Review: 'Cruelty', by Rukis
Cruelty is a comic by Rukis, published by FurPlanet in June 2010. Centered around two life-long friends, Reis and Marcus, it details their lives when things become complicated, both for their friendship and in their own lives.
This comic has similarities to Dog's Days of Summer by Blotch; starting out as a webcomic updated helter-skelter on Fur Affinity, it ended on a cliffhanger with an outcome determined by readers, before being put up for sale. Akin to those old chose-your-own-adventure books, you decided whether to commit Reis and Marcus to the chance of a more intimate relationship or have them remain friends.
The illusion of choice
The first facet I want to discuss is that plot point; Rukis has pre-stated that the overall outcome of this (major) plot point will not affect the planned sequel Unconditional since, to quote the author:
. . . because ultimately, how something sexual affects the way you all see the characters. . . is derived by YOU. . . not me.
This is something I have a big issue with; in fact, I have a big beef when it comes to how the choice system was handled here. It’s convenient to have both choices within the same book, but the lack of consequence from making a choice deadens the impact of an essential plot point. A crucial moment in each character’s life and it can switch back and forth to suit your choosing. My own decision had no bias in terms of sex or anything base but instead was centered on the hints and clues I had picked up on from, up till this point, an albeit simplistic but well-done story of two people showing signs of a possible next step in a relationship. Cheapening such a big decision diminishes the whole experience; you feel short-changed on a story that steeped itself in some pretty serious life issues, just so it can cause more conflict later down the road.
The problem with how she handled this is that she had already fixed down the plot for the second book before these choices were presented. It means the choice of Reis and Marcus to take their friendships to a personal and intimate level is wholly existential and secondary in plot terms. This makes this whole point somewhat redundant if the choice itself, the plot decision the book builds up to is redundant. A story is a journey the writer has us follow, wholly observers to a world someone else has made. It’s their duty to make us care; make us project relevant material of our own lives into the story through the desire to relate with the characters. And this sort of story, dealing with high school pressures and real life issues is very relatable. Negating the realization that you're gay – or the choice to be in a gay relationship – is such wasted potential.
Art and storyline
The quirks of the art direction are thankfully much more minimal. Simple beginner mistakes are to be found; the placement and layout of panels needs refinement. I found myself mislead several times by the panel’s angels and the words hinting at the wrong panel. However, this is her first attempt at comics and she already has incorporated a few fixes into other ongoing projects. Furthermore, the issues never deliver any sort of whiplash in terms of severity – they break the immersion at times, but it’s at worst a minor frustration.
The part I find off-putting is the use of monochromatic penciling for the interior of the comic. While I admit it’s based more in personal preference, I just find the light shades too flat to work effectively; it only seems to work when she brings in darker tonal ranges for a few pages. Her current project Red Lantern has each page colored along with the pencil foundation, and this seems much more pleasing and effective than when left in pencil form; but again, preference. It’s good enough for a first foray into graphic form and its fair to assume it will only improve in future projects.
The story breaks down into a familiar retread of high school pressures, but takes a nicely set-up adult route, involving drugs and abuse. While these are nothing new or original, she sticks by the plot points, offering no quick short-cuts for a happy ending, nor down-playing elements of danger for the sake of plot or convenience. A lot of the elements play into ‘wait till the next book’ shortcoming, but with enough resolution that you’re not obliged to wait impatiently for the sequel to discover vital plot points just left up in the air. There is intrigue for the next book. It peaks at 43 pages, so about average and has a small book feel to it so you don’t finish expecting more, surprised by its shortness.
Is it worth a buy? Its a $14.00 price tag that depends on your fancies. It reads like a decently constructed romance novel without most of the clichés and there is promise for the second book, so you could do a whole lot worse. You could also do better though, so if this is an iffy buy for you than I would read the pages on FA first and make a decision based on those. Its flaws keep it from being great, and the mistakes one makes entering comics for the first time are apparent in some facets of the book, but it still reads well, the characters have certain amount of life to them and fans of romance will enjoy it overall.
Cruelty can be purchased on FurPlanet. Its sequel, Unconditional, has a tentative release date of sometime 2012.
The writer finds time to enjoy the flowers between writing, taking photographs and waking up early to haul party favors to Pennsylvania. He can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (516) 603-6842.