Review - Cogs and Claws

"The Animaloid galaxy. Myriad worlds. Myriad lifeforms."

When animals fight, it makes for an interesting watch on channels like National Geographic. When animals fight in space, it could still make for an interesting watch on National Geographic. That is, assuming the channel can capture the full scope of animals waging war across the galaxy, as they do in Cogs and Claws from Markosia Entertainment. The graphic novel is written by Jimmy Pearson and illustrated by Brian 'Clank' Bennett.

A galaxy of myriad planets and life forms. Enter a spacescape populated by the most extraordinary menagerie of creatures and cultures imaginable. Those creatures are threatened by a new enemy that forces uneasy alliances to be forged to stave off defeat. Mix in dinosaurs, a little girl and a scientist and the stage is set for some pretty crazy scenarios to play out in the far reaches of space.

It's pretty clear from the start that Pearson and Bennett are aiming for a sweeping epic in Cogs and Claws. Anthropomorphizing that conflict adds an interesting twist, as it provides a fresh take on the more or less sides present in a far-reaching war. By the end of the book there's a pretty clear antagonist, but everywhere in between is a little more muddled. Pearson's script is interrupted by sketches and designs throughout, which look great but really break up the narrative flow of the story itself. Additionally, the actual stakes of the war aren't really made abundantly clear, as it appears the sides are fighting one another for the mere sake of fighting. This lack of clarity could be attributed to the aforementioned narrative breaks, to be honest.

From an artistic standpoint, many of the pages boast some rather intricately illustrated characters and models. Bennett's art eschews color for black and white, which makes some of the action a little difficult to make out. Much of the book's art is so densely packed in on a page that it often takes a few scans to fully take in everything that's going on. There are some pin-ups scattered throughout that look pretty sharp, doing a great job of portraying living creatures in soulless mechs and nailing the dichotomy between the two forms. Some of the renderings of animal-inspired mechs are also very well-done, again blending the two seemingly disparate body styles rather successfully.

Cogs and Claws is very ambitiuos; so much so that it feels like it's trying to do too much. The grandiose stage set for the massive, intergalactic war is impressive, but bringing all corners of that galaxy into the fold may be a little much. Pearson's script is paced somewhat erratically, never really finding itself in a comfortable flow. Bennett's art is impressive, but the lack of colors prevents the reader from realizing a more complete emotional investment in the stakes of the characters. Cogs and Claws aspires to be a grand space opera and it could very well end up there, but it has to focus the narrative a bit more to give the reader something to grab onto in the plot.

Cogs and Claws is available here.