One of the comics I picked up at Stumptown was Lotus Root Children, by Wei Li.
Li told me that he was inspired by the documentary “China’s Stolen Children.” As you might expect, the approximately 50 page comic tells a sad story, but Li tells it very well. The main character is a child trafficker. She doesn’t personally steal the children; she takes care of the children between when they are kidnapped and when buyers for the children are found. During this time, she mothers the children, with genuine affection, and also brainwashes them to forget their prior lives. The character was believable and — despite what we learn about her in the course of the comic — likable, although I wanted to know more about her and her background. How did her life reach this point?
Li’s artwork is nice; he uses very lively brushstrokes both for the linework and for the coloring, which I enjoyed. The underlying drawing isn’t always assured — the anatomy seems a bit shaky sometimes – but it’s good, and I’m sure it’ll get better as Li goes on. (His new project, The Old Woman, looks great — you can see preview artwork for it here). The layout approach is also a little inconsistent; early on, Li plays around a little with breaking up a three-tiers-per-page layout, while in the last half of the book he hardly ever strays from it, and I don’t see any story-based reason for the change in approach.
But I’m nit-picking. The art is very well-done and shows potential to get a lot better, and the writing is ambitious and interesting. Li is definitely someone who believes comics can be more than fight scenes, and I’ll be looking for more of Li’s comics at future cons.
I do have one actual complaint, which is that the paper version of Lotus Root Children is in gray tones that are rather muddy. Later on, I checked it out online — and discovered that the art was drawn in color, with rich blues popping the characters out of greenish graywash backgrounds. It looks twice as good with the colors. So while I’d hate to deprive Li of sales, I’d recommend reading Lotus Root Children online instead of buying the comic.