Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any good story is a strong background foundation to build upon. Many of my own stories utilize significant back-story from which characters grow and plots expand upon. However, back-story can also be the bane to a well-told story as there is the temptation to dig up that foundation and show it to everyone around. Unfortunately, by unearthing this foundation, it weakens the actual structure of the story itself (unless of course it’s published separately from the story – the Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are perhaps a good example of this). This weakening can be found in the nihilistic science fiction story The Broken Mirror, which focuses on several individuals who suffer considerable misfortune and end up turning to a virtual reality world called Domino to escape their woes.
The problem with TBM is that over a hundred pages are used in telling the back-story of Galen Gray and Xara Watson, and another 14 pages set years in the future… hinting at just how horrific things get for our protagonists even once they try to escape their lives. While dystopian storytelling is no stranger to webcomics (and indeed to science fiction in general), the childhoods of Galen and Xara are presented in painstaking detail, with Galen suffering from emotionally abusive parents determined to squash his dreams, and Xara from the illness of a beloved older sister. The question is, of course, what is TBM about? Is it the story of Galen, Xara, and other characters we’ve only barely been introduced to? Or is it the story of this virtual world, and the effect it has on these wayward dreamers trying to escape an overly harsh reality?
I’ve mixed emotions about the story. While its dark beginning leaves no real doubt as to the eventual end of the comic (and in turn doesn’t lead to false expectations as to the story itself), did we need to see every aspect of Galen and Xara’s life up until now? Might this not have been something better left through judicious use of flashbacks to give us hints of just how bad Galen had it in the real world, and of the gaping emotional wound that Xara has suffered? Fortunately, while the story content itself is depressing, the story is told fairly well and the artistry is clean and the coloring… well, let’s just say that if I hadn’t read that the artist, Jarkko Juhani, used Photoshop for his art, I’d have thought it colored by hand. Despite the flaws of excessive back-story and depressing storyline, TBM looks to be a story worth reading, and one I’ll check monthly to see what progress has been made.