The Webcomic Overlook #84: Let’s Be Friends Again
If you’re reading this site, chances are that you’re a geek. And not just any geek. You are the King Geek of them all: the comic book geek.
You download podcasts of iFanboy even though you know you’ll never get around to reading everything mentioned on the show. You listen to Ookla The Mok unironically. You will put down good money for a Sinestro shirt despite the fact that it actually accentuates the profound curvature of your carb-filled belly. You rolled your eyes and sighed when you first heard the news that Marvel was “killing” Captain America. You hang around internet message boards debating the pros and cons of Frank Quitely’s artwork, then waiting patiently for someone to respond in an equally confrontational manner. Scratch that … you create photoshopped parodies of comic plots for fun… because nothing’s better than swapping words from the Mid-Niter.
You look down on self-proclaimed geeks who have no idea what “Ultimatum” is.
When it comes to superhero humor, most webcomic writers settle for what I call “the bad comedian’s handbook.” Batman and Robin are gay, Aquaman is lame, Superman is a dick, blah blah blah blah blah. It’s not that these jokes can’t be done right, it’s just that they’ve been run so deep into the ground that we can expect someone to wreak revenge on the surfaceworlders. TV Funhouse pretty much closed the book on the traditional superhero jokes. Why’s everyone so eager to dig ‘em up again?
Us comic book geeks, we need the hard stuff. But not so obscure that we have to dig up our Marvel Handbooks and DC Who’s Who binders. This is where Let’s Be Friends Again comes in, a webcomic for readers who’ve already seen every Wonder Twin joke ever made and are clamoring for something new.
The webcomic follows the two creaters, writer Curt Franklin and artist Chris Haley. This set-up will probably remind a lot of people about Penny Arcade: two man-children indulging in hobbies they should’ve outgrown a decade ago. However, that’s pretty much become the standard set-up in webcomics these days, and much like TV sitcoms I’m willing to forgive the formula as long as the final product can make me laugh. I just wish it didn’t take me so long to figure out who was Chris (the blonde one) and who was Curt (the not blonde one). (Correction: this statement is wrong and the reverse is true. One more mistake like that, and it’s off to the floggings!)
These two brosephs are on a never-ending quest to break into a comic industry. The early strips set the pace: the boys discuss their terrible storylines and a parody shapes up. If I learned anything from these comics, its that ripping off the Twilight Zone is never a good idea. In case you haven’t caught on, they’re the “friends” in the title, though their bromance has had its share of ups and downs. But eventually they patch it up, and it’s back to formulating new storylines, a twist of fate that will likely follow those two until they’re old and gray.
Let’s Be Friends Again is best read with a level a geekiness that goes beyond the surface knowledge required to truly enjoy a good episode of The Big Bang Theory. You’re going to need a minor in Evan Dorkinology. In an older review, I criticized Deleted Scenes (reviewed here) for retreading a tired old gag about how Green Lantern is susceptible to the color yellow. Yawn. With Let’s Be Friends Again, the joke almost requires that you be familiar with the whole Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night saga, a contiguous storyline that’s only been brewing since last year. If there’s anything that a comic geek appreciates, it’s references to recent plotlines.
However, even if you don’t have a degree in dorkology, the comic can still elicit laughs. For example, you don’t have to know the particulars of Batman getting blown away by the Omega Beam to appreciate the Daffy Duck homage.
And it’s not all obscure. While being rather long on the explanation, Curt and Chris do get their licks in on the cheap marketing stunt that comic companies have been pulling recently by sticking President Obama in a comic book. And you don’t need any background at all to watch Batman and Spider-Man act like bratty children.
Curt and Chris also love to delve into hip-hop culture, which I haven’t seen in comics since Crazy Buffet (reviewed here). Can you ever go wrong with showing President Obama visiting the 36th Chamber? Hell no. ODB also shows up later to prove that, indeed, he would’ve made an awesome James Bond. (Correction: Actually, reader Dylan has pointed out to me that this is RZA, not ODB. Not only has my lack of Shaolin Style been exposed, I am now also eligible for all-day floggings.) There’s also a 2Pac joke in here too, but since I’m totally lost beyond “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” and “California Love,” I leave it up to you hip-hop aficionados to determine whether or not the joke is on 2Pac himself or whether the humor is derived from two honkies making an ironic, white-bread play at rap humor. You know what I’m sayin’, son?
The boys do tend to go off the deep end sometimes. The Keanes in the Family Circus operating a torture dungeon? Eh, trying too hard. Some long text passages in two separate strips about the Left 4 Dead video games? Having never played the games, perhaps I just don’t get the reference. Unlike the earlier strips I mentioned, though, I think familiarity with the source material is necessary to understand these jokes, which is a minus to me.
The art is a one of Let’s Be Friends Again‘s greatest strengths. Sometimes, half the joke is catching whatever images Chris Haley threw in the panels. I’m sure everyone and their brother has done a joke about Comic Sans, but throwing in a jab at Rob Liefeld’s much mocked Captain America drawing to up the ante? Priceless. However, I will say something that’s probably been on your minds: it does look a lot like a wackier Rob & Elliot.
Another plus for Let’s Be Friends Again: the jokes are almost always unexpected. Mashing up Lost with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Inspired. And I like what he did with Watchmen: two strips with the tiniest of changes. The punchline works because it’s so understated.
Sure, there are a few groanworthy strips here and there, but which webcomic writer hasn’t had off days? The genuinely funny ones always contained that subversive, stupidly hilarious element that had me laughing out loud. Sure, mileage varies depending on thick your neckbeard is. But it fills its niche nicely. Video game nerds have, in Brad Guigar-speak, their insider baseball humor with their Penny Arcades and VG Cats and Dueling Analogs and Awkward Zombies. But insider comics humor? That’s deserving of a Marvel No Prize.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)