Friday, July 5, 2013

The Standard: Resurgence

In December 2008, the first part of the chapter bROKEN began with a large splash page the significance of which wouldn't be apparent for a while.  This is the beginning of the current storyline and where Sluggy Freelance came back to life.

I know many will argue against this case.  How is it any different than it was before?  Well, I remember it, for one.  The other is that Abrams once again began taking chances.  The previous 3 years had been kind of dry of significance and importance.  There was some information there, but mostly it was silly stories, and an attempt to keep the fans who hadn't left after Oceans Unmoving.  They were still leaving though, slowly trickling away.  Something had to be done, a chance had to be taken, and Abrams did it.

Did it work?  Well, it did for me.  Sluggy is often accused of "Cerberus Syndrome" which is a failing attempt to balance drama with comedy.  It's the prime example of the idea in fact, and the coiner of the term referenced Sluggy directly for it.  That said, I don't think it actually fails at it shifting between the two.  I always view it as the Dramatic Downshift, a term derived from a similar idea from Civilization 2, the Demorcratic Downshift.  The idea is that comedy can get a comic jump started and keep it going for a while, but to last, shifting down into drama is more lucrative and will keep the comic going longer.  After Oceans Unmoving, Abrams shifted completely out of drama and focused solely on comedy.  The result was 3 years of mediocrity.

bROKEN was shifting back into drama.  I think Sluggy always did drama better than comedy, but comedy was usually never forgotten.  The point of the comedy was to contrast with the drama and lighten the blow when necessary, but NEVER when it was unnecessary.  Lame Zoe's death in That Which Redeems was NOT countered by a pithy joke, for example.  Without the drama to counter it, the weakness of the comedy was quite apparent throughout the lull after Oceans Unmoving.

Shifting back to the more dramatic gave Abrams more options with his characters and stories.  Zoe's "death" proved an excellent call back to That Which Redeems, a vision in The Bug, the Witch and the Robot and Fire and Rain all in one shot, a moment of culmination that fans had been waiting for.  A much clear picture of who and what Oasis is was painted for the first time.  And Torg and Riff were physically separated and had to find new roles and solve their own respective mysteries.

Zoe's apparent death and her resurrection was derided, but it was set up (the pieces were provided) and it had to be done.  Balancing the desires of the fans with the demands of the critics is something that is quite difficult, and in the end, as I said in my analysis of the situation, Abrams likes to eat.  Could he have killed her off for good?  Yeah, but I doubt it would have lasted long in one form or another.  At least this way it made sense.

Riff finally got his story rather than being tied to anyone else.  There was a brief bit in Dangerous Days where he got some alone time and development, but his real story was here.  Torg got another chance to show his character growth by being trapped in denial over Zoe's death, and setting up subsequent chapters of the comic.  Minor characters like Sam and Sasha got much stronger roles under his leadership and the comic experienced a bit of a resurgence as Minion Master and 4UCity traded places.

The reunion of the cast began as those two stories ended, and still isn't over as Gwynn is still missing in action and the current story will likely resolve that.  The result is a complete, but slightly different main cast.  It's interesting that they really haven't been wholly united in a long time, and this might end up being the first major thing they've all done together.

I WANT to read Sluggy now.  I want to see where the stories are taking these characters, and how they're going to react.  Abrams isn't going through the motions here as he was before, but actively pushing forward.  There's less filler, more content.  The jokes are a bit snappier and balanced better against the drama then they have been in a long time.  It almost feels like he's having fun again with the comic.

Next week, I wrap this long study of one comic.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Eishtmo, forgive me for posting this here, but I wanted to contact you to send you a press release. Maybe it's just because it's late at the end of a long day or maybe it's by design, but I can't find your email or contact info on your site. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I was trying to contact you, please delete this message before it self-destructs...10...9...8...