Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Reflection

Ah, the new year.  Take a good, deep breath.  Let that "new year smell" fill your nose.  Then puke on your toes because you drank too damn much.  Sucker.

To help ease your pounding headache, I figured I'd reflect on the reviews of the past year.  I've done 25 Wild Webcomic Reviews this year, which is probably a record at this point.  A lot of good ones, several bad ones and at least one that isn't actually a webcomic.  But which ones were the best?  Well, that's a hard question to answer, but I'll try anyway.  Here are my top five "new to me" webcomics of the last year.

5.)  Lizzy - No other comic I have ever read, or even heard of, combines traditional art with flash animation in such a perfect way as Lizzy.  The story, while fanciful, is also grounded in a way that makes it feel real; dirty and rundown.  The fact that it's stuck in a kind of hiatus status depresses me a bit and probably pushes it down the list of best comics of the year.  Still, this comic is completely worth reading, especially the flash version.  That is worth the bandwidth alone.

4.  Romantically Apocalyptic - Though there are only about 30 strips to this comic, it is by far one of the most beautiful and mad comics I have ever read.  The art is nearly peerless, capable of giving life to the few people and creatures that run around while at the same time making the world look dead in a way that feels real and terrible.  And it's pretty damn funny too.

3.  The Non-Adventures of Wonderella - There is only one joke in this comic:  Wonderella is a terrible superhero.  Yet one joke can go a long way, and the comic takes full advantage of it.  The comic is funny as hell, and pokes fun at every superhero cliche there ever has been or ever will be.  Don't forget to look for the alt-text under the comic images when you read, there's always a bonus joke.

2.  Marsh Rocket - Though it appears to be done as a comic (apparently it went on longer than intended anyway), Marsh Rocket is one of those fun comics that I have to recommend people read.  It has a rather unique coloring technique, and the story is usually built around violence, typically involving a hedge trimmer.  The characters are interesting, fun and the action is done well.  The original story is great, and the bonus tales (the last one just wrapping up) are shorter and just as good.  Truly one of the best comics I've read all year.

1.  Hark, a Vagrant - There is a reason this comic gets so much attention and praise, it is VERY good.  The art and humor style are so unique you can identify the artist's work almost instantly, and in a world where everyone does anime/manga style artwork, that is truly awesome.  Though each update might have some sort of theme, there is rarely the same joke told more than once, and there's a grounding in reality (due to her historical background) that gives the comic that something most other comics can only pretend to have.  All this makes Hark, a Vagrant more than worthy of being the best comic I've read this year.

Funny how all of these are weekly updated strips.  I don't think that's a coincidence, typically more work goes into a weekly strip than a daily one, and thus the quality is much higher.  Also the archives tend to be a LOT shorter so it's easier to read through.

So what does the new year have in store for the Wild Webcomic Review?  Probably more reviews (I've already got a couple set for the next batch), certainly more Not-So-Wild reviews, and maybe I'll finally finish the newspaper reviews.  Maybe.  Hell, I might even do some self promotion and get more than no one to read this thing.  Wouldn't that be awesome?

Anyway, have a Happy New Year, you drunk bastards.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

As I said last week, no new post this week.  Enjoy the holiday and I promise something for next week.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wild Webcomic Reviews 126-130

Another round of old reviews because I couldn't come up with a Christmas themed post for this week.

February 25, 2007

126. Perchance to Dream - No comic has ever made me want to sit down and rewrite it more than this one. The concept for this comic is absolutely wonderful. The ideas, the characters, everything is about as interesting as you can get, right from the first line on. The execution, while decent, though, doesn't go far enough. I'd like to see more depth, more exploration of the topic, try to get into the character's heads, especially Katherine's. I am so tempted to rewrite it, using the comic as an outline, that it actually hurts. I enjoyed it, but it starts to fall apart during the build up to the ending (though not the ending, oddly enough). Worth the read for this dead comic.

TODAY -  Still occasionally I think about doing a rewrite.  I hold back because I have other projects I want to do, but it's still there.

127. Mixed Myth - Reading comic archives gives you a chance to watch the evolution of the artist as an artist and a writer. Mixed Myth gives me a chance to see a proto version of the artist of Metrophor and is a real treat in that sense. It's also pretty entertaining without being too big on itself. Unlike, say, Wapsi Square, it doesn't let the story's mythology take over, and actually makes fun of it in the process. I got some great giggles out of it, and it does have some interesting takes on characters and plot development (from Cynamatiks to the realtionship between rabbits and elves). It's light hearted fun and it's dead so you can read it at your leisure without missing anything new.

TODAY - The archives are still there and active.  Yeah, I know, you wouldn't think so.  I have fond memories of this comic, but nothing spectacular.  Still miss Metrophor though.

128. Nobody Scores! - 8-Bit Theater is the most consistently funny comic there is. Nobody Scores, however, will remove your internal organs as you're laughing so damn hard. These are not short strips, I should say now, but they are extremely funny as you read through the bulk of them (there are always a few duds). The situations and charcters are just hilarious and tearing up from laughing while reading them is to be expected. Go read it already, it may take a while, but you'll thank me later.

TODAY - It's kind of stalled out.  No, it's still funny, it just doesn't update regularly any more.  I'm not sure why, actually, aside from artistic burn out.  Eventually I may be forced to shuffle it off to hiatus land (unofficial at that) but I'll reread the archives before I do.

March 08, 2007

129. Avalon - Another addition to the dead comic party. Avalon is a high school relationship comic. There, that's about all you really need to know about it, I mean when you've seen one, you've seen them all. And no far out sci-fi/fantasy element to gum up the works. The only downside is that it doesn't end as a comic. Guess the guy just didn't want to do the comic any more and simply posted a summary of how the thing ends. At least he ends it, I appreciate that.

TODAY - I still remember it for giving an ending, even if it wasn't in comic form.  Other comics simply stop (especially the long story ones) but few actually make an effort to give closure.  Thanks for that.

130. A Miracle of Science - Make that two dead comics. This is actually a pretty damn good comic. It's got its share of the angst bug, but the universe is wonderfully detailed and well thought out. It's paced well, even the final climax. That said, I picked out pretty much how it would end while I was still in the second chapter. Predictability isn't a bad thing, and doesn't really hurt this comic at all.

TODAY - Still a pretty damn good strip and I recommend it highly.

Wow, that's a lot of dead comics on that list, and only one that is kind of alive.  Next week I'm taking off, but I'll try to have something for New Years.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Newspaper Comics #7

Open up the Sunday comics page of nearly every newspaper and you'll likely be greeted by two comics on the front page:  Peanuts and Garfield.  Well, there is a third comic, that varies, but usually those two are there, and have been for every paper I've read, except one, Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.  Last time I saw it (and it's been a while now) the first comic on it's page is Beetle Bailey.

Ah, Beetle Bailey, I've read a lot of it.  It's one of the few major newspaper comics that covers the military (I'm sure there are others, there has to be), but it didn't start out that way.  When it premiered in 1950, it was actually about college, but less than a year later the star, Beetle Bailey himself, dropped out and joined the army.  And he's been there ever sense, never promoted nor retired.  Poor guy.

Even compared to Blondie, Beetle Bailey is the quintessential gag a day strip.  There are never any long running stories (in it's current form at least), just one joke after another.  This also means the comic is frozen in time.  Originally it was based on Mort Walker's (the artist) experience in the military, particularly a basic training camp, it just never got past that point.  Today, despite Beetle being a private, he's at the same camp he was when he joined the military, with the same superiors and friends.

There has been some changes.  General Halftrack had to undergo a series of sensitivity training as he constantly ogled the only single blond female on the came (who also happened to be his secretary).  There have been characters who were retired and a few new ones added, but the changes are mostly superficial and do nothing to grow the comic in anyway.

And here in lies the comic's biggest problem:  The characters are the definition of one note/one dimensional.  They are literally defined by their one characteristic. Beetle is lazy, Zero is dumb, Sarge is hungry and angry, etc etc.  For a gag a day strip that's not a bad thing, but it also makes the comic extremely predictable and also ensures that the character will only come up if the joke calls for them.  Wikipedia lists 26 active characters, and but I think only half a dozen show up with any regularity.

For webcomics it is the example of what to try to avoid, even in a gag a day strip.  One note characters should always be avoided as they often create an endless cast list, most of which will never appear in the comic more than once or twice in a year.  A more compressed cast provides more opportunity to develop a joke or even short joke story and maintain the humor over the long term. Beetle Bailey suffers so desperately from the lack of joke material at this point that they created a new character a few years ago (Gizmo) to try to introduce more gadget based jokes and I can't remember the last time I saw the character at all.

I'd say most of the young gag a day strips on the net suffer from this problem initially and those that survive often evolve beyond it.  Beetle Bailey is not a great comic, I wouldn't even call it a good comic.  The jokes are flat, repetitive, predictable and worst of all dated.  It is a comic even worse off than other legacy/zombie comics because the original artist is STILL working on the comic and there's little chance it will develop beyond what it is ever.

Well, enough about newspaper comics.  I've got to go do more snowblowing/shoveling.  I'm looking so forward to that.  Until next week kiddies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not So Wild Review: Errant Story

Back with another Not So Wild Review and this is comic #13.  Which is actually kind of odd, considering Sluggy Freelance was #2.  That means that of the first 13 comics I reviewed, I no longer read 12 of them, for various reasons.  So let's get going.


My first encounter with the work of Micheal Poe came from his previous work, Exploitation Now!  I don't even remember how I came across that comic, but I do know that it's run had more or less ended by the time I started reading the archives.  Upon completing it, the ad came up directing people to follow his new comic, Errant Story.  The comic was, at the time, about 2 months old, and I never stopped reading it.  In fact, it remains the ONLY comic I have ever donated money to, not even Sluggy earns that honor.  So what's so great about it?  Let's break it down.


Whenever I read Errant Story, the main cast kind of reminds me of an RPG party, and that's probably on purpose.  Each has a specialty and knowledge the others don't and when they get into a fight (which doesn't happen that often) they know their roles and set goals on the fly.  They're also completely independent in thoughts and actions from each other.  I think often when characters are built for a story, eventually they all come to share the same personality, but not this cast.  Yes, they have the same goals, but they voice their concerns and act as one would expect them to despite all this time.

I guess the important thing is that they act in character without being stupid about it.  When it's smart not to say something smart assed, they usually don't.  But when it's time to, they aren't afraid to do so, at all.  The downside is that we really don't seem to get a lot of time with them.  It's weird, but there is so much going on that seeing the main characters interact with each other is a little rare, they're more often playing off the situation rather than each other.  When they do interact, it's great and tells us a lot about them, but it's usually cut short by the most recent disaster.

Here's my thing, after 7 years of reading this comic, I can't remember all the main characters names.  I know who they are, give me a picture and I would know what they've done, but I don't know their names, little of their backstory and what they're doing at the moment.  Maybe it's the fact that I read so damn many comics and I just simply don't have the memory space for it, or maybe it's how frequently it updates, but the names escape me.  Weird, isn't it?


The art of Errant Story is some of the most detailed black and white artwork you will find on the internet, especially for a comic that updates twice a week (at one point it was THREE times a week, which is even more potent).  Character designs are wonderful, detailed, and it's usually very easy to tell characters apart.  Usually.  The detail of the world is incredible and likely unmatched by anything I've ever read.

It is better than when it started, of course, you don't draw a comic for this long and not improve, but most of it seems to come more in the form of shading and realism than anything else.  The line work has been universally excellent and while there have been improvements it's not such a completely different comic as some others.


This is an epic fantasy tale, a grand one involving gods, people with the best of intentions and whole governments going nuts.  It has a deep backstory, with a world history running the entire time, but only recently has this really come to light through the off day updates.  I think this is a good thing as dumping this kind of filler description on a young comic would have drowned it pretty quickly, but as the story is nearing it's close, it's nice to finally fit the pieces of the tale into it's historical perspective.  Kind of a nice touch.

The story's basis is that Meji, a half elf with poor grades, has decided for a final project to obtain ultimate power and enslave the world!  So she sets off and runs into various characters including profession assassin Jon, elf ranger Sarine, fellow half elf Ian and Jon's time ninja sister Sara.  They then go play with gods and things go to hell in a handbasket, to say the least.

It's a well told story spanning a good chunk of the world and history.  There's a LOT going on, but it's focused enough to be centered on the few important characters to not let it go spinning out of the control. There are some areas where what's going on is hard to follow, but those are mostly early on and eventually get ironed out.

I do want to compare it to the end of Exploitation Now! which was a bit of a mess at the end.  It went wild and over the top to the point that it was utter madness.  Errant Story doesn't suffer from this as it was actually planned out to begin with, and while I'm sure there have been changes since the comic began, it isn't utterly random and chaotic.  Well, chaotic in terms story lines.


Errant Story is a great comic, and while it has a few flaws, one would be hard pressed to find one that's better that updates as frequently and with such quality.  It's one of the first comics I recommend when asked, and if you're not reading it, you must not like fantasy comics or something.

I've basically been reading this comic since nearly the beginning, and I know I'll read it through the end and possibly into it's eventual and possible sequel.  So go read it already!