but not much has been seen in either case. Instead, they’ve been background for these characters. Indeed, their relationships are a pairing of more than just souls and bodies, but also partnerships, suggesting perhaps what is in the future for Dominic and Luna.
Story Continuity: 5 ribbons
Story Type: Storyline and Epic
Story Style: Fantasy, Drama
When you look at the first strips of Dominic Deegan, you don’t see much in the way of epic roots. In that, it resembles more of College Roomies than Clan of the Cats (two of the epic strips I consider among the best of the epic comics I read). Instead, it started out with some jokes and then seemed to grow from there.
Indeed, it was the introduction of Luna that helped center the comic, and helped it become the masterpiece it is today. Fortunately, the storyline introducing Luna was just over three weeks into the comic’s start. I’m unsure if this was planned and the old strips were intended to introduce the character, or if it were intended originally to be a gag-a-day strip and early on Michael decided to expand upon the concept.
Still, Dominic Deegan is no stranger to epic stories. Chapters 4, 5, 7, and 9 have all been increasingly epic in scale. Further, the comic has focused on itself. Many other comics have used crossovers and the like to grow in popularity and to spawn new storylines. Dominic Deegan has remained alone (with the exception of Brok), with nary a crossover. (Indeed, I don’t know what comic had Brok originally in it, and it doesn’t matter; Brok was a mercenary working for the Infernomancer; hired muscle, as it were, and thus unimportant.)
This has also eliminated any real problems with continuity. I cannot recall any continuity problems at all; indeed, the biggest question to date had been concerning why Luna wasn’t given compensation for the death of her mother, and even that has been answered.
That says something that, even with rereading the comic I’m unable to find continuity flaws. There may be some lurking in there that I just didn’t catch, but I can’t think of any (and we’re even in mid-story). Dominic Deegan is tightly written and with interwoven plot points that is beautiful and admirable. Thus I have actually given a comic 5 ribbons for Continuity; a first for me.
Rating: PG-13 (Looks like the kittens have had their attention dragged away from those yarn balls! Must be Spark; they love intelligent cats in comics…)
Dominic Deegan gets a PG-13 rating from me. It would be just PG, but there are some disturbing scenes, such as the Infernomancer seen without his blindfold on (with bleeding wounds for his eyes), or people chopped up and then eaten. There’s no nudity (well, naked werewolves maybe but hey, they’re furry!), and the violence is not commonplace.
There may be some cursing as well, but I don’t remember any off-hand. Still, this doesn’t mean parents should just let their kids read this comic. Definitely check it out ahead of time and determine if it’s objectionable or not. And hey, maybe you’ll grow to like the comic as well. (Yes, I have ulterior motives in suggesting parents check out these web comics… devious, ain’t I!)
Punctuality: Seven days a week, color Sundays.
For a while the comic originally updated six days a week, and then two and a half years switched to a daily format. Dominic Deegan will occasionally miss a day (usually due to Michael going to a convention or the like), and will also take an occasional week off (with fan art posted, more often than not), but otherwise has a good update schedule.
Overall: 4 ribbons
Dominic Deegan has a nice mixture of storytelling and humor going for it that hasn’t changed even after several epic storylines (including the last one, in which Dominic literally saved the world). In fact, Michael has a gift few cartoonists have mastered in mixing humor and drama together. It doesn’t always work. But even when it’s not at its best, it’s enough to bring a smile to my face. It’s something other cartoonists could learn from.
That’s not to say that everything is happy and good in the world of Dominic Deegan. One thing I dislike is the Archive Page, which is split up into story chapters. This wouldn’t be so bad if the chapters didn’t keep growing in length; the first chapter was 18 pages long, the second 51 pages, and it keeps growing from there. If Michael sub-divided chapters into sections, that would be more useful. As it is, it’s difficult tracking the events (indeed, part of why this review took so long to write was my having to page through weeks of comics trying to find just the right section).
Still, Dominic Deegan has avoided some of the problems inherent in epic storytelling; the tendency to make one’s hero or heroine more and more powerful to deal with these problems. (Indeed, it’s a problem I see happening in the current Dracula storyline of Clan of the Cats; then again, Chelsea’s long had a control problem. She’s got power, she just needs to refine her ability in using said power.)
Dominic is fairly normal, all things considered. In fact, he’s no uber-hero. He lost his leg in the recent Storm of Souls story. Indeed, Dominic’s gift is his brains, not his power. He knows how to use his abilities; the current Barthis storyline is an example of Dominic using his abilities to their best to deal with a foe that is outside his ability to stop ordinarily. Force of arms (or force of magic) won’t avail him here. Instead, he is playing chess against an opponent who doesn’t even realize who’s behind the moves being made against him. (When that realization dawns, I’m interested in seeing what the reaction will be.)
As far as stories go, I’ve no real advice to give. I don’t know what direction he’s taking for his stories; it’s obvious Michael has several ideas to work from. He’s also avoided the normal pitfalls that comes with epic storytelling, first by keeping Dominic fairly low-powered (at least compared to his foes). Indeed, even “mundane” humans such as the thieves Bumper and Stunt have gotten the better of Dominic in the past (though it’s rare).
It’s more than likely that Dominic Deegan will continue along a fairly unpredictable path. I’m unsure if Dominic will start wandering again or if he and Luna will settle down to teach at his mother’s school, but in either case I’m sure Michael will find some truly inventive adventures for fans to enjoy.
Robert A. Howard
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