One Punch Reviews #12: Crazy Buffet
Contrary to what the title would have you believe, the comic isn’t about a filthy rich stock market investor gone mad with power. Rather, this comic covers ground that many have trod in the past and will tread in the future: video games. So you gotta ask yourself, why should I give a crap about John Pading’s Crazy Buffet?
We could very well make Crazy Buffet a case study in video game webcomics. It’s weird how all of them end up covering the exact same things, isn’t it? They always reach from the same bucket of references and do send-ups Mario, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Halo, and Portal; yet, for some reason, no one ever references other popular franchises like SSX, Sly Cooper, Lego Star Wars, and Civilization. They all make do with excess gore and brutal violence that’s all wacky and stuff. And you know there’s going to be a slam against Jack Thompson somewhere. So if you’re John Pading, what do you do to make Crazy Buffet stand out?
Act your age, for one. Pading is an old school gamer, and — in a world dominated by young whipper-snappers who think making drug references about the Mushroom Kingdom is the pinnacle of humor — he’s not afraid to show it. The recurring cast is anchored by a chain-smoking girl gamer named Natalie. She initially appears in Crazy Buffet looking, regrettably, like a Bratz doll. As the comic switches gears from a sitcom about roommates who game into a series of game-related non-sequiturs, Natalie morphs into someone more jaded and sarcastic. She fumbles around with the newfangled game devices and gets burned by younger players. It isn’t clear what her role in life is (game developer? professional critic? total slacker?), but she and her friends tend to hang around with a decidedly more mature crowd, namely gaming company presidents and their sycophants. Some of the references are industry in-jokes, and they might go over the heads of folks who don’t rely on gaming magazines for news. Even if you don’t know who Jade Raymond is, though, Pading, like a patient dad, elaborates a bit in his blog to help you out.
Overall, Crazy Buffet‘s gags also seem far more subtle than its contemporaries. There are times I had to think for a beat before the punchline hit me … but when it did, it never failed to amuse. Padding gets more hits than misses, so I can forgive him for making the comic pun-heavy at times. In preparation for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a recent run saw Indiana Jones in ridiculous game-related situations. God help me, but I chuckled at simple elegance of Short Round’s “No time for R.O.B., Dr. Jones!”
I just wish Crazy Buffet was easier to find. Google “crazy buffet,” and the first five results are for Asian restaurants. And the first link pertaining to the webcomic doesn’t even go to the current comic, but rather to the less aesthetically pleasing Season 1 comics in the archive. (A shame, since the current art is very polished and very attractive.) Worst of all, Crazy Buffet doesn’t even have a dedicated site: it’s hosted on John Pading’s blog, which is buried deep within a website dedicated to video games.
Then again, the website in question is 1up.com. According to the compete.com site, 1up.com got 700K readers last month. Compare that to xkcd.com, currently the most read webcomic in the world, which attracted only 400K readers. Pading may have a far more feasible marketing and distribution strategy than I give him credit for.
In conclusion, is John Pading’s Crazy Buffet better than a similarly titled comic following the outlandish, world-spanning adventures of a man known as “The Oracle of Omaha”? No way, man. That’s comic perfection right there. But, hey, super bonus points for doing a comic featuring Morpheus and Death.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)