The Webcomic Watchman

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Review #6: Like Megatokyo, but 60% more funny...and not in Tokyo

[For those of you viewing this in the archives, click the title at the top of the page to see my more current work, if you are so inclined]

Title: Emergency Exit
Artist: NJ Huff
Collective: Comic Genesis
Genre: Comedy/Action with a pinch of soap opera.
Updates: Currently updating Monday-Saturday, but that may change soon.

I wasn't sure what to think when I first stumbled over this comic. It looked like your standard "roomies go on wild adventures, hilarity ensues"-type strip.

As I scanned through the archives one boring day, I found a lot more under the surface. It started out as mostly one-shot gag strips, and then transitioned into some story about recovering magical artifacts for a short Chinese-looking man named Bubba Miyagi using a cupboard in Bob's apartment that can transport people to alternate dimensions. Okay, the story isn't that great.

Why compare this to Megatokyo? One of the biggest webcomics out there today (and the first webcomic I ever discovered a few years ago)? When MT started out, it was a gaming joke comic, one you could have a laugh at Largo's paranoia in seeing zombies or Piro's attempts to get a girl. And now? It seems to be an angsty soap opera with the humor occasionally popping in to get the child support check after the bitter divorce.

But back on topic: Eddie, one of the main characters of Emergency Exit, is just hilarious on a different level than Largo, without needing to know much about videogames or the jargon therein. This dude steals parking cones, has a deep hatred of chickens (for reasons unknown), and is somehow able to make things so awesome with his coolness enhancer (similar to Largo's ambiguous "cool thing") that he somehow gains a new vest and can summon a powerful hammer out of thin air (one would think that this "hammerspace" law would only apply to females from various anime, but what do I know?).

Bob McKile plays the more serious foil to Eddie's craziness, the Piro to Eddie's Largo. Like Largo, he keeps trying to find love, and also find sanity in a world that seems to contain little of it. Unlike Piro, he seems to be sharing a body with a demon named "Nefarious" that causes major pain and suffering, including one scene where Bob tries to cut himself.

The comic gets even bigger when you have a girl who wields a "Zapper" (a.k.a. that light gun for the NES classic, Duck Hunt) as a real weapon, a mailman who has a monocole and a pirate hook, a green-haired gamer who can talk to a female cat named "Fred" (strangely, both of them play a mean game of Super Smash Brothers), and many, many more. Despite expanding the cast so widely, NJ Huff gives a good story for most of these characters, enough that you might find yourself caring about them.

Art: 3.5/5 (The coloring is quite good)
Story: 2.5/5 (They try to put a story in there, but it seems to be missing a few parts)
Humor: 5/5 (How many times are you going to hear the phrase "Pocky Sword" in a comic?)
Action: 4/5 (Mostly as a means of slapstick humor, but even when it's serious, it's very good)
Characters: 4/5 (Surprisingly deeper than you'd think).
Overall (Not an average): 8/10
Evil Stuff: Some blood, plenty of slapstick violence.
Final Thoughts: If you wondered where the funny of Megatokyo went, look here. If you prefer more intellectual humor, then you might wanna go elsewhere.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Review #5: Wait, the clown is serious?

Title: Clown Samurai
Artist: Quinn Fleming
Collective: WebcomicsNation
Genre: Crime/Drama
Format: Ongoing serial
Updates: *knock knock* Hello? You still there? (unknown)

By just reading the title, you might think that this could be a very hilarious cartoon. A clown who doubles as a samurai? Maybe he makes swords out of balloons and uses magic powers to make people laugh?

But then when you read it, you find out an actually serious cartoon, involving guns, blood, the mob, and a main character who keeps his clown facepaint and clothes on.

The story centers around Utamaro (or just "Maro"), a guy who lives in Brooklyn, was born and raised outside London, and has family from Japan. He appears to have read the hagakure. That seems to be where the "samurai" part ends.

Utamaro is a clown who hasn't made any kid laugh in three years. One day, he stops for a drink at a bar in Brooklyn after making a kid cry at his birthday party. Somehow, the bar is owned by a prominent mobster, who takes "Maro" in the back of the bar and gives him an offer to join their group. As a clown, he is able to infiltrate the home of another mobster whose daughter is having a birthday party of her own, and shoot him in a fierce firefight.

After two chapters and change, we still don't know much about Utamaro's past, why he considers himself a sort of modern-day samurai, and where he learned to shoot people with such amazing speed. I also don't exactly know why the mob would trust a disgruntled clown to "off" one of their rivals in the first place.

The one thing that sets this comic apart from the others is the art. A whole comic has a huge film noir feel to it that you will either love or hate.

Of course, the one thing that really hurts the comic is the fact that it takes Fleming months just to post one new strip. Despite frequent promises of getting a semi-regular schedule, he just has trouble getting enough together for even one strip.

Art: 5/5 (Like I said, I absolutely love the noir style, but others may hate it).
Story: 2/5 (It's missing too many pieces, but it has the makings of something good).
Humor: 2/5 (A little humor in the fact that a clown can shoot people in his enormous shoes and keep smiling, but this comic is actually serious.)
Action: 3/5 (A clown "samurai" shooting people with guns. Think about that for a second.)
Characters: 2/5 (I'm trying, but I just can't wrap my head around these people.)
Overall (not an average): 4/10
Evil Stuff: Blood, moderate violence.
Recommendation: I really wanted to like this comic, but under all that stylized art, there's not much substance. If you really like noir style art and story, then read the stuff that's there. Otherwise, don't.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Review #4: Onward Bound

Title: Onward Bound
Artists: Darrick Chen and Dustin Baker
Collective: Panda Rage Productions
Genre: Fantasy/Western
Format: Ongoing Serial
Updates: Two pages per week

This comic looks a lot like a story I tried to write once, involving the decline of magic during the Industrial Revolution or something like that. But this isn't about me, this is about Onward Bound.

The setting appears to be a smorgasboard of different themes. It's set in an Old Western canon, yet the protagonist runs into a spellcasting mage, a sheriff with a metallic, steam-powered arm, and likes to smoke a slow-burning Dwarvish tobacco.

The story so far involves a woman named Serrada Blue, a real talented gunslinger who has come to a town called "Ramshackle." After just seven or eight strips, Serrada pulls one of the most awesome moves I've ever seen in webcomics on the corrupt sheriff guy. I won't ruin it for you here, but it is a very exciting twist.

I can't say much more about the story, as not much has happened, but Serrada seems to get into more Wild West showdowns than Calamity Jane in the next 70 strips, including two fights with the sheriff with the steam-powered arm, a trio of gunmen, and even an Elvish guy who can block bullets and shoot zappy bolt thingies with his magic. How will Serrada excape this one? Only time will tell...or the next update.

But I'm sure that this comic will keep going up in value if it can just flesh out the backstory of Serrada and add some more memorable characters into the mix.

Art: 4/5 (Very good, but the backgrounds during the fight scenes could use a little work.)
Story: 3/5 (Has potential, but not much to say right now other than a series of fights.)
Humor: 2/5 (A little bit, but you probably aren't reading this for the humor)
Action: 4/5 (Lots and lots o' action here, and it looks pretty kick-ass too)
Characters: 3/5 (Interesting mix of characters, but the bad guys feel too generic)
Overall (not an average): 7/10
Evil Stuff: Moderate violence, some blood.
Recommendation: Definitely keep your eye on this comic.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Review #3: The Hero's Handbook

Title: The Hero's Handbook
Artist: "HHB Bookmaster" (real name unknown)
Collective: Comic Genesis
Genre: Fantasy/Comedy
Format: Ongoing serial
Updates: Weekly, on Fridays for the most part

The genre of fantasy webcomicry is so cluttered that it's hard to break out of the mold of the usual stuff. Herein, "HHB" tries to break out of that mold by adding a comedic twist, kinda like Adventurers or RPG World. So far, the comic has about #55 strips down (at the time of this writing), a fifth of which are filler, so it's technically still got room to grow. Nevertheless, there are definitely some problems apparent in this comic in the early stages.

1) Too many Deus Ex Machinas. I know this comic is a parody and not a straightforward fantasy comic, so some pointless humor and plot devices are acceptable. However, clustering them all together within a short span of comic pages is just lazy in terms of storytelling. In a span of 13 strips, Lute breaks out of jail (with some help), conviniently finds the "Hero's Handbook," and spots nearby weaponry to fight the evil bandits.

Plot devices, especially in humorous comics, are like Old Bay seasoning: sprinkle a little on your seafood dish, it'll enhance the flavor. Sprinkle a little too much, and it makes the entree hard to eat.

2) Is there even a fourth wall here? Sometimes, it looks like the comic is a movie where the actors screw up their lines. Other times, the actors in this story wonder how the convinient plot devices appear. Is this supposed to be a parody of a fantasy story, or a parody of the acting of a fantasy movie, what with the self-insertion by the artist to make snide remarks at the Darth Vader-wannabe for falling asleep during his cue? Pick one side of the fourth wall and stay on it for the story-related strips.

3) Another carbon-copy fantasy hero? C'mon, we've seen enough white, blond-haired kids in fantasy comics to fill a convention center.

Though I suppose this can be turned into a plus if the beginning of the story is any indication: that the hero hasn't been torn from his parents due to war, disease, or poverty, and his family is actually quite well-off, unlike most heroes. Finally, someone found this angle of fantasy stories and made fun of it.

Art: 3/5 (A little blocky at times, but otherwise a nice, cartoony atmosphere.)
Story: 2/5 (Started off well, but too many convinient plot devices lately)
Humor: 3/5 (Good, but not great. Though the conspiracy that all heroes are born thanks to instructions from a book could be a good story.)
Action: 2.5/5 (Some fighting, but nothing that really stands out except for a unicorn bursting through a wall.)
Characters: 2/5 (Mostly two-dimensional, generic looking hero, evil guy who somehow forgets his accent...needs work.)
Overall (not an average): 4/10
Evil Stuff: Cartoonish violence
Reccomendation: Come back in a couple of months, but for now, there are better comics out there.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Review #2: Edge the Devilhunter

Title: Edge the Devilhunter
Artist: Sam Romero
Collective: WebcomicsNation/Comic Genesis
Genre: Action/Supernatural/Cyberpunk
Format: Ongoing serial
Updates: Weekly…I think.
Link: (Romero warns the site may be moving soon)

Edge the Devilhunter is a very unique webcomic…so unique that it may be hard to pin down the exact motif of the story. We have Jack, a pissed off young “Nexthuman” who wakes up one day to find he has been involuntarily drafted to fight a battle for Lost Heaven as the “Edgeknight” to stop Hell from unleashing the Apocalypse upon Earth. He’s given almost god-like powers, including the ability to snatch bullets out of the air and flick them back at their shooter. His only restriction is that he can’t kill any humans.

However, Jack constantly does things his own way, eventually pissing off people on all sides of the ethereal coin. Jack is constantly warned that if he doesn’t listen to the orders of Heaven, then God will have no choice but to start Earth over, a la Noah’s Ark. Even so, the people of Heaven consider him an outcast, and the denizens of Hell are trying to take his head.

Romero pulls no punches in his strips, and apparently expects none to be held back. EtD gives voice to some of his politics, envisioning a futuristic America where the government is controlled by faceless corporations, American highschoolers are drafted to fight the never-ending War on Terror, and “NYPD Inc.” has a way of tracking down those who dare dissent from America’s government. Part of Jack’s own battles are with the government itself, but Jack himself does not exactly strike me as revolutionary. He’s certainly capable of kicking ass, but doesn’t seem to have many long-term goals in mind other than staying alive.

Because the politics of this strip are quite visible, it may turn off some of the more…conservative readers of webcomics, but that hasn’t stopped Romero from going strong with this comic. The action is quite amazing, but so many characters and plot twists have been tossed in that it’s a little hard to jump in without some context.

Art: 5/5 (Very well-done, massively detailed. The reader won’t miss a thing)
Story: 3/5 (I can sympathize with some of the politics, but the main plot is a little hard to follow. It seems like Jack makes fewer enemies with Hell than he does with the NYPD.)
Humor: 2/5 (Man, Ronald Reagan Donald Deegan is a giant dick…literally. However, Jack needs some better one-liners. Of course, you probably ain’t reading this comic for the humor.)
Action: 5/5 (When Jack is dodging bullets or slicing someone with his sword, it just looks so awesome you might cry)
Characters: 3/5 (Jack, Elvy and Aryel have some depth, but a lot of the other characters are coming off as two-dimensional.)
Overall (not an average): 7.5/10
Evil stuff: Lots o’ blood and gore, uncensored swearing, non-sexual and sexual nudity, sexual innuendo, small bit of racism (but only from the characters).
Recommendation: I like this comic, but whether or not you will depends on how much mature subject matter you can stomach. If you can get past that hurdle, welcome aboard.