Shake the Lake and all the images you see in this review are owned by North Air Entertainment
Written by Zach Block and Machi Block
Illustrated by Diego Lopez Mata and Andrea Lopez Mata
If you’re interested in purchasing this digital comic, you can do so on Amazon!
Well THIS is certainly something new! The good people at North Air Entertainment reached out to The Reviewers Unite to see if we were interested in reviewing the first volume of their graphic novel that they just released! I’m very honored that we’ve been given the opportunity to check this out and to give our thoughts on it! Still, despite North Air Entertainment being SUPER cool about doing this, I will always do my best to be honest and convey my true opinion on whatever it is I’m reviewing. So then; is Shake the Lake the start of an interesting independent comic book series, or will this get lost in the endless sea of self-published works flooding the Amazon marketplace? Let’s find out!!
This first volume is here to set up the relationship between our five main characters; Callun, Joe, Jake (also known as Woog), Zach, and… Zach’s little brother. I can’t find a place where they call him by name, so I’m gonna go with Zach Jr. The presumed leader of the group (Callun) is the one we follow throughout the story who seems to be stuck in a rut in his life. He’s partying all the time, doesn’t have a job, and doesn’t have much drive to accomplish anything accept catching mad air on his wakeboard with his friends. All that changes however when he loses the lake house (who knew landlords would be so touchy about loud parties and property damage?) and his girlfriend dumps him. No one else in the crew seems to be doing much better, so the five of them decide to blow this Popsicle Stand and see if Zack and Zack Jr’s uncle Bill in Arizona can give them breezy jobs and a change of scenery. Will they find their purpose in life once they end up in a new place? What challenges will face them and Uncle Bill as the town itself seems to be under siege by a nearby Yacht club? Are these bad enough dudes to surf waves and fight the power!?
I didn’t like this book. Not at all really. Granted, this is only the first volume that’s merely setting things up for future installments, but there’s nothing here that gets me interested to see where this story will ultimately go. In tone and content, I’m reminded of something like We Are Your Friends, but that’s not a very favorable comparison considering how much better that movie handled this kind of subject matter. It’s a similar setup (a bunch of dude-bros refuse to grow up and are trying to party their lives away) but where We Are Your Friends had a likeable cast, a strong sense of style, and an actual point, we’re left with very little here in terms of… well any of that. I’d have to say that the worst of it would be the style as the art they use here is incredibly lifeless and kind of off putting. I really can’t say for certain as I’m not an expert in art or animation, but what it looks like is that they rendered each character using a 3D modeler, and then either traced over that model (would that count as some form of roto-scoping?) or they stuck the model into the panel and then heavily stylized it.
I’ve certainly seen this kind of technique used worse (*cough* Batman 663: The Clown at Midnight *cough*) but I’ve also never seen it done WELL in a comic book. For me, it just clashes with the format. Even if you take REALLY great CG animated still shots like from a Pixar movie or something, they don’t look natural in a format outside of animation. There’s nothing interesting about this style and, especially on the faces, it doesn’t lend itself to any believable drama or emotion which is a HUGE detriment for a story that’s about the characters and probably isn’t gonna have super powers or zombies show up in the next volume.
I will say that this book seems tailor made to be contrary to my interests as it’s about bros who surf and party (three things at the top of my DOES NOT COMPUTE list) and that someone who can relate to these characters and their malaise towards adult life might find something that they like in this. That said, We Are Your Friends was exactly the same way and that managed to get me wrapped up in their lives and what they loved. See, this is where style becomes such an important factor. In We Are Your Friends, everything from the soundtrack and cinematography to the editing techniques and acting on the part of Zac Efron all worked to the end goal of conveying Cole’s love of EDM and being a DJ. For me, it ended up working perfectly in getting me to appreciate what Cole was after and why it was worth trying. Here, the static and uninteresting art style along with the shallow characterization do nothing to bring the audience into what it is they’re doing, and it ends up feeling like we’re observing them rather than going with them on the journey. Hell, I’ll even give a more pertinent example. While the new Point Break movie was absolute garbage, it managed to get across a solid sense of scope and excitement for the extreme sports sequences; something that doesn’t really come across when we see the guys in this book wakeboard. It’s also strange as this may be the first comic I can recall that doesn’t have narration, internal monologues, or thought bubbles which are a great way to get in a character’s head; something this comic desperately needed. A perfect counter-example to show you everything this book is not would be Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. Now it’s probably not fair to compare one of the most well received comics in recent memory to an independent venture, but I’m going somewhere with this. The first issue of Sex Criminals (roughly the same length as this book) is almost ENTIRELY set inside the main character’s head as they go through their entire sexual history with the reader. It’s stylistic (the grown version of Suzie appears alongside her memories of herself), it’s fantastically written, and it has some legitimate heart and poignancy. Now should every book start out with a forty page digression into the character’s psyche? Of course not, but it was fascinating to me how much this book was its opposite. No real sense of style or interesting art. A story that would rather get us from point A to point B as soon as possible rather than tell us why the journey is so important. Impatient to get things going when it should be giving us reasons to care why we’re going somewhere in the first place.
As much as I didn’t connect with anything in the story here, it’s not a terrible read. The story breezes by at a decent enough pace and while the dialogue is nothing special, it’s also knows better than to bog itself down with endless exposition or tedious conversations. Also, while this book gives little indication of where the Yacht Club subplot will be headed, there is potential there for some Stick It To The Man moments that would definitely give this book a bit more flavor. This is a book that REALLY is not for me (I did an aside about Sex Criminals in the middle of this review for crying out loud) so I’m far from what would be the target audience for this. The Amazon page has a preview of the comic so you can check out the first few pages, but honestly I wouldn’t check this one out. Just not my cup of tea.