The Webcomic Overlook #141: Seedless
Let me take a moment, dear reader, to sing the praises of grape seeds. According to the Journal of Medicinal Food, grape seeds contain lipid, protein, carbohydrates, and Alton Brown’s favorite word: “polyphenols.” Grape seed extract contains a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from premature aging, disease, and decay. Extensive research shows that this is due to “its antioxidant effect to bond with collagen, promoting youthful skin, cell health, elasticity, and flexibility.”
Still, many people prefer seedless grapes over the regular kind. Let’s face it: grape seeds are inconvenient. No one likes to spit out grape seeds, after all, because it’s messy and an accidentally chewed grape seed is bitter, somewhat ruining the sweet, delicious flavor.
It turns out grapes don’t need seeds to reproduce. As long as you are not concerned about breeding, you can create new grape vines through cuttings. Commercial cultivators get seedless grapes from three sources, Thompson Seedless, Russian Seedless, and Black Monukka — which, let’s be frank, sounds like a supervillain name.
It’s comforting to know that I am not the only person who thinks about these things. The same thoughts seem to have crossed the sugar-fevered mind of Corey Lewis (or, as he likes to sign his comics, “Coreyyy Lewis”), who seems to have a hidden agenda against the polyphenol-rich goodness of grape seeds. For you see, in his anime-inspired webcomic Seedless, it is the ones with the grape seeds who are cast as supervillians and the seedless grapes who are the heroes.
Apparently, most of Seedless has already been published online. Since the comic has recently been published as a graphic novel by Image this August, though, the online version went through a hard reboot. It’s currently on page 77 of its 128-page run. I’ve seen this happen before, with Drew Weing’s Set to Sea (reviewed here).
Now, I understand the marketing reasons to start over again when the print book appears. However, I think it’s rooted in a fundamental mistrust of the webcomic format to treat the existing online pages as little more than “preview” material. What do you, the readers at home, think?
Back to Seedless. The comic was produced in conjunction with Pink Gorilla, a video game store located in the University District in my hometown of Seattle. From an interview in Newsarama, Mr. Lewis discusses his inspirations:
Nrama: You’ve said you first created the ideas of Seedless back when you were 12. What led you to revisit those ideas for a new comic?
Lewis: I was feeling kind of burned out about what I was surrounded by within comics. Basically, humans. I was tired of humans. [laughs]
I was feeling pretty jaded by the seriousness of comics, etc. I mean, seriousness is great, and I respect it. But I appreciate the formless energy of youth-oriented simpler stories. I stumbled upon drawings of silly grape characters I drew when I was a kid, and was pretty moved. I immediately began drawing new pages of the grape warriors (which is included as a “bonus feature” in the back of the Seedless OGN). Later, my friends at Pink Gorilla and I were talking about doing a weekly webcomic, and Seedless was the one.
He also has described the comic as “Batteries Not Included meets Mega Man.” This should be of no surprise to anyone who has read Seedless or seen his Influence Map, which is filled with a lot of Dragonball, Street Fighter, and 80’s pop culture paraphernalia.
The comic stars Harmony, a young woman who is sort of in the April O’Neil role for these intergalactic, anthropomorphic seedless grapes. One of her main running gags is a Fashion Break, where, for no reason, she switches out clothes for a hot new style. (I really shouldn’t say for “no” reason. The is a somewhat in-canon and sorta spoilery reason why she has such a passion for fashion.) She’s also the daughter of an inventor, which comes in handy when she’s either transporting our Seedless buddies in her apron or providing much needed tactical support.
She runs into our heroes when she’s getting some grapes from the refrigerator for her dad. But — surprise! — it turns out that they’re not eating grapes at all, but nefarious warrior grapes that are definitely NOT to be savored while at a lunch break, on a picnic, or at the dinner table! Fortunately, the Seedless Force come to her aid, and a battle ensues.
The Seedless Force (also called “S-Grapes”) consist of Funky, Pulse, and Dash. Later, Snap joins the fight, making a space-born entrance not unlike how Trunks popped in to save everyone’s bacon on everyone’s favorite episode of Dragonball Z. If you can’t keep these guys straight, that’s alright: I have a hard time picking them apart myself. It may sound racist, but all grapes look the same to me. These guys are all, as you may have guessed, completely seedless. This turns out to be a benefit: without seeds, they have better access to their inner gel, which lets them unleash an Ultimate Firecracker Attack.
The S-Grapes are here to stop an intergalactic villian named Crazy, who’s here on Earth and causing a ruckus. No one seems to notice, though. One of the epic clashes gets passed off as some sort of silly grocery promotion. Throughout, both heroes and villains spout colorful popular-with-kids-these-days catchphrases like “Yeah! My boyz!” and “New powerz rule!” I’m inclined to think that this is a homage/parody of all the hip-speak in 80’s cartoons, but in today’s post-ironic age of New Sincerity, you never know.
Seedless Force manages to notch a victory in their first confrontation with Crazy. However, the war is far from over. Like the shonen-style manga/anime the series takes its inspiration from, the villains only get stronger and stronger as the story goes on. Crazy’s lackey, Fajita, gets a major power-up by becoming Extra Spicy after wandering the roads of the afterlife. New villains — like some Captain Falcon-looking dude and a Tech-Romancer (ha ha… get it? It’s like necro-… never mind) named Vixzen, who has the hots for Harmony — pop up and make things even tougher for our heroes.
It’s all very stream of consciousness: whatever strange little piece of pop cultural ephemera that pops into Corey Lewis’ mind makes it into the comic. An Elec-Cat Sabretooth? Sure, why the hell not? Girls who dress up like bugs AND a Mega-Bat? Did you even have to ask?
All of this is presented with the overeager, ADHD-addled zest of an excitable six-year-old on the high end of a post-Halloween sugar rush. It’s presented in an art style combines Akira Toriyama’s style with some of Kieth Giffen’s less celebrated efforts.
And good Lord does it give you a headache. It only took me six pages to come up with a word that sums up the Seedless-reading experience: exhausting. After a while, you start rubbing your temples because of the throbbing headache you get from how over-the-top and sugary everything is.
The colors are loud, garish, and clashing. Everything is awash in pink and red like the beverage dispensers at the Hot Dog On A Stick stand. Action scenes pop out often and are laid out in unconventional panel arrangements. Fights are stylized, exaggerated, and plentiful, yet the lines are drawn so thin that the characters blend into their epilepsy-inducing backgrounds.
I’d like to stress that I do like the style from a purely aesthetic standpoint. It’s absolutely eyecatching and ridiculously lively, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite like it in webcomics. Plus, it’s adorable. Let’s not forget how cute everything is. However, I’m not certain it works that well from the standpoint of storytelling, even with a plot as purposely paper thin as Seedless.
But you know what else is kind of pretty to look at? A Michael Bay movie. In both cases, I appreciate the bright colors, bounty of action sequences, and the wanton irreverence. Yet at the end of the day I feel like it went a little too long, and suddenly I’m worn out and sorta want to lie down. If I ever encounter the print version of Seedless at my local comic book store (and there’s a good chance, given the Pacific Northwest connection), I might flip through it, but I probably wouldn’t buy it. The same applies to this webcomic. It’s worthwhile jumping around on the menu bar and browsing the cute illustrations — which is the only way to navigate, as the standard forward and backward arrows are terribly inconsistent. But reading the whole story beginning to end? Sure… if you’re in the mood to have your eyes explode from the visual overload.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Posted on November 4, 2010, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, all ages webcomic, anime, comedy webcomic, manga style webcomic, sci-fi webcomic, superheroes, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.