Digtal Story Critique week 4 – Failing Sky

For my digital story critique this week I want to continue to dissect web comics highlighted in NPR’s A Sampler Of Web Comics To Keep You Clicking. To keep create consistency in my critiques I am going to use the same three criteria:

  • Storyfirefighter headshot
  • Flow, Organization, and Pacing (FOP)
  • Media Applicaion

I am hoping to develop a pool of digital comic critiques that when analyzed will shed light on but new trends emerging for the paradigm shift of comic to digital comics. Specifically how are the physics of the virtual word harnessed to create an engaging frame for the story that is being told and how are story and digital storytelling tools integrated. 

The second web comic I chose from the NPS piece was Dax Tran-Caffee’s Failing Sky. I read the first installment of this weekly web comic and was very impressed. This is a beautifully rendered piece of art, with a mysterious and compelling story, that is reflected in the sometimes confusing but intriguing navigation of the comic thought the infinite digital canvas. 


Tran-Caffee’s story seems innocent and inviting but has a mysterious or forbearing undertone that was unsettling for me. These underlying therms gave the beautiful art an intangible depth and drew me deeper into the story. I am jazzed to continue reading Failing Sky and discovering more of the world Tran-Caffee has created. 

Flow, Organization and Pacing

The FOP of the drawn Failing Sky comic provides amazing support for the pace and tempo of this comic. Tran-Caffee masterfully uses the infinite canvas, discussed by Scott McCloud (who I have discussed in blogs here and here, to harness the virtual world his comic exists in. 
The technical rendering of this exemplary digital comic, however, detracts for the overall flow of the comic and creates a risk of, in my opinion, Failing Sky losing viewers attention. Between each of the pages for Failing Sky I experienced extended loading times that, if I were casually browsing, I would have probably moved on. Especially because Failing Sky eases into the story with some ambiguous pages right off the bat, rather than a knockout attention grabber on the first page. I would suggest investing in ways to upgrade the platform that is delivering this AMAZING story to put it in front of the eyes of viewers in the most seamless way possible.

Media Application

In Failing Sky Tran-Caffee seamlessly weaves his beautiful art and lettering with a infinite canvas in the virtual world. The drawings look like pages from a sketch book. The heavy grain of the paper gives the story a comforting feel of a memory, fleeting but full of information – like a sketch. The infinite canvas is used to highlight significant or turning points in the plot by altering the ‘physical’ direction of the narrative flow in the virtual world or crating large panels that need to be explored in order to find clues about the story. 
The technical rendering of this digital story could be harnessed to create a more worthy platform for this beautiful art. Beyond long loading times that interrupt the flow of the story the website for Failing Sky feels out-dated and does not reflect the cutting edge ideas that are embodied in the presentation of this comic. Also this digital comic is not accessible on tables which is a crying shame because the virtual canvas Failing Sky is drawn on would be ideal to scroll and investigate through touch screen accessibility, giving the viewer a tactical connection to this digital masterpiece. 

4 thoughts on “Digtal Story Critique week 4 – Failing Sky

  1. I was hooked into the image quality but the constant changes in the sizing of the cells from page to page was incredibly distracting. Even looking at it with 25 inch iMac monitor required a lot of scrolling and shifting. I imagine viewing this on a smaller monitor on a computer with less memory and a slow processor could be very frustrating. Still, the minimal character exposition drew me into the story and got me to move onto the next images.


  2. This was cool. I just bookmarked the original NPR article for free time enjoyment. I’m glad you introduced the infinite canvas aspect in a previous post and then shared a story using it this time. As someone who is unfamiliar with modern comics, I was able to understand what this was and just how it made this one more appealing and allowed the artwork to really sell itself.


  3. Hi Darren,

    Great critique on a beautiful piece! I have to be honest, the only comic-like thing I’ve ever read was a graphic novel titled Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (which was amazing by the way) and I don’t know if I’ve ever truly appreciated a piece of work like this. The artwork is absolutely phenomenal and I love how it was presented. I actually didn’t have any problems with loading at all and I love that when I clicked incorrectly to navigate, a little window popped up telling me what to do. I can definitely see though how having to wait for the images to load would frustrate me and potentially make me abandon the piece.

    I think that your critique is well done and I really like this insight – “The infinite canvas is used to highlight significant or turning points in the plot by altering the ‘physical’ direction of the narrative flow in the virtual world or crating large panels that need to be explored in order to find clues about the story.” I might have to expand my literature/artwork horizons to include more works like this. 🙂


    1. Thanks for the reply. I loved Persepolis, novels like that are how I bridged reading superhero comics for the action to understanding graphic novels as a multi-sensory approach to literacy. If you loved Persepolis make sure to check out Persepolis vol 2 or The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar.


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