By Shari Chankhamma
152 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing
The Sisters’ Luck is the sort of graphic novel that has a great and relatively simple concept. A pair of twin sisters where each half has a linked power; one takes good luck from people, the other gives bad luck to people. When they’re together, nothing happens, but as soon as they’re apart, their abilities manifest. After reading that on the back cover copy, I found myself dying to read the actual story. What I found inside, though, was a bit more than I had bargained for. And that’s not always a good thing.
After Shari Chankhamma brings the initial story concept to life in the forms of twins Umbra and Antumbra, The Sisters’ Luck changes direction so rapidly your head will spin. It starts off with Umbra stealing luck from those around her while Antumbra desperately tries to reunite with Umbra, and childhood rifts between the two that are still unhealed. But from there we get a being who is immune to their powers, and another one trying to use stolen luck to break ancient seals. And that’s not even including motorcycle chases and knife fights.
This is a book that slowly bleeds away its early good will the further into the book you read, unfortunately. Information is held back from characters for no good reason, save that it can be revealed in the last quarter of the book. (When Antumbra asks what’s going on earlier on, she’s told it’s a long story that she won’t understand. That same story is, if course, told towards the end and considering it only takes five pages, it’s hardly long or hard to understand.) Some of the plot logic also doesn’t make sense when you start and really think about it. (If one sister steals good luck, shouldn’t the power to cancel that out be that the other sister gives people good luck, rather than bad luck?) And most importantly, this is a book where the tone shifts from start to finish, promising one sort of story but ultimately delivering a second one. I felt like the victim of a bait-and-switch when it was over, unfortunately.
The one saving grace of The Sisters’ Luck is Chankhamma’s art, which looks to be manga influenced in the same way artists like Colleen Doran have been over the years. Characters have perfectly round eyes and large, thick curls of hair that cascade off their head. It’s not bad, although it falls apart somewhat during the action sequences, which are slightly hard to follow and a bit of a muddle. There’s a slight over-reliance of speed lines in those action sequences, something that is supposed to impart a sense of fast-moving action but just feels like a cheat here. Most frustrating is the niggling feeling that this was a book initially intended to be full color, but ended up shifting to black and white during the production process. One character talks about the blue and red streams of energy, and getting white and black streams instead is hard to ignore. Even some shading would have made a big difference, but instead everything is in stark black and white.
While preparing to write a review of The Sisters’ Luck I came across Chankhamma’s webcomic Pavlov’s Dream (co-written by Kelsie Yoshida) and it’s actually hard to believe that these are by the same person. There’s a beauty and tone in Pavlov’s Dream that works wonderfully, and it makes me wish that The Sisters’ Luck had come across the same way. The Sisters’ Luck ends abruptly, and presumably there’s going to be a sequel at some point, but even then its flat "The End" leaves readers up in the air with an unresolved story that feels like it hit its page count and stopped regardless of where things had gone. This could have been a good comic, but despite its best intentions it feels more like a first draft that never quite comes together.