Friday, April 17, 2015

Retrospective: Perchance to Dream

Eight years ago.  That was when I read this comic.  Seems like a lifetime and I'm surprised it's still up, but that's a good thing, because this is one of the better comics I've ever read.

I wrote back in my original review that I wanted to rewrite Perchance to Dream.  It struck something with me and I really remembered it reading through Namesake, thus why I did that article last week.  My first thought, after conceiving of that article, was that maybe I should re-read it.  I braced myself because 8 years is a long time, and despite my memory, I kind of figured it would be disappointed in it.  I discovered not only otherwise, the comic is still pretty good, but also that I didn't want to rewrite it as much anymore.

Why I wanted to rewrite it is still clear, I want MORE.  More to the story, more to the attempt to save the world from imminent collapse.  I wanted to learn more about the world as it moved past the bounds of the fairy tales they were based on, and see Rin become even more of her own person.  I want to know what Wonderland under the iron fist of Queen Alice is like, or watch the pirate town grow, prosper and collapse.  I want to know all these things.

At the same time, though, I understand why there isn't any more.  Time begins flowing strangely almost from the get go.  It's outright stated that no location is more than 5 minutes from the next, but I suspect that it only applies to the traveler.  So when Rin gets lost leaving Wonderland (it's not quite clear in the comic, but defined in the commentary), a GREAT deal of time goes by, long enough for the pirates to build a town and Wendy and Peter to have a child.  It also means that the world takes far longer to collapse than it seems.  But everything is from Rin's point of view, so the world collapses in 3 days to her.

That time skipping, and the world in general, makes since as this is a dream world.  But it is also a tragic story as it all starts when a girl dies.  It's not quite stated why she's dying, though it's hinted that she might have committed suicide.  Or perhaps it was merely an accident, again, unclear.  But in death, Catherine creates a dream world to inhabit based on her favorite books, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

Not the real ones, her versions of them.  So the characters aren't quite right, the worlds aren't quite true, and some pieces are missing (especially Mowgii from the Jungle Book).  I think they're more based on the Disney versions as well, which means it's just a bit further from the original stories.  From these roots, though, new characters grow.  Smee isn't quite the same, changing quickly as Catherine's influence leaves the world, to the point that he's different the moment we meet him.  All the characters are different, changing quickly as the girl dies and the world falls apart.

The twist on those worlds is the real draw to me, and watching the various characters change and grow into their changed worlds is where the entertainment lies.  It's the reason I want more, and I could easily see this comic lasting a very long time, rather than the scant 3 years.  Even at the end, with the survivors of Catherine's world escaping into the unknown, there is more story to tell.  Maybe I could work on a sequel instead of a straight up rewrite.

That said, I didn't say it in my original review, but there are two other comics here.  The second is a short comic called "Single Vampire" which has less story than the other two, or much of a story at all.  Reminds me a bit of some of the odder comics on Kiwi's By Beat.  Then there's "The Girl with the Golden Hair" which is a quasi-fairy tale, but doesn't finish with the moral of the story, it just stops.  And with it, the comic as a whole.  Both of the last two stories are interesting, but don't really compare to Perchance to Dream itself.

I find I respect the way the story flows in the comic more now than I probably did when I first read it.  I think the pacing is pretty good, there's just enough information to make one thirsty for more, without being strictly frustrated by it (maybe a little frustrated occasionally) and it hits the right emotional notes throughout.  The final sequence is probably the best part as Cathrine's memories, which have taken a physical, if shadowy form, save the last of her creations, but are lost in doing so.  It's fitting.  I do wonder what the author and artist (two people) are doing nowadays, if they have another comic, if they even REMEMBER this comic.  I could do some googling, but I think I'll just enjoy this comic for as long as I can.

Next week maybe a Not-So-Wild Review of a comic that I need to parse out a bit.  Maybe.  We'll see.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, April 10, 2015

What's in a Namesake

In last week's reviews I made a lot of references to past comics, and in fact each of them reminded me of at least one other piece of fiction I've seen, read or, well I'll get to this last one.  This isn't uncommon really, especially as I've been reading a lot of comics and consciously or not, I tend to make comparisons.

Namesake, however, activated multiple comparisons.  Not just one or two, but a four of them, all at the same time.  I won't claim it's a record, but I couldn't help but make the comparisons quickly and early.  I should note none of these are BAD comparisons, in fact they made me like the comic all the more.

The first comic I started comparing it too was based solely on the art, and that was an odd reminder of Demonology 101, and the rest of Faith Erin Hicks' work.  Oh, it's different, and cleaner than some of those older strips (Demonology 101 started in 1999, 16 years old at this point), but I think it was the noses that led the comparison.  I don't know why, but those roundish noses were amongst the first things I noticed artistically.  I wonder if it's a Canadian thing as both artists are from there.  That's just a surface comparison though, so don't read much into it.

Do read a bit more into No Rest for the Wicked though as it's a damn good comic.  Namesake reminded me of this by doing much the same thing, bringing out the actual stories of the works being referenced.  Often the "Disneyfied" versions of fairy tales and stories gets remembered because it's easy but they aren't exactly accurate.  Both comics go out of their way to remind the reader that those fairy tales are, in fact, far meaner, crueler and bloodier than anything Disney has ever presented.  Namesake directly reminds readers of this by comparing the ACTUAL Wizard of Oz vs the movie we all know too damn well.

Which brings me to the next leg of my comparisons, and that is to Perchance to Dream, a comic I haven't talked about in a long, LONG time.  The reason is the forward direction.  While Oz and Wonderland are both talked about at length in Namesake, the original stories are spoke of in the past tense.  Yes they happened, but they happened in the past.  Oz and Wonderland have moved on from there.  The worlds aren't static.  Perchance to Dream had the same thing, though this was a world where things were static and only became free after the start of the comic.  Then things went to hell, but that's for another day.  I like moving the fantasy world forward, it makes it less just a story and more a world, and Namesake does this in spades.

But the biggest comparison I can make, especially with the archive dive complete, is not to a comic at all but to a game:  The Longest Journey (Let's Play linked).  The comparisons are actually pretty deep here.  A young girl (Emma isn't quite as young as April, but they're close) discovers she has the ability to visit another, fantastic world, only to be embroiled in a conflict between two opposing factions, with a role in the conflict greater than she ever initially imagined or is told.  It's not a point for point comparison of course, but they are amazingly similar, and I wouldn't be surprised if the writer was partially inspired by the game.

Being inspired is not the same as ripping off, because Namesake is it's own story.  The twists and turns are very different, the overall plot is different, but the journey, well, that's really similar.  I suppose that's more the standard heroes journey type thing, so it can't be faulted there.  Still, I love the Longest Journey and being able to find a comic that does something very similar, without being the same, is a wonderful thrill and probably increased my enjoyment of the comic far more than it otherwise would have been.  This is why I don't find any of these comparisons to be bad, because I enjoyed each of the other works and this is more of what I like.  Honestly all this means is that I'll be reading Namesake for as long as it updates.

Next week kiddies, I think I need to do another retrospective.  Until then.

BTW, spring did come last Friday, then it snowed Saturday and Sunday.  Freaking weather.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Where is Spring Wild Webcomic Review

Seriously where is. . .


No, spring, where is spring?  Why is there snow on the ground?  WHY IS IT STILL SNOWING!?

Eh, fine, I guess instead of getting answers I'll finally crank out another batch of reviews.  Yes, more comics to add to the great list, and fill in the gaps for a few comics that have ended.  So let's see what I've got.

271. Black and White Comic - Another entry in the "blog" comic category, but it seems lacking.  I suspect it's partly because it is a weekly gag strip, but doesn't have the punch to pull it off.  There are good weekly gag comics but this one isn't hitting in that weight class.  The jokes probably wouldn't be too bad in a daily or even 3 day a week format, but weekly there seems to be a lack of effort for both the jokes and the art.  I guess it's not really bad, but it isn't really all that good either and I probably won't be following due to that lack of density.

272. It Hurts! - My first impression of this comic was that it looked kind of stupid.  Then I started reading it and realized that was on purpose.  Then it began to remind me of The World Explodes (can't read it any more, but trust me on this) as it took a series of stupid ideas and actually built, well, a story with them, and not a bad one really.  Well, it's still kind of stupid, but the fun kind of stupid and the story, while not a masterpiece or anything, at least is entertaining.  I was surprised by this and likely will be following this comic for some time.

273. Legends of Whoelterran - The first thing that stood out was the art for this comic.  While the more recent strips are better, it still looks like it has been done in MS Paint.  I think if you gave the artist a Wacom and Photoshop, the comic would look quite good as there is a lot of movement and animation in the characters and designs, but at the same time tools I think are holding it back.  As for the comic as a whole, it's a High Fantasy comic, with swords and sorcery and computers?  Yeah, it's kind of odd.  Then it starts throwing out random Bible quotes.  Yeah, it's a Christian comic, but it doesn't bash it over the reader's head, at least for now.  It's not bad, just slightly below average, especially as getting exposition across seems a bit difficult at this stage.  Still, the last half of the chapter 3 (current chapter) is actually not bad and has some pretty good pacing.  I'll follow it for a bit, kind of want to see how the current chapter ends, but I'm not sure how long I'll keep it on the list.  The art will likely be a big turn off for most.

274. Namesake - Originally this was going to be part of the last review batch as it kind of fit the theme, then I remembered Bloodstain existed, so it comes in this batch instead.  It's good, it's very good.  Reminds me of several other comics and stories I'll have to spend some time go over in the future.  In any case, it taps into fairy tales, action adventure, and what it means to be human, and I really enjoy it.  I would write more about it but it is completely worth reading and I highly recommend it.  I'll be reading it too, probably for the foreseeable future.

275. Paranatural - This comic is also quite good.  It reminds me of something as well (I think it's FLCL) but stands quite well on it's own.  It's a fun Urban Fantasy comic focused on a school age kids fighting ghosts.  I don't think it takes itself too seriously, but is smart enough to squeeze some depth into every story without beating the reader upside the head with them.  I like this comic quite a bit, the fact that it feels like it combines It Hurts! with Namesake makes it a great comic to top off this batch.

Yeah, brief reviews for the last couple, but they're good so it's all good.  Next time, I'm going to go into more detail about what I meant in that Namesake review.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Touching Base #20

About time for another Touching Base, so let's see what I can talk about.

After my Retrospective on Girls With Slingshots, the Washington Post did an interview with the artist.  I am jealous, of the Post and Danielle.

Bohemian Nights paused for a while due to a death in the family, but he TOLD us the news part under the comic.  More comics should do that.

Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks are both heading for their conclusions.  It's just taking a while as the artists have other projects going.  Yes there will be more Retrospectives, but I think I'll do both of them at the same time since one is a spin off of the other.  But not until the time comes.  That said, the artist for Magick Chicks had their mother die (lots of death into today's post) so updates there have been delayed even further.  And yes I'm writing this part AFTER I wrote this article originally.

Broodhollow is set to start it's 3rd book "soon."  Come on Kris, does it really take that long?

I'm not sure if Vampire Cheerleaders has outright ended yet or not.  The last storyline, odd as it was, did end, and it looked like they had some script pages and then, well, nothing for a while now.  I'll keep an eye on it.

The Whiteboard did a homage to a Schlock Mercenary strip and I found it entertaining.

Bloodstain has released all of chapter 1 in handy PDF format, so if you want an easy way to read it, there you go.

Aptitude Test has been stymied by one of the great plagues of webcomics, computer issues.  No idea how long before the comic gets back in action.  Will keep watching for it though.

I'm not sure what's going on with Short Stories.  One of the stories was dropped before it finished, now one of the first ones (a multiparter) is gone.  I THINK they're moving them to print, which means the web versions are being pulled.  Which I already said I thought was a bad idea.  Also it hasn't updated for a while, so I'm kind of annoyed by that.  Seriously considering dropping it right now, but I'll give it a bit longer.

Not really much else to talk about at the moment.  I'm hoping to have another batch of reviews up for next week (reading the 5th comic as I type this).  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Retrospective: Girls With Slingshots

Another comic ends, and I am sad to see it go.  At the same time, it's not one of the stars of my list.

I did and do enjoy Girls With Slingshots, but not to the great extent as I do say, Sluggy Freelance or Schlock Mercenary.  Despite reading the whole thing, and even rereading parts of it for this, I really didn't remember it as well as I did those two.

I think the point is that it wasn't a beloved comic.  Which does NOT mean I didn't like it, I wouldn't still be reading it if I didn't like it.  I like it a lot in fact, but it didn't stick in my mind as well.  I suspect that some of it was that the stories weren't as clear cut and divided as in the more adventure style comics I read.  They flowed together like life in a way.

There's a good term for it, it's a life comic.  It shows people living rather ordinary lives, ghost cats and talking cacti aside.  I suppose that was originally why I compared it to Questionable Content back in my original review, though I don't think QC ever really stuck with the idea, I don't read QC after all.  A better comparison would be Punch 'n Pie, which does pretty much the same thing, showing the various characters interacting and just plain living.

The result is a series of relationships, which is what I remember more than anything else.  They often felt natural without being overbearing, and I suspect Danielle likes happy endings because most of the couples end up being happy.  I like them too, so I really enjoy them as well.

I could go over them all, nearly did, but really it's worth reading the comic to see them all.  The different characters, how they relate to each other, how they get along, is part of the reason the comic works so well.  They don't go on grand adventures through space and time, they go to the bar and have a few drinks.  Then deal with the ghost cat and the talking cactus.

Live, relationships, and a bit of humor added up to a pretty damn good comic that I've been struggling all week to write a damn retrospective of.  Just go read it, especially as it is going into rerun mode, with the early, black and white strips being fully colored to go along with the rest of the comic.  The art of the early strips is oddly detailed and gets less so, but strangely better, as time goes on, but it won't hurt your eyes or anything.

And Danielle has made it clear this isn't over.  Oh, Girls With Slingshots is over, but the story and lives of her characters is going to continue at some point.  I'll be waiting for it.  In the meantime, it will remain on the read list while it goes through it's rerun, I'm curious what commentary she has to say about it.

Next week, um, we'll see.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nothing, as expected

Yeah, I'm not getting anything done for this week like I figured.  Next week though, I might have something as Girls with Slingshots should be ending this week, so expect a Retrospective.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Genre Savvy: Broodhollow

A couple years ago (yeah, it's been that long) I was in the middle of my Genre Savvy series covering the topic of Horror.  I lamented, sort of, that I really didn't have a good example of Horror within my lists.  Flatwood worked for some of the ideas I wrote about, but not all of them, and Twilight Lady didn't exactly fit the bill either.  Neither was a good webcomic example of the genre.

Then I read Broodhollow.

I don't go out of my way to read Horror of any kind, and Broodhollow was something that I just didn't look at immediately, especially as I had already a good idea what kind of work Kris Straub produces via Starslip and Chainsawsuit.  Which doesn't mean I didn't hear good things, I did, and when I read the comic, I was quite pleased.

And I immediately thought about that Genre Savvy article because it fits it so well.

The first is the atmosphere that Broodhollow creates.  Being a small town creates a kind of safety, but then the weird things happen, the first being that it is the town of "1000 holidays," which is strange to start.  Then the Fray starts getting involved by making everyone but Zane forget about being attacked by giant bats.  With "secret" societies and monsters running about, the town takes on a mysterious feel.  It's not as dark and foreboding as, say, Silent Hill, but the oddness makes it clear that something strange is going on.

That said, the real focal point is Zane, who is described on the cast page as "phobic."  Not specific, he just seems scared of everything.  I think that's more the joke as he obviously isn't, but he is constantly on edge, his nerves being strained repeatedly.  He's the first to note the oddness of the town, and one of the few people that seems, well, not immune, but at least resistant to the Fray.  The story thus revolves around his unwilling unraveling of the town's mysteries and secrets.

It's hard to relate horror through a static medium, but having someone experience the fear for the reader helps and Zane does all that and more.  His idiosyncrasies, his obcession with patterns and even a bit of OCD makes every scene with him seem that much more on edge than it would otherwise be.  Few of the other characters even remotely come close to that same impression, but they all seem more effected by the Fray than Zane, so while they all see the monsters, he REMEMBERS them.

Oh yes, the monster designs are pretty good too.  There aren't many really, but they're so distinct from the more cartoony designs of the rest of the comic that they stand out and are far more terrifying.  They are abnormal compared to this world, more realistic and just plain scary looking.  It's amazing that no one does remember them.

Back to Zane though.  Despite being scared almost all the time, Zane actually represents both emotions that come in good Horror.  Yes, he's scared, he's seen horrific, terrible things, he's haunted by his own fears and worries, and yet, he's a door to door salesman.   A person who goes up to strangers homes and knocks on the door.  There's a courage in that action, and he shows the same thing in other situations as well.  When the local rich bully, Planchett, calls him a fraud to his face, insults him and declares his desire to boot him out of town, Zane goes to him with the possibility of selling the antique shop.  Yes, Zane is phobic, but he has this ability to face off against these fears.

At the end of the last book, as he prepares to dive into the watery lair of the most recent monster, he's told his is very brave and he responds with "I'm scared to death."  That fear is, spoiler, the defense against the fray, but it also is what good Horror should do.  Yes he's scared, yes the monsters are terrible, but he does it anyway, bracing himself as best as his terrified mind can.

Broodhollow is by far the best example of Horror in comics I've found so far and I look forward to exploring this strange universe, the town and it's characters in the future.  As soon as Kris gets to publishing the next book.  Come on man, it's March already, let's go.

Next time, um, probably nothing honestly.  I've got 7 straight work days coming and I doubt I'll have time for much of anything.  We'll see of course, but I make no promises.  Until next time kiddies.