Friday, July 15, 2011

Sluggy's Dueling Stories

The last couple of years of Sluggy Freelance has been dominated by two stories, the Minion Master saga and 4U City.  It also featured breaking up the team, specifically sending Torg and Riff along separate paths and stories.  These more or less wrapped up last week.  Some will say this is a bad thing, that Torg, Riff and the rest of the Sluggy gang work best together.

I disagree.

Well, kind of.  I mean, I disagree that it was a bad thing because there is one thing I've always noted about Sluggy:  Riff and Torg don't grow when they're together.  They're always those two goofballs they were when they started the comic.  Even the few moments where they had differences of opinion or were temporarily separated, once they were back together, the fell into the old patterns.  Hell, they did it in Monday's strip, the follow up to one of the longer stories Sluggy has had.

Torg and Riff together are like a single entity that has little development or control.  Some of the best stories do NOT feature either of them, and the ones that do feature one do NOT feature the other.  They are still the two guys from that first strip so long ago, when together.  Separating them and letting them be the star of their own stories allowed them to grow and develop as characters.

I liked both Minion Master and 4U City.  A little wordy with 4U City at times, but I understand that, and I get why people will compare either or both to Oceans Unmoving.  Yet they did get the key lesson of Oceans Unmoving:  Feature a Sluggy main cast member.  Bun Bun was barely a side character in Oceans Unmoving, MM and 4UC were stories basically about Torg and Riff respectively.  More importantly, it gave them some growth.  Torg became more of a leader and organizer in MM while Riff showed he was fully capable of careful planning and execution of his lone wolf missions (note he never once had to check "his notes" during the entire story).  We also got to see each of their failings and fears, something we only got glimpses of before (That Which Redeems being the sole exception, and really it fed into Torg more with MM).

I would also like to note that they were not really separated, but teamed up with people whose personalities would be much more in line with what they would face when they did meet up again.  4UC Torg is very much like Torg Prime after MM, though I will say 4UC Torg is a bit more extreme.  Still, the similarities are pretty apparent.  Similarly, Torg Prime had Sasha to deal with, who has often been compared to Riff in the past, but now seems more like the Riff we see coming out of 4UC.

What I see coming is a new dynamic between Riff and Torg as the comic moves forward.  Will we still get the classic team up?  Oh sure, you'll see some of it, but as the stories ramp back up, the difference in how they relate to each other will be more clear.  The best part, though, is that it will feel natural, most readers probably won't even notice it happened. But it WILL be different.

I don't think that difference was possible as long as Torg and Riff were together.  They would have kept falling back on old habits and deviating from it would feel forced or out of character.  Now they can grow out of it and move on.

At least, I hope so.  Anyway, that's enough for this week.  Until next week kiddies.

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