by Michael Haislip
At first glance, the online graphic novel Broken Saints appears to be a labyrinthine exercise in Matrix-esque philosophy, Eastern religion fetishism and populist anti-commercialism. However, hidden within the slick manga-style artwork and cryptic dialogue is a vortex of a story that sucks you in, clobbers your sense of time and space and chucks you out on a distant shore, slightly bruised yet better for having taken the journey.
Saints tells the story of four strangers from four different countries. After suffering terrifying visions dominated by a giant red eye, each sets out to discover the visions’ meaning and uncover a global plot that rivals The X-Files story arc in terms of audacity. We’re talking disenfranchised computer hackers, psychic scantily-clad island girls, space-based weapons platforms and a military-industrial complex that just doesn’t know when to quit.
Expect to invest at least 12 hours in the sprawling plot. The Saints story arc weaves across 24 multi-act chapters, with the final chapter alone spanning forty minutes of gorgeous artwork, religious symbolism and a moving musical score by Tobias Tinker.
The sheer amount of artwork within each chapter boggles the mind. I can barely draw a stick figure, yet the Saints staff filled 24 chapters with ornate characters and majestic landscapes. The interstitial animations that precede each chapter are often stunning and sometimes disturbing in their paranoia.
Saints has reaped numerous awards, most notably the Audience Award for Online Animation at the prestigious Sundance Fim Festival. The creators are parlaying their success into a multimedia blitz. A Saints video game is in the works, and the complete series on DVD ships in 2004.
Michael Haislip is the editor of AntiMuse.
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