[box cover]

Broken Saints

Here's a new one for you — a groundbreaking, semi-animated Web comic enshrined on DVD with behind-the-scenes extras. We're living in a new world of technological cross-pollination, kids, so an Internet project repackaged as a DVD set is just a hint of what the future has to offer. In essence, Broken Saints is a 12-hour-long graphic novel, a sad, dark and lovely tale of four strangers scattered across the globe who receive startling visions connected, somehow, to an apocalyptic future event. The Stephen King-meets-The Matrix rambling story follows the individual journeys of each character — Shandala, a white girl raised by Fijian islanders, an Iraqi mercenary, a Shinto priest, and an American software designer — as they move inexorably toward a showdown with a mysterious cabal. Along the way, themes from literature (Tolkien, Carroll, Alan Moore) and pop culture (Brazil, The Wizard of Oz, The Prisoner) pepper the smaller storylines while the larger plot slowly unravels. It's an interesting project, if only for how it came to be. Written by Brooke Burgess, an executive with Electronic Arts (the video game arm of George Lucas' entertainment empire) after quitting his job and going walkabout in the South Pacific, Broken Saints was an ambitious Internet venture. Using Flash animation to make the static web comic come ever-so-slightly more alive, it was offered free of charge with no commercial advertising on the website. Some 20,000 fans avidly followed the story after it debuted online in 2001, and the creators (which included artist Andrew West and tech-whiz Ian Kirby) struck deals for a computer game tie-in and a grant from Telefilm Canada to re-do the soundtrack and add voices. And yet, they still ran short of money and held concerts to raise the funds needed to get it on DVD. Whether it was worth the effort is arguable — reading Broken Saints as an episodic web comic was one thing, sitting and watching hour after hour of limited animation and slooooooooow wipes between scenes is something of a chore. The artwork is very good if you like that sort of thing, a cross between anime, post-modern comics like that of Frank Miller and Greg Capullo, and the early-1980s "Heavy Metal." But the story takes its sweet time to roll out, with characters musing philosophical at painful length, dragging the pace to a somnambulant slog. For those who were fans of the Internet comic, this is undoubtedly a nice package — not only do you get the comic presented in an absolutely pristine 1.66:1 transfer with updated Dolby 5.1 audio (in either the original stereo or the new soundtrack with voice work by professional actors), but there are also "making-of" featurettes, interviews, an hour-long feature on the benefit concerts, commentary tracks on some chapters, films made by fans, and DVD-ROM content — five hours of bonus material in all. If, however, you're not a fan of the original Web comic, you may find Broken Saints something of a snooze.
—Dawn Taylor

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