Category Archives: action webcomic
Some time ago, I thought about revisiting webcomics that I’d already reviewed, since I was getting an increasing amount of email on it. Girl Genius. Spinnerette. Evil Diva. But I knew I couldn’t move forward unless I revisited this particular sore point.
The last time I reviewed Sluggy Freelance, I concluded it with the following:
(Part Two coming … in about two years. Seriously, when the hell is that damn space moose going to shut uuuuuuppppppppppp?!?!??!)
That was a joke. I was actually planning on reviewing the remaining comic in a couple month’s time. If you recall, I’d given my initial review of Sluggy Freelance a positive score. However, Ocean’s Unmoving II is when I decided I could go no further. Everything had gotten so bogged down by that point. I was perfectly, PERFECTLY happy to drop Sluggy Freelance and never, ever have to look at it ever again. Life was too short to have to deal with the talking space moose over again.
Well, it’s two years later. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.
So here we go! The follow up review that dozens of readers asked for! Pete Abrams’ Sluggy Freelance — this time, covering the era in between “Oceans Unmoving” and “Oceans Unmoving II”, which spans from between 2005 to 2006. It inspires very polarizing opinions. Mention “Oceans Unmoving” and you will inspire either wistful remembrance or deep seated loathing. Admittedly, I’ve run across more the latter. “Dear Lord, Oceans Unmoving isn’t working”, says Websnark’s Eric Burns-White. “Somewhere around Oceans Unmoving II, I started forgetting to tune in weekly”, says Jackson Ferrell. But there are also some blog posts that I’ve run across that Oceans Unmoving is actually well structured, and overall a better re-read than the previous story (that I liked) where Torg was battling demons in another dimension.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
Listen: Bun Bun has come unstuck in time.
One of the most mockable aspects of anime is when the characters have a big brother/little relationship when the two characters are not actually related. (And, let’s face it, sometimes when they are.) There’s usually a sizable age difference. The girl will be barely into her teens, and the guy will be college age or older. The girl is typically portrayed as somewhat infantile, especially when mewling something along the lines of “onneeeeeiiiiisaaaannnn!” (Alternately, “neeeesannnnnnn!”) The guy, on the other hand, is some aloof, emotionally distant dude who appends the heroine’s name with “-chan.” While this is typically portrayed as sibling closeness, there’s a little bit of creepiness in the subtext of how that same closeness can easily translate into something more serious. (And it can get really weird when it actually does happen.)
In Strays by Samantha Whitten and Stacey Pefferkorn, we’re introduced to a young 12-year-old girl named Meela. She’s homeless and trying to survive in the big outdoors by herself. Suddenly, a fight breaks down nearby, which destroys her rickety lean-to. She meets the 28-year-old Feral. Feral, while being a silent badass, takes some pity on Meela and decides to let her tag along.
So many alarms were going off in my head.
So many alarms.
(Incidentally, I was writing this on the day before Easter — a huge shopping day, due to the many sales at the mall — while sitting at a window facing an American Girl doll store, which is abundantly populated by many tiny girls. I imagined a terrible scenario where someone called security, and they confiscated my laptop which currently has the first paragraph written up without any further context. I think that chances were high that I would’ve had to register my name on a list of not very nice people. These are the sorts of sacrifices I make for you, dear readers. Blogging is more dangerous than it sounds.)
At some point, I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that exposition is a very hard thing to do in high fantasy comics. It’s more natural in books, where characters can stop at the ruins of an ancient kingdom, then ponder the long elaborate history of Fantasy Magic Land while gathered around the fire eating roast oliphant. It’s actually pretty natural in video games, too. If you ever want to go more in depth into a world’s history, you can head over to the nearest abandoned dungeon which happens to have a fully stocked library regaling the history of Middle Landia.
Elaborating the history of a fantasy land in webcomic form, though, is more difficult. Sure, you can banish all the relevant stuff in a separate tab, but most of the time it functions in the same way an appendix works for a novel: it’s more or less ignored except for the diehards. If you try to do it the same way as the novels and have the characters spout exposition every time they see something culturally significant, it can seriously halter the pace of what is a visual medium. Out of webcomics, Order of Tales struck the balance between plot and exposition the best. The main character was a scribe, which gave the story a ready made excuse to switch to prose in order to flesh out the world’s background story.
In most webcomics, though, attempts to explain the backstory come off as rather forced. This is, unfortunately, what happens in Gaia, a comic by Sandra and Woo creators Oliver Knörzer (from Germany) and Powree (from Indonesia).
Where did all the Zuda Comics go? DC’s experiment in the world of digital comics was a little short-lived but it generated plenty of concepts due to its elimination-style format, where several creators would put out eight-page sample at a chance for landing a contract with DC Comics. Short answer: they were scattered to the winds of the internet, appearing in secluded far reaching corners. It’s a shame, because there were some great story ideas out there with some great-looking art. There was an image of a steely-eyed young man in a prep school uniform that caught my curiosity recently, for example, and I owed it to myself to follow up.
Model Student, by Jake Bell and Joe Bowen, was a Zuda entry in 2009 that didn’t make the final cut. Joe Bowen, though, couldn’t quite let go of the concept so he returned to the story last year.
The main character is Kevin Thorne. He’s a high school student who’s had problems keeping his rage under control. He’s been kicked out of many schools for fighting. One more strike, and he’s headed to Juvie. His last chance is Vendrell Academy, a stately-looking prep school where the students wear ties and fashionable blazers.
Nearly two years ago, I posted a link here to a critique of a comic called Roswell, Texas. In my mind, it was an innocent gesture. I like posting reviews to other webcomics in an attempt to further the cause of webcomic reviewing. It’s partially for selfish reasons. One of these days, when this blog ceases to update, I want to have a clear conscience, knowing that somewhere out there someone is still writing reviews of Ctrl+Alt+Del.
This particular post, though, caught some flack. One of the co-creators, Scott Bieser, took particular offense at the reviewer: Leonard Pierce, was a disgraced AV Club reviewer who lost his job after posting a review of a comic that hadn’t actually seen print yet. I believe in second chances (which I think Pierce was reaching for in his new blog), but there is still the lingering question of credibility.
More to the point, though: why wasn’t this stuff being addressed at Leonard Pierce’s blog? Why was all the stuff being brought up at this site? I felt like that one friend who’s stuck in the middle of a squabbling couple, and I’m stuck repeating lines like, “Well, she told me to tell you that if you’d just taken out the trash like she told you three days ago, none of this would’ve happened. Her words, not mine.”
With the link to Mr. Pierce’s article being dead, I figured that today’s the day to rectify the situation: The Webcomic Overlook is reviewing Roswell, Texas! Created by L. Neil Smith, Scott Bieser, and Rex F. May, the comic ran from 2006 to 2009 and is now available in print.
All vitriol, please direct it to this write-up now. Thank you.
I’ve read somewhere — perhaps on a Snapple cap — that to really put together a good satire, you sorta have to be half in love with material you’re making fun of. Makes sense. If you lack the in-depth knowledge it takes to be a fan, jokes can come off as fairly limp and groanworthy. Like, say, The Big Bang Theory‘s idea of what nerd culture is like.
Harry Potter is one of those properties that has so many odd details that it’s permanently ripe for parody. Now, I’m not a Harry Potter fanatic. I’ve yet to read the last two books, mainly because I was so disappointed by Ms. Rowlings’ awful writing in Order of the Phoenix. However, I’m knowledgeable enough about the world of Hogwarts to enjoy a good Potter parody.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, for example, is one of my favorite recent fantasy books, and at its core it’s a Harry Potter parody. Imagine the Harry Potter world, only the teenagers populating it more closely resemble the ones you see hanging around, say, Reddit: nihilistic and self-destructive and witheringly snarky… but at the core, really very scared. Grossman used the Potter foundation to create another fully self-realized fantasy world.
Harry Potter parody fiction lives on in webcomics as well with Wizard School, written by Kevin Kneupper and illustrated by Robert Rath. It’s not as good as The Magicians. Mainly because I have five words for you that should send chills down your very spine:
Rayne Summers IS Harry Potter.