Crowdfunding Review: “Ninety Four” Volume 1 by Shelby Robertson

Today we’ll be reviewing the crowdfunded comic book Ninety Four Volume 1 by Shelby Robertson.  For those of you not familiar with my review format, I grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:

  • Book Content and Quality
  • Communication and Fulfillment
  • Packaging and Shipping
  • Stretch Goals and Bonuses

With Ninety Four Volume 1, I backed the Volume 1 Graphic Novel tier at $25.  This campaign was exclusive to Indiegogo.  Are you curious to learn whether Ninety Four evoked the era of the comic book boom, grunge music and flannel?  Read on to find out!

Book Content and Quality

Ninety Four was created, written and illustrated by Shelby Robertson, with colors by Steven Oaks, Jesse Heagy and Shelby Robertson, and letters by MJR and Shelby Robertson.  This book was a 94-page reprint of the original Ninety Four three-issue series in a single trade paperback.

Ninety Four follows the story of three time-traveling assassins, Ragetality, Slamm and Clinton.  These assassins are sent back in time to eliminate targets that pose a threat to future in some way.  The story is very tongue-in-cheek, so don’t think of this as a Terminator rip-off.  No, these assassins go back in time to assassinate the lawmaker that passed the law mandating dental implants for infants. 

This book is definitely meant to be comedic.  Numerous tropes are explored throughout, and there are definitely several juvenile jokes driven into the ground.  What makes the book actually work is that it takes itself seriously, all while being completely ridiculous.  It reminds me a lot of the movie Airplane.  It’s a spoof comedy, but the characters play it straight, which is what makes it all work. 

I pledged to the basic Volume 1 graphic novel

When I read a comic book, I don’t put an emphasis on any one category in the creative process.  I often hear the argument of what is more important, the writer or the artist.  My stance is that each aspect is equally important: Writer, Penciller, Inker, Colorist, Letterer, and Editor.  If any aspect of the creative process fails, the entire book suffers. 

The story was interesting enough to keep the pages turning, and the jokes and references caused me to smile from ear to ear, and even laugh out loud a few times.  The artwork was the star of the show.  Shelby Robertson was definitely inspired by the 1990s. In Ninety Four, it’s the lettering and editing that were most lacking. 

There were numerous lettering mistakes throughout the book, and it’s something I believe most editors should have caught.  There were typos, misspellings, and some of the strangest dialogue bubble placements I’ve seen.  On more than one occasion, I realized that I had read the dialogue out of order only when I was done reading the entire panel.  One of the most common mistakes in the book was the improper use of the crossbars on the letter I, which should only be used for the personal pronoun, or in acronyms (like, I.R.S.).

The quality of the book was excellent. The colors popped off of the page. The cover was slick and bright, and it came signed by Shelby Robertson, as well.  My only complaint was that on the “sideways” issue, some of the dialogue boxes were so close to the center binding that it made the dialogue difficult to read.  Still, that’s a small complaint.  Overall, the book quality was excellent.  Unfortunately, the book did suffer from the editing and lettering mistakes detailed above.

Grade: B-

Communication and Fulfillment

I pledged to this campaign in December 2020 during the final day funding of the live 60-day campaign, and the book was delivered in January 2021.  That’s a one-month (!) turnaround time from the closing of the live campaign to delivery.  It was actually two months earlier than the projected fulfillment date.  I’ve been supporting crowdfunding campaigns for close to four years now, and I’ve never had a campaign fulfill this quickly. 

The creator posted a few updates throughout the campaign’s funding period, and kept backers aware of the project status once the campaign closed. There really wasn’t much time to post too many updates as fulfillment was completed so quickly.  This is the finest fulfillment I’ve ever experienced in any crowdfunding campaign ever. 

This double-page spread from Ninety Four really showcases Shelby’s art

Grade: A+

Packaging and Shipping

I saw an update that items were being shipped.  I received an email providing me a tracking number and method of shipping, so I could track my package.  Also, my items were shipped USPS Priority Mail, the premiere shipping option of the USPS!

My trade paperback was bagged and boarded, the print was bagged and boarded, and the ashcan and cards were each in custom appropriately sized bags as well.  Everything was then wrapped together in an even larger custom bag.  This attention to detail not only prevents items from sliding and damaging corners in transit, but also any potential moisture damage.  It should go without saying that my items arrived in mint condition.  Factoring in the security of the packaging, the care in which everything was packed, the upgrade to Priority Mail, and being provided a tracking number in advance, I must once again assign the highest grade possible in this category.    

The Gemini mailer is the Cadillac of comic book mailers

Grade: A+

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

This campaign unlocked a nice assortment of bonus items for backers, that included:

  • A 12-page ashcan comic
  • A mini-print
  • 2 stickers
  • 4 trading cards

Each of the bonus items were of exceptional quality.  The print was sturdy and slick.  The ashcan had a high-quality cover, with standard interior pages.  The trading cards were traditional size, and the stickers were a nice touch.  The bonus items all fit with the campaign, and my guess is that backers will have a different favorite item.  For me, it was the ashcan.  It was a nice little preview of the next planned installment in the Ninety Four franchise, Ragetality’s War.  It’s bonus items like these that make crowdfunding fun.

An incredible assortment of bonus items were included with my order

Grade: A

I was very pleased with this campaign.  I’ve only ever once graded a crowdfunding campaign this highly overall.  I know a lot of folks are going to focus on some of my more negative comments, which is unfortunate. The best compliment I can give Ninety Four is that I will definitely be backing the next book.  Shelby Robertson clearly cares about his backers and his reputation for fulfillment.  If he wants to be known as someone that fulfills quickly and provides value, I can tell you with certainty that he did both of those things and then some. 

My order of the basic tier came with everything pictured for $25

Overall Grade: A-

Note: George Travlos (the author of this review) recently had an in-depth conversation about Ninety-Four during a YouTube livestream hosted by Leroi. You can check it out their thoughts below, or visit Leroi’s full YouTube channel here.

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