Friday, September 24, 2010

A Not-So-Wild Review: Sluggy Freelance

Not so wild?  What is this about?  Well, since eventually I will run out of my old wild reviews, I think it's time to got a bit more in depth with some of these comics.  You know, actually REVIEW them for a change.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Anyway, I'm only going to do the ones I actively read, so this list will be much shorter.  And I'm going in order so the first comic is:


Sluggy was the first true webcomic I started reading, and I never stopped.  I like this comic, I like it a lot.  I like it so much that it is the last comic I read every day, and has been since I finished my 2 week archive dive (2 weeks because of a 56k modem).  So what makes it so good to me?  Well, let me try to relate it.


I suppose it's cliche to say that a good comic has good characters, but I'm not afraid of cliches.  Sluggy has some very well done characters.  The core characters of Torg and Riff play off well each other and grew from their more archetypal origins into reasonably complex yet still fun characters.  Perhaps only secondary comes the female stars of the comic, Zoey and Gwynn who have stories at least as complex as the guys.  And all this from a basic premise that simply threw them together for giggles.

Past them come the various secondary characters from Bun Bun the far to violent rabbit to Oasis the undying.  The cast is so large, in fact, that it's almost impossible to keep track of them all, their comings and going and their own stories.  While they are not, of course, as followed or detailed as the main cast, they are at least recognizable and can add a great deal to the story.

But don't think they started this way.  Sluggy is a 13 YEAR old comic, and much of this development came over these long years.  Many characters have fallen by the wayside in that time, and many more were resurrected in much more potent forms as the years went by.  Such is the long development of the comic.  Despite this, the characters always seem to maintain more than a hint of Sluggy's origins as a gag a day strip.


This is a funny comic.  It was born as one and continues to be one, despite the more serious dramatic moments.  Pete Abrams is one of the few artists I've seen that can so perfectly balance the hilarious and dramatic within the confines of a single storyline, or even a single strip in many cases.  Even as the comic explores the depths of personal depression, the destruction of entire worlds, or just the death of a single character, there's always a joke lurking nearby.

The stories aren't super wonderful, but just pretty damn good, and have gotten better as time has gone on.  The early ones were just set ups for a string of jokes (or worse, puns!) to fill out strips.  Later they did get deeper and more meaningful, delving into the characters.  Generally, they've been well done and actually damn good.  The issues start building up as the comic generates more and more backstory, and again, keeping track of past characters and plots can be nearly overwhelming.

Which isn't to say their haven't been slip ups.  Oceans Unmoving is a storyline that failed as a Sluggy story.  Not because it was a bad story, it was actually pretty good, but it wasn't Sluggy Freelance.  It was a failure because it didn't include any of the regular cast (outside of Bun Bun and Bun Bun, which you'll have to read to understand) and contained a more fantastic premise than had been attempted before, but mostly it relied on building a new group of characters and readers felt lost without Torg or Riff running around.

To his credit, Abrams picked up and this and ended the story as soon as possible and drew the readers back with the old cast in new clothes and new adventures.  I think had Oceans Unmoving been established as a separate comic from Sluggy Freelance itself, it would still be going on today, but as a part of Sluggy Freelance, it just didn't work.


A lot of comics start with crappy are and get better as time goes on, and Sluggy is no exception.  That said, even the early strips aren't that bad, especially for a web comic.  The characters were identifiable and well proportioned, which is odd praise but considering other comics at similar stages, it's actually high praise.

Yet the art didn't really come into it's own until probably the story Fire and Rain, which also happened to be around the time the comic broke away from the old newspaper comic conventions when it came to layout and schedule.  Today the art is still comic art, but much more detailed and full.  Strips no longer stick to a 3 or 4 panels, but get as large as they need to be to convey the story, show the art, or tell the joke.

I really rather enjoy the art, but it's not the best art I've seen for a comic.  It is more than serviceable though, adding that extra layer of realism most comics need to feel great.


Have I mentioned I really like Sluggy Freelance?  Because I do, and it stands out to me as one of the better comics on the net today.  Which isn't to say it's the best.  There are more than frequent moments when the comic falls to the filler gods or updates are delayed for random reasons (not that they aren't good reasons, they're just all over the map).  The stories sometimes don't quite hit their marks and again, the sheer size of the backstory is bound to bury even the die hard fans.

But when Sluggy gets it right, it gets it VERY right.  Other comics might have better art and stories, but Sluggy is a force of greatness at that moment that is hard to beat.  It would be nicer if the updates were a bit more steady though.  I say go read it, but get ready for a long read.

Well, that's the first long review.  Like it?  I hope so, because I'll be doing more in the future.  Until next week kiddies.

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Anniversary!

Well, it's been a full year, and one day, since I started this blog.

It really did start as a birthday gift for myself, to see if I could do it and keep it up, and I'm glad to say I did.  If I hadn't gotten a steady job, I think I could have maintained the twice a week thing, maybe, but at the same time, I think I prefer doing this once a week.  Easier on me that way.

I want to thank everyone (which is about 3 people, I think) who read it, and even those few of you who actually left comments.  Hell, I even got one of the artists to comment, that makes me feel pretty good (of course, his comic was ending at the time, sigh).

So what's the future of this?  Well, I don't know.  I'm looking at changing up the color scheme a bit, maybe I'll even start, you know, advertising it or something.  Maybe.  I do intend to have a new batch of reviews before the end of the year.  Maybe before Halloween even, wouldn't that be neat?  Yeah.

Of course, once I run out of old reviews to post, I'll have to get even more creative with recycling old updates.  Or maybe I'll go in a different direction and expand out the scope of the blog.  I've thought about it at least.  We'll see.  In the mean time, there will be more reviews, more articles and more whatever.  Thanks for reading this thing, and I hope I can keep it going for another year.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wild Webcomic Review 116 - 120

Another batch of old reviews for you to read.  Which means I have no new ideas for articles.  Heh.

January 22, 2007
116. No 4th Wall to Break - And we end this session with a dead comic. If you hadn't noticed, I do review those, and this is one that probably shouldn't have died. It's not as bad as Jeremy in that respect (died, again, so young), but still sad to see it go. Oh, and it's the third stick figure comic. Not as obscure in it's humor as Cynide and Happiness, and actually a little higher on the art scale (it even has *gasp* characters!). It's almost not a stick figure comic at all. And there's no 4th wall either, they are all very aware of the fact they're in a comic, and they don't care. Enjoyable at the very least.

TODAY -  Gone, this time thanks to a computer glitch.  Better than just being forgotten or something.

February 12, 2007
117. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - It wants to be the next PLiF. It wants to be it DESPERATELY. And it actually comes pretty damn close. A lot closer than Edible Dirt, that's for damn sure. It doesn't quite get there though. Yeah, it's that funny, weird humor we've all come to expect from these kinds of comics, but it just never seems to go far enough. And you get to see the back of many, many people's heads.

TODAY -  And you still see a lot of back of people's heads, but the strip has changed up the formula a bit and now does a lot more stuff.  It's better than when I initially reviewed it and I still read it.

118. No Rest for the Wicked - A lot of comics try to play up some fairy tale element in them at some point. Few do it from day one and only this one does it in half as much detail. I can tell the artist loves fairy tales and is very well read about them. It makes the comic a wonderful treat if you know the stories behind them, and it all seems to, well, work. The updates seem a bit sporatic, but I'm willing to wait if it can maintain this quality.

TODAY - Hasn't updated since October of last year.  Yes, the comic has really lengthy gaps between updates, but this one is huge.  I somehow doubt it will be coming back, but I'll check it through October, then it goes in the dead bin.

119. Kawaii Not - It's formulatic, silly, cute, and insults Japophiles everywhere. I like it. It's not anything fancy, don't expect that, and some of the jokes fall flat, but for a quick diversion, it does the job well. Not much else to say about it.

TODAY - Still doesn't stray from the formula, and I still read it for the simple humor.  Again, not much esle to say.

120.  Edwitch - There's a witch, living in a house on the edge of a cliff overlooking a city. Sounds like a weird fairy tale story setup, yes? It's not. It's more down to Earth than that. Really, it seems to be more about the main character working against her own nature. Its kind of interesting that way, and it's odd too. Worth watching, for sure.

TODAY - Dead and gone.  It died (and was announced dead) some time ago, but I'm surprised it vanished.  Kind of a bummer, the story was just starting to heat up, but at least the artist was nice enough to tell people the comic had come to an end.  I like that.

Well, that's it for this week.  You know, I keep thinking there's something special about next week, but I can't put my finger on it.  Oh well, I'll remember eventually, until next time kiddies.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Great Names

I would have to say that the first thing that gets me interested in reading a comic is the title.  That's because it's often the first thing I see, and so do many others.  A simple forum post with the poster saying I have to read this comic, and then giving me the name and link can spell the difference between me actually reading it, and skipping it.

Now I could go into what makes a good name for a comic, but, um, I've been trying to figure that out since March.  Not much luck.  So instead, I'll talk about my favorite comic titles, numbered but in no particular order.

1.  Kristy Versus the Zombie Army - Whenever I think of a great title for a comic, I always come back to Kristy.  Maybe it's the Army of Darkness lover in me, but the very idea of this title thrills me to no end.  One person verses an entire army is awesome, but one against an army of zombies?  That is EPIC.  Sadly, the comic is on extended (and likely permanent) hiatus, but the title still rules.

2.  Cleopatra in SPAAAACE! - I'm a bit of a history buff, so "Cleopatra" automatically makes me interested in this comic.  The fact that she is in space makes it even more exciting.  But the fact that there are FOUR A's in "space" make this title absolutely epic.  You just know this is going to be awesome, so much so they needed extra letters to express it.  It also reveals that this comic won't ever take itself too seriously, and that can be a big plus.

4.  The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - He's a doctor.  He's a ninja.  He's Irish.  These are his adventures.  The fact that the comic is at least as awesome as the title makes it even better.  I don't think anyone could ever have come up with it outside of the forum where it was created in a sea of names with numbers in it.  That takes a level of creativity you don't see very often, and of course, the comic shows it constantly.

5.  Nobody Scores! - The entire premise of this comic is summed up in these two words and a bit of punctuation.  Seeing such a title compels one to see what exactly it means, and the realization that it means exactly what it says.  So few comics can so concisely define themselves, and even fewer can do it in the title.  Damn funny comic too.

6.  Here There Be Robots - On old maps they used to write "here there be dragons" for regions of the world where no one had gone before.  Robots would have been odd to see on those old maps, but they still fit.  The play on the old phrase here draws you to it, but it's abhorrently long update periods ruin the fun.

7.  Blip - One word, and that word is something that shows up and goes away again.  Or sticks around and cannot be easily accounted for.  Either way, that word makes me go "damn, wish I thought of that title."  Simple, elegant, and attractive.  Plus it's easy to write and thus needs no abbreviation.

8.  Anne Frank Conquers the Moon Nazis - Yeah, you read that right.  Nazi's, the moon and Anne Frank.  If the comic wasn't dead, I'd be checking it constantly to see if it was updated JUST for the title.  The comic itself (what there is of it) is great, but lacks the moon Nazis of the title.  Disappointing, I know, but at least you get the title.

9.  Teddy Bear Trauma - Not the teddy bear!  Cute things being tortured in horrible ways always attracts, especially from people who love cute things (no one knows why. . ).  Teddy Bear Trauma does not disappoint on this end, and the title is what really drew me to it.

10.  Jet Packs and Time Machines - Mixing the two is like mixing peanut butter and chocolate:  Only good things can happen.  At least until they try making other styles besides regular Resses (white chocolate?  Seriously?).  The combo is great here, but sadly it updates once every 6 months or so, but the title sounds great and what there is of the comic is equally awesome.

So that's just a few of my favorite titles.  One day I'll try to define why they're so damn good, but right now, let's just go with these are them.  Until next time kiddies.