Or: "The Journey of a Thousand Strips Begins With Bloody Eyes"
(New thread: the old one got a bit messed-up during a recent edit.)
My progress report thus far:
* NeverNever * Kara, Kali and the Wind * Return To Green Hollow * A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible * Irrational Fears * Evil Inc. * Bad Blood * The Jaded * Alpha Shade * The Green Avenger * Nahast: Lands of Strife * RPG World * Something Positive * VG Cats * Queen of Wands * The Order of the Stick * Road Waffles * Sinfest * Nukees * Diesel Sweeties * PVP * Mnemesis (My Paypal paranoia triumphs!) * 8-Bit Theatre * Gunnerkrigg Court * Nausea * Boy Meets Boy * Basil Flint, P.I. * Friendly Hostility * No Rest For The Wicked * 8/12 By Eleven * Jack * The Spiders * Angst Technology * Bob and George * Questionable Content * Demonology 101 * Kid Radd * Unicorn Jelly * Cutewendy * Girly * The Starship Destiny * File 49 * 1/0 * Paper Eleven * Exploitation Now * Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion * Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire * The Coffee Achievers * Fallen Angels Used Books * Mozhaets * PHD Comics * Least I Could Do * Nana's Everyday Life * Greystone Inn * A Modest Destiny * 319 Dark Street * Bobbins * Scary Go Round * Arthur, King of Time and Space * The Dreamland Chronicles * Hellbound * Starslip Crisis * Wish3 * Lifelike * Antihero For Hire * Flatwood * Captain SNES * The Wandering Ones * Strange Attractors * Atland * Dubious Tales * Awesome Marcus Ninja * Alien Loves Predator * Everything Jake * Checkerboard Nightmare * Supernatural Law * Femme Noir * Kalmer Unwritten * The Class Menagerie * Roomies * Coming Full Circe * Boy Meets Hero * Tom Sparks, Atomic Detective * Home on the Strange * Inverloch * Nannah Laveaux
* Scandal Sheet
* You'll Have That
* The Architect (when completed)
* The Hook (when completed)
* 5ideways (when completed)
* Avalon (if it's ever completed)
* RPGWorld (if it's ever completed)
Some reviews - though I won't be covering everything I've read:
"Boy Meets Hero" (http://www.boymeetshero.com/): This could have worked. The most popular superhero in Golden Bay City is living a triple life - he's Blue Comet, defender of the people; he's Derek Maxwell, unassuming civilian; and he's Derek Maxwell, homosexual. But his closeted status is threatened when he falls in love with Justin Summers, an ordinary guy with a bit of a hero worship complex. So far so good, but the dialogue is simply atrocious. It reads like an especially corny romance comic from the '50s - "I can't believe I'm dating a superhero! He's so strong and muscular! I'm so lucky! I wuv you! No, I wuv you!" Gag me with a red-hot spoon.
"Home on the Strange" (http://www.homeonthestrange.com/):
"Tom Sparks, Atomic Detective" (http://www.atomicdetective.com/): This is a perfect example of one thing I simply adore about webcomics - the willingness to experiment with genres and forms. "Tom Sparks", for example, combines noir murder mystery, superheroics and B-movie sci-fi to create an intriguing story that smoothly merges its various inspirations into a cohesive whole.
"Checkerboard Nightmare" (http://www.checkerboardnightmare.com/
"Supernatural Law" (http://www.webcomicsnation.com/superna
"Femme Noir": (http://www.supernaturalcrime.com/comic
"Awesome Marcus Ninja" (http://www.marcusninja.com/): "Meh" about sums it up. Some nice gags with the ninja stereotype, but nothing particularly remarkable, and it felt pretty inconsistent while reading it through.
"Dubious Tales" (http://www.dubious-tales.com/): Now this one is just plain fun. It's a bizarre soap opera, focusing on the lives of six quirky university students all living in the same house. The characters seem pretty weird at first, but it quickly becomes clear that you can identify with them all: they're very sympathetic and compelling despite of (or perhaps because of) their quirks. There's a bit of fantasy here, a bit of humor, a bit of romance... and it's all quite well-written.
"Captain SNES" (http://www.captainsnes.com/index.php)
"Antihero For Hire" (http://www.antiheroforhire.com): Hmm. This one's on the borderline, really. On the one hand, it's interesting enough that I'm sticking around to see what happens next; on the other hand, aside from a few clever tricks there's not a lot here that isn't being done elsewhere. It's a superhero story, except the characters are largely aware of the conventions - you have the stereotypical mystery man who leaks bits of information, but here he acknowledges that yeah, he's doing it to be annoying and to drive the hero crazy. And the protagonist is in a rather amusing situation where he has one major nemesis completely out of his grasp, while every other villain he fights is comically incompetent. It's nice, I suppose, but not much more than that for now.
"Starslip Crisis" (http://www.starslipcrisis.com): An excellent sci-fi comedy by Kristofer Straub, about the crew of the first starship museum in the 35th century. Straub does a really good job poking fun at the conventions of science fiction and satirizing 21st-century pop culture, and his quirky characters are quite endearing.
"Arthur, King of Time and Space" (http://www.arthurkingoftimeandspace.co
"The Dreamland Chronicles" (http://www.thedreamlandchronicles.com/
"A Modest Destiny" (http://www.enderak.com/squidi/archive/z
"Greystone Inn" (http://www.greystoneinn.net/d/20000
"Nana's Everyday Life" (http://manga.clone-army.org/nana.php)
"The Coffee Achievers" (http://www.coffeeachievers.net/): Very frustrating, because while the story itself is good, the abrupt and unfulfilling conclusion pretty much blows the whole thing to pieces. When writing an ongoing series, it's no big deal to misfire on an arc or two; finite stories, on the other hand, carry a lot of weight towards the end, and this one dropped the ball in no uncertain terms.
"Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire" (http://www.dominic-deegan.com): A fantasy epic by Michael Terracciano that hits all the right marks and makes a few new ones of its own. Deliberately bad puns, demons, sex, magic... it's all here.
"1/0" (http://www.undefined.net/1/0/): There's a very nice idea at the core of this strip, but I found myself losing patience with the story, which seemed to just drag on without ever really taking off - by the 150th strip I just tuned out. It just didn't click for me.
"Kid Radd" (http://www.kidradd.com/): Excellence in a delightful little package. This original sprite-style comic dealing with video games, cyberspace and the quest for free will is, in my eyes, perfectly representative of the great strength of webcomics: the capacity to do so much with so few resources. Imagination is the only limitation, and Dan Miller certainly demonstrates how far you can go by providing such a funny, action-packed, well-constructed saga.
"Demonology 101" (http://faith.rydia.net/101.html): This webcomic borrows heavily from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in terms of character dynamics, philosophical debate, the mix of action and banter, and tight, cohesive plotting with a strong emphasis on foreshadowing future developments. The protagonist, Raven, is a 16-year-old demon girl trying to find herself in the human world. At the same time, she's at the center of a complex plot designed to tip the scale in the ongoing conflict between humanity and demonkind. Author Faith Erin Hicks does a remarkable job of appropriating Joss Whedon's strengths: recurring characters intrigue us and excite us when they reappear, Raven herself is very sympathetic, her human best friends provide much-needed comic relief, and while the mythology of the series is a bit less coherent than the Lovecraft-oriented Buffyverse, it nevertheless stands well on its own. Hicks manages to improve upon the formula by having her villains stick around for more than a single storyline - one of the very few flaws in Whedon's early seasons was the tendency to allocate one archvillain per season, severely limiting our exploration of these figures. Conversely, "Demonology 101" falters when it comes to depicting Raven's school life; aside from the evil principle and her two best friends, it often seems as though there isn't another human soul attending high school. Taking it all into consideration, though, I recommend this series for a highly enjoyable read.
"Questionable Content" (http://www.questionablecontent.net/):
"Bob and George" (http://www.bobandgeorge.com/): Lunacy. Utter, total, glorious insanity. And I loved every minute of it. Who knew time travel and alternate dimensions could be so funny? :)
"No Rest For The Wicked" (http://www.forthewicked.net/) is a lovely "remix" of popular folklore - a bit like Vertigo's "Fables", but much darker and with a much more concentrated scope: small cast, one primary plot rather than several competing for page space... it reads very easily, and I find myself intrigued by characters who, by all rights, should annoy me terribly.
"Friendly Hostility" (http://friendlyhostility.com/) is K. Sandra Fuhr's follow-up to her previous webcomic, "Boy Meets Boy". The series stars BMB veterans Fox Maharassa and his borderline-sociopathic boyfriend Collin Sri'vastra, along with a host of secondary characters including Nyarlathotep the Crawling Chaos, underage slave Bootsie and Fox's "uncle" Rafi, a con artist who moonlights as a Satanist priest. Fuhr's skills have developed nicely over time; "Friendly Hostility" retains its predecessor's range of humor, but it moves out of the romantic comedy genre BMB was so deeply embedded within. Granted that the latter was a great success, but as Fuhr herself discovered, you can only take the story of two people so far. Conversely, the first storyline of "Friendly Hostility" (titled "Problematic") begins years before either Fox or Collin are born. That's Fuhr's mission statement: this series isn't about Fox and Collin, the way "Boy Meets Boy" was about Mikhael and Harley. Here the emphasis is on a collection of quirky, funny characters; it's about the Maharassa family, and Collin's oppressive parents, and the demon living in their fridge and the slave they won at poker, and nobody really cares that Fox and Collin are lovers - least of all Fox and Collin themselves.
"Queen of Wands" (http://www.queenofwands.net/): I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, Kestrel is a very engaging protagonist, the humor is almost always dead-on, and author Aeire successfully tells a big, complete story in a relatively small amount of time (the strip runs from July 2002 to February 2005 on a tri-weekly basis, about 450-ish strips in total). On the other hand, I did sometimes run into credibility problems, as characters occasionally got entangled in some pretty unbelievable situations (ie: the revelation about Felix and Marie, which really came out of nowhere and ultimately wasn't necessary). As the series progressed, a heavy dependence on "DRAMA!" came about; I honestly lost count of the number of times Shannon was hospitalized, and Kestrel's joy de vivre gradually dies out, which hurt the overall atmosphere IMO. Granted that people grow and change - that's probably the most important theme of the work, and the crossovers with "Something Positive" accentuated it brilliantly by juxtaposing Kestrel and Davan, the man who will never change - but I think where Aeire went wrong was having almost everyone change in the same way, for largely the same reasons. It's a bit reminiscient of the sixth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in which Marti Noxious interpreted the idea of "growing up" as "making everyone miserable", an umbrella that has to be bent rather out of shape to affect diverse characters in the same way. Angela is almost unrecognizable by the time the story ends, even though (by her own admission) nothing's actually happened to her that hasn't happened before. All in all, though, it's a rather enjoyable story, and the ending is particularly strong.
"Boy Meets Boy" (http://boymeetsboy.keenspot.com/) is another one that needs its own post, both because it's really good and because I have a lot to say about it. http://dianakingston.livejournal.com/18
"PVP" (http://www.pvponline.com): I understand why so many people like this. I see how it works. But I don't think I'm the kind of reader Scott Kurtz is targeting.
"Something Positive" (http://www.somethingpositive.net/in
"Nausea" (http://www.jacobmercy.com): Okay, I can't be objective about this, since it's written by a friend of mine. It's minty-new (only three strips so far), but it's got the zing the best humor strips are made of.
"8-Bit Theater" (http://www.nuklearpower.com/) is another parody of RPGs, this time using actual game sprites from "Final Fantasy". It's pretty funny, and the author does some very inventive things with a handful of pixels, but the gag storylines have a tendency to run too long and wear the jokes thin.
"Gunnerkrigg Court" (http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/index2.php
"The Order of the Stick" (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/GiantI
"Kara, Kali and the Wind" (http://www.webcomicsnation.com/mcohen/k
"Return To Green Hollow" (http://www.webcomicsnation.com/gc/gree
"A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible" (http://www.alessonislearned.com/lesson
"Irrational Fears" (http://www.webcomicsnation.com/uver
"Bad Blood" (http://badbloodcomic.com/) starts off well enough, but falters in the second act when additional players are brought in. There's also a slight disconnect between the various subplots, in that the main character does some pretty terrible things one moment but seems to completely forget about them the next.
"Evil Inc." (http://www.evil-comic.com/) is a comedy series about corporate supervillains. It's highly intertextual (the secretary keeps getting calls from Kang demanding a refund on a time machine, Dr. Druid complaining about the typo in his "Summon Two Huge Beasts" spell, etc.), but even if you don't get the references, it's still quite funny. A few gags don't work, but most of them do, to great effect.
"The Jaded" (http://www.graphicsmash.com/series.p
"Alpha Shade" (http://www.alpha-shade.com/www/index2.h
"VG Cats" (http://www.vgcats.com) can be very, very funny... provided you're familiar with the various video games they're spoofing. If you're not, don't bother - the jokes don't work otherwise. Fortunately, the archives list the games the strips are based on, and there's no sequential narrative, so you can pick and choose.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Or: "The Journey of a Thousand Strips Begins With Bloody Eyes"
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Okay. I've seen it. My thoughts, in no particular order:
What's clearest to me is that this film is an intentional dismantling of the previous Singer movies. The characters he built up, Ratner tears down: they get passively killed off anticlimactically and with little follow-up, or they get depowered and wander about, or they become incredibly unsympathetic, or they just barely turn up at all. We don't get much closure for anyone - love triangles go unresolved, and do we even find out if Pyro survived? Or what happened to Jean's parents? Nope.
Had this been balanced out with the ascent of some fresh blood, it probably would have been a bit more acceptable. But Ratner's additions aren't particularly fleshed out either. Kitty's a cipher, Juggernaut is obnoxious, we don't know anything about Madrox, and I never would have guessed Dania Ramirez was Callisto because her name isn't spoken once. This is a recurring problem for a lot of cameo characters: their powers and appearances are changed, and no one speaks their names, so the effect of their presence is muted at best. Angel - supposedly the character around whom the plot is constructed - has no real presence to speak of. The only new character who really stood out was Beast, played surprisingly well by Kelsey Grammer. The problematic situation is hardly a shock, of course - the writing was on the wall the minute this movie was revealed to have a core cast twice the size of its predecessors. There was no way any character would be explored for more than a scene or two.
As I'm sure was obvious to any readers of the current comics, the plot is an odd mix of Claremont's Dark Phoenix Saga and Whedon's "Gifted". The basic premise actually works a bit better than Whedon's story by basing the mutant cure off Leech, a character we already know can cancel out mutation. It's a nice touch. Unfortunately, having set up the whole ethical dilemma surrounding the cure and its use... well, it doesn't really go anywhere. Magneto duly stirs up resentment while Storm is vehement that they can't be cured because there's nothing wrong with them, and that's all well and good, except that by film's end the X-Men are using the cure against other mutants. Okay, one mutant specifically, but still. It's a moment that should be fraught with emotion, because they're basically doing something that's anathema to them, but nobody particularly seems to mind. Hell, some of them gloat over it.
The Phoenix... well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the introduction and explanation are glossed over, and fail to convince: we're supposed to believe Jean Grey had a split personality from childhood, caused by Xavier, which somehow never manifested itself, and that only the Phoenix persona could access her full potential. Since this is the third movie in a series, it's inevitable that we look back in light of this new info, and it just doesn't mesh - the implication in the prior films was that Jean's enormous power boost was caused by her exposure to Magneto's machine at the end of the first movie. Granted, this was never made explicit (presumably because that was how Singer was going to explain the Phoenix) so Ratner isn't going against anything that's been established, but he doesn't manage to address this issue. Jean was already using Phoenix-level power in the previous movie, and she wasn't going all psycho then.
The good news? When the Phoenix takes action, it's magnificent. Again, the size of the cast and the shoddy plotting ensure that she only has two major displays of power, but those displays give us a Phoenix we've never seen before: majestic, silent, destructive and utterly terrifying. A lot of it is due to Famke Janssen, whose rendition of a statuesque goddess rings true. CGI also helps elevate her look, and the use of her power, to disturbing levels. I really liked it, and in my mind this proves that Ratner and Avi Arad were very, very wrong when they insisted that the Phoenix plot couldn't sustain the whole movie. In point of fact, Ratner doesn't quite manage to overcome the absurdity inherent in Phoenix's alliance with Magneto. As the primary villain in the film, he's required to make all these grand gestures of power... except we already know Jean can do better. But until Magneto's out of the picture, she just stands there staring into the distance. Had the film been more about her confrontation with the X-Men, and less about Magneto's crusade to make things go boom, there might have been space for more in-depth characterization, and more spectacular use of the Phoenix.
All in all... about average, I suppose. A major step down from the subtle complexities of the Singer films, and I think one big reason for the mixed opinions I've seen so far is that "The Last Stand" requires you to put its predecessors aside, but doesn't break from those predecessors completely. Fans of the Singer movies have to watch it all get ripped apart here, but these are still the same characters, even if they're going nowhere near where Singer might have taken them. Personally, I feel a bit cheated - this is not the film the Dark Phoenix Saga deserved, and might have been under different external circumstances - but it's not an incompetent train wreck, either. If Ratner can be accused of anything, it's of ending a rather good film trilogy with a concluding chapter that can best be described as "okay".
Monday, May 15, 2006
Andrew Wheeler writes a rather scathing - but utterly deserved - evaluation of Marvel under the Buckley presidency here: http://www.ninthart.com/display.php?article=1216
I generally agree with his sentiments, with the caveat that Marvel is still publishing a handful of comics that range from good to excellent. They're worth reading, even if they're the exception rather than the rule.