GUEST REVIEW: Shorthand Reviewed by James Robinson

ShorthandToday we welcome a guest reviewer: James Robinson, a writer best known for his work at DC Comics with Starman in the 1990s and most recently on The Shade and the upcoming Justice Society of America.

 The subject of Mr. Robinson’s review is Shorthand, a independent comic, written by Jason McNamara (The Martian Confederacy) and illustrated by Rahsan Ekedal (Echoes), that recently debuted at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. 



Monday, and with no writing job that needs to be done I’ll instead write something for my own pleasure, in this instance a review of the fine comic Shorthand by Jason McNamara and Rahsan Ekedal that I had to good fortune to pick up the other week.

I should preface what I’m about to write by admitting that for some reason I’m gripped with a vague feeling of unease about everything today.  This coupled with a good dollop of ennui and what may be the beginnings of stomach flu.  If this makes my review read a little off, apologies ahead of time.  Although honestly I’m not sure what “off” really constitutes.  I’m reminded of a friend I have, terrible hypochondriac, who upon feeling ill, immediately begins examining his own fecal stools for signs of things not being right.  In that regard he reminds of Nicholas Dyer, the protagonist of Peter Ackroyd’s novel Hawksmoor, in that not only will he inspect his own excrement, but like Dyer seems compelled to relate his discoveries to anyone who’ll listen.  He’ll also comment, again like Dyer, on the state of his gasses and general feelings of bloat.  Then in the course of his day he’ll blame everything from the state of his driving to failures at girl wooing to burned cooking to dressing with a decided lack of élan…upon the smell of his effluvia and color and consistency of what he finds in the toilet bowl.  And in such adverse cases he too used the word “off”, that “things are off” but as with me today, lacks clarity or some sense of a gauge as to what “off” actually means.

Anyway, long-winded and slightly vile sidebar out of the way let me proceed.

So, so, so…

Jason and Rahsan’s comic is quite simply wonderful. In fact I’m somewhat in awe of how clever and well told the comic is.  The problem with reviewing it, unfortunately, is that if I reveal very much of the plot, I risk ruining a wonderful twist in the tale, so I’m going to have to write this carefully for fear I’ll give things away.  Shorthand is a detective comic, with the mystery element of the comic, cleanly and very elegantly told, which is a real art with crime/mystery comics in that they can get bogged down with too many details, sometimes before the writer even realizes it.  In Jason’s case however no such crime against the reader has been committed and the story glides along at a smooth, elegant, perfect pace.

Shorthand - Page 7The tale also has wonderful humor stemming from both the situation and the dialogue, which is beautifully handled.  There’s real wit in this comic, the fun off-set by a slightly tragic aspect to the main character and the overall scenario that gives the book a nice amount of weight and stops the tale from seeming lightweight or trivial.  The last page especially is sad and beautiful both.  And that’s about all I can say without ruining it for you.

I will say that as a writer Jason is building a wonderful body of work (including the Xeric Award winning Full Moon).  In this he’s gone the route of small press and self-publishing, although I won’t be surprised if he’s discovered by the bigger companies soon.  His work is definitely worth taking the time to find, and Shorthand is a fine example of what the guy can do.

Artistically Shorthand is a treat too, with Rahsan’s art a beautiful blend of line and grey wash.  Without intending to be mean-spirited and I have to say the downside of many self-published comics is that the art is often lacking.  We enjoy the story, but sometimes have to make allowances for the standard of art in that “at least the artist is trying”, “at least he/she is getting their work out there”.  (You all know what I’m talking about.  Come on, don’t make me into the bad guy.)  Anyway in Rahsan’s case, those thoughts never come to mind.  His abilities are more than evident; with a style that reminds me a little of Scott Hampton in that it has a similar flow and grace to it derived from the grey wash.  And his abilities to capture Shorthand’s sad plight through the character’s facial expressions is a joy to behold (albeit a bittersweet one.)  (I note that Rahsan has, since drawing Shorthand, gone on to work for Dark Horse, Top Cow and Vertigo.  Bravo for him, he absolutely deserves the opportunities his work is getting him.)

Like I say, I’m loath to say too much about the comic, it would be crime to ruin the plot for you.  But do, please, find the comic and enjoy the work of these two talented creators with their fantastic character Shorthand who I hope gets the sequel he certainly deserves.

– James Robinson

We’d like to thank James Robinson for the guest review of Shorthand.  If you’re interested in getting a copy of Shorthand, you can get in touch with Jason McNamara at his website, or Rahsan Ekedal at his website,


  1. Sounds pretty interesting.

    Plus, if this comic writing malarkey doesn’t work out for Robinson, it’s good to know he has reviewing to fall back on. 😉

  2. I won’t lie, this review made my day, if not the month. Robinson’s run on Star Man is one of the reason’s I write comics. Rahsan and I love this book and we’re are working hard to make sure it can be seen by a wider audience. Thank you so much James for the taking the time to share your thoughts on the book.