The Webcomic Watchman

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Review #15: A Modest Proposal

Why God? Why did I already use my alloted DBZ caption when it would've made more sense here?

Title: Ninja Spirit
Artist: River Daniels
Collective: Blackie Dog Studios (not really a “collective” so much as a self-run studio)
Genre: Action with a dash of comedy and a pinch of romance
Updates: Twice a week (usually)

Dear Alfred R. Kahn, Chairman and CEO of 4Kids Entertainment,

Tell me, are you in the market for another animated series that you can run straight into the ground whilst translating it for the under-18 American consumer? Do you want an even bigger share of the licensing moolah that normally goes to those “other” companies? Well, look no further than Ninja Spirit!

I know, some young intern might ask you something like, “Why would we want to pick this show up? It’s just another cartoon about ninjas!” Well, after you finish firing that dumbass for daring to question your unholy wisdom, listen to the rest of my proposal. This comic already has plenty of what your company looks for in a potential animated series:

--Stereotypical characters with funny names, including, but not limited to: Yuki Misaki the all-around good guy, Tom Brisket (no, not that Brisket) the jock, Dave Btwys-Y-Cawr [sic] the nerd, Johannesburg “Joe” Lockhart the closeted loner, Hello Kelly the cold-hearted bitch, and Key Lime “Keylie” Pitrowski the quiet girl.
---(Between this and my last review, I’m still waiting for someone to name their villain Dastardly Macaroni Salad or Doctor Snidely Evilton, so I can finally pick up a scalpel, drown my inhibitions in bourbon and then proceed to hunt down those responsible for thinking up these names.)

--A ton of action and special effects, with the bonus “Dragonball Z Syndrome” (or DBZ-S for short) you already have in One Piece and Shaman King, so you don’t need to think about complicated things like plot development.
---(For the few of you who don’t know what DBZ-S is, it’s basically a way for the artist or writer to extend fight scenes longer than they should go on, without any character actually dying or even suffering lasting injuries except in rare cases. And even then, he or she might still be quickly brought back to full strength through some deus ex machina later on.)

--People shouting out attacks in non-English languages (though you can easily switch them to more American-sounding names, lest you be accused of “insensitivity”).

--While we’re on the subject, the whole story is set in a fake, generic, Japanese sounding town (Kawasaki), despite the fact that this comic could’ve been set in southern California and nothing would seem conspicuously out of place! Hell, just give it a generic, fruity sounding name, like Orange City or Fairweather Town. Your audience won’t care!

So not only will you pick up a potentially profitable franchise, but your editors will have some of their work already cut out for them! Of course, this cartoon does contains some icky things like blood, bad language, violence, gay jokes, a few high-school romance scenes and other items that will prompt a few bible-beaters somewhere to spam the FCC until they come down on the TV station displaying this cartoon quicker than our President’s lips on Joe Lieberman’s face. But that didn’t stop you from editing a substantial portion of your series’ content before. After all, US kids don’t read anymore! You could probably cut out half the story that exists and your target age group will still eat this shit up like John Madden at an “all-you-can-eat” buffet!

And the merchandising opportunities! Think of the money you could get from making Tenko plushies for Wal-Mart, or selling special edition Ninja Spirit action figures and toys inside McDonald’s Happy Meals! Those are just some of the many ways to make money and compete with those bastards at ShoPro/VIZ who hold the Naruto license.

I just ask for a modest 20% cut of the profits. For his effort in making the franchise you will be bastardizing until he disowns it in shame, Mr. Daniels can have $20 from the profits made as well. If you need to contact me, my receptionist’s contact info is attached. I’ll be awaiting your response.

Dr. Haus

Lazy-Ass Summary
Art: 3.5/5 (Coloring is decent, with some awesome effects during the fight scenes. However, the occasional animated .GIF panels might throw off some people.)
Story: 2/5 (As I said before, this comic has a case of DBZ-S. The story is your standard “find the magical item and train to defeat the evil dude” plot with some predictable twists in between the fight scenes.)
Humor: 2/5 (Starts out funny, but then undergoes a slight transformation, suggesting that Mr. Daniels might have acquired a slight case of “Cerebus Syndrome” by the end of chapter one.)
Action: 4.5/5 (If you thought the action in Naruto was well choreographed, this comic is for you. This thing has action by the ass-load.)
Characters: 2.5/5 (Maybe he was just playing around with the characters at the start of Ninja Spirit, but this cast of Power Rangers rejects takes itself way too seriously).
Overall (not an average): 6.5/10
Evil Stuff:
Lots o’ violence, some blood, cursing, gay jokes (though those taper off after the second chapter).
Final Thoughts: The webcomic equivalent of what they refer to in the movie biz as a “popcorn flick”: it’s a fun ride, and it gives you an excuse to chow down on some popcorn (or whatever staple of food comic readers prefer), but at the end of the day, there’s just nothing quite award-worthy about it.

UPDATE (7/26/06): The Doctor apologizes to Mr. Daniels the few of you who already saw this post, but the art score has been edited to better reflect my original views. I originally meant to give it a 3.5, but something probably screwed up when I was transferring it from Word to Blogger's posting thing. However, the overall score still remains the same.

If you have any complaints or conspiracy theories, blame my receptionist.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Review #14: In which Dr. Haus attempts to be snarky...

Goku, transform into Super Sai--oops, wrong cartoon!

Title: The Planet Closest To Heaven
Artist: Jill Fredrickson
Collective: DrunkDuck
Genre: Supernatural/Drama/Sci-Fi
Updates: Twice a week

(The following style of review was somewhat inspired by The Rude Pundit.)

Let us say—and why not?—that you are a high school sophomore boy going on your first date with another sophomore girl you just met. While she may not be the fantasy girl you see in your dreams, she’s an incredibly good looker with a nice voice and a little deeper than most other women you’ve seen. As you sit across the table from her, ordering a couple of sodas to start off the night, she decides to tell you a story.

You start off listening intently at first, but as she rambles on, and the story just seems a bit incomprehensible, your eyes start glancing around the restaurant, wondering if maybe you should’ve worked up the nerve to ask out that surprisingly hot freshman girl who’s sitting just a couple of tables away with a couple of her friends. Your date, noticing your lack of interest, then suddenly throws in something completely random in her story, watching your expression as she raises her voice ever so slightly while saying something like, “and that’s when a weirdo with spikes in his back came up to us.”

You immediately refocus your attention back to your date, stammering out something like, “I’m sorry, please continue. That sounds fascinating.” Trying not to glance at that hot girl or one of her friends, you listen as the story suddenly picks up, even introducing a joke about how this one blond kid got totally bitchslapped and was never really the same afterwards. But then, it hits another long spot where nothing interesting really happens. And your eyes wander back to that hot girl and her friends, who are now ordering their appetizers as you wonder where the heck your waiter is with the sodas you ordered. Your date, seeing your eyes wandering again, tries to throw in something else to regain your attention. But this time, you don’t even notice. It just feels like the story is going nowhere.

A few minutes later, as the sodas arrive while you subconsciously begin undressing that hot junior girl with your eyes, your date sees the look on your face as she finally hits a stopping point in her story. She takes her ginger ale and tosses the contents of her glass all over your shirt and onto your lap, angrily wondering why you haven’t been paying attention to anything she’s said, and have you been staring at that other girl for the past ten minutes? You try and stammer out the few details of the story that you remember in a half-hearted attempt to soothe her anger, but it all just becomes a blur. Obviously, your attempt fails as she screams that you just don’t get it and if you can’t pay attention to her for a few minutes then why should she expect you to commit to this relationship? Fuming, she storms out of the restaurant and calls her friend to pick her up, while you’re still sitting there dumbfounded, wondering what you did to deserve that treatment.

Now that we've dispensed with our tale, let us get down to more serious matters. As far as the drawing goes, it’s pretty well done as the comic progresses towards the later strips, with an interesting use of charcoal to set the mood in the background. However, a few of the chibi-ish panels seem to detract from the mood that Ms. Fredrickson is trying to set up in this comic. The little furry thing, Pepe, even provides some comic relief. I even like how the artist hasn’t bound her comic into either action or comedy genres, like 95% of comics on the “internets” do these days.

But as far as the plot goes, I think the artist wrote herself into a corner and has trouble getting out. After going through about 10 chapters, she still hasn’t explained much about the setting the characters live in, or even about the conflicts the characters have. Something about a “Village of Three Black Circles” and how they had to leave a metropolis because of plague. She never bothers to elaborate on that part of the story, or even why the “Nameless” and “Faceless” characters decide to attack the schoolhouse, or why the people of the village all harass this girl named Starla, then yell at her, then cheer her on in such a short time.

Admittedly, Jill does make an attempt to summarize the plot of her comic so far. But by looking at the summary, it seems that at least 7 chapters could’ve been cut from TPCTH and nothing important would’ve been left out.

Like the boy in my story above, part of you might wonder if you should’ve listened to your date’s story as you head to the bathroom and make a half-assed attempt to dry off your shirt. But another part of your brain will answer that maybe it isn’t your fault for giving into temptation, but her standards were too high for a man like yourself. And hey, even if things didn’t work out between you and your date, you can always ask that other girl out tomorrow.

Lazy-Ass Summary
Art: 4/5 (Backgrounds have a nice dark feeling, and the fire scene was especially emotional, but the main characters look kinda generic.)
Story: 2/5 (Deep set-up, but never quite moves forward.)
Humor: 2.5/5 (The furry little animal provides some comic relief, but the chibi scenes are a bit out of place).
Action: 2/5 (Not much, but the action scenes that do exist are decent)
Characters: 2/5 (Putting aside the corny names like Speedy McNee and Scout, I'm still not sure what exactly it is that the main protagonists are supposed to be doing, or the significance of the Danireans.)
Overall (not an average): 4.5/10
Evil Stuff: Mild blood and violence
Final Thoughts: As I've said before, good art will only take your comic so far until you need some good writing to back it up. Hopefully, as time goes on, we'll see more about the world the characters live in.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Review #13: "Holy Impossibility, Batman!"

"Snake eyes! Ha! I'm so clever."

Title: Divisible By Zero
Artist: Giando Sigurani
Collective: DrunkDuck
Genre: Comedy/Politics/Gaming
Updates: Unknown

With this strip, it appears that five out of the past six reviews I've done involve comedy in some way. And about three of those past four in the comedy genre have ranged from "decent" to "OH PLEASE ALLAH SAVE US FROM THIS MONSTER!"* As I read the first few strips of DBZ, I was prepared to place this comic in the latter category. But as I soldiered on through the archives, the art got somewhat better, and so did the humor.

There are a few recurring themes in between the one-shot strips, such as the stealth action heroes (featuring Solid Snake, Sam Fisher, Agent 47 and Batman in the same room) and the Political Spectrum Ninja Association, with the liberal ninja who fights with spoons, a conservative ninja who fights with some stretchy object and a gray "moderate" ninja who just eats pie.

And as for the rest of the strips, they're pretty hit-and-miss. Some of the humor seems inspired from Mr. Sigurani's life, while others are just completely random (like a Chick-Fil-A chicken nugget containing the secret to universal peace). Perhaps if he updated a bit more often, future readers would have something to look forward to. But being a one-shot comic with an uncertain updating schedule is not quite a recipe for success.

Short review? Yes. But most of the important points have been hit. Without further adieu, let's move on to the lazy-ass summary.

Art: 3/5 (Has a slight Matt Groening feel to it, but I've seen better).
Story: 1.5/5 (As I said, it's mostly one-shot strips aside from a few recurring themes)
Humor: 3/5 (The humor is mostly hit-or-miss, and the humor in many of later strips depends on your political preference).
Action: 3.5/5 (Plenty of slapstick humor to be found, and some of the action scenes with the Political Ninjas are surprisingly well done)
Characters: 2/5 (Outside of Sigurani's self-insertion, and the political ninjas, you probably won't remember the characters)
Overall (not an average): 5.5/10
Evil Stuff: Mostly cartoon violence with some occasional blood.
Final Thoughts: Sigurani's strip contains some original humor, but just not enough to make Divisible By Zero bookmark-worthy.

(*My apologies to any religious readers who were offended. Please don't firebomb my house.)

Update (7/14/06): Apparently, two days after I reviewed Divided By Zero, the "Political Spectrum Ninja Association" aspect of this comic was selected as a semi-finalist in Platinum Studios' Comic Book Challenge. If I may paraphrase a line from The Colbert Report, obviously, it was all my fault. My "average" review of Sigurani's work must have thrown him into such a rage that his angry aura somehow transported via his submission to the people judging this contest that they had to let him go to the next round.

I would wish him luck, but as a reviewer, I make an effort to stay impartial. Besides, to paraphrase Stephen Colbert again, you don't win by putting down other people, you win by berating your own team, maybe even physically abusing them or throwing a chair onto the basketball court a la Bobby Knight. If you don't have a team, then I'm sure Jesus' General will lend you his "Terrible Spatula of Retribution" and you can do it to yourself.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Review #12: Podonk-adonk

(Not to be confused with badonkadonk)

Title: Podunk U
Artist: Bob Quaintance
Collective: DrunkDuck
Genre: Comedy/School
Updates: Unknown

The good Dr. Haus has learned a valuable lesson: When you offer to review someone's comic by request, there's always someone out there who will take you up on that offer. So I finally decided to get around to this comic.

When you first look at the comic, you might take note of the touches of MS Paint in the artwork. Excuse me, when I said "touches," I meant to say, "just about everything." I felt a big urge to hit the X button in the upper-right-hand corner of my screen upon seeing such woefully-generated art, but as a doctor, and a person who decided to review the comics whether I like them or not, I pressed on.

Perhaps there is something to be found in the story? Well, a guy goes to college...and that's about how far it's gone. Granted, it hasn't even hit 40 strips yet (as of 7/1/06), but there's been little character development. Yeah, we have the insane dude, Charlie, with his own short sword (affectionately referred to as "Old Stabby"). Oh, and there's one kid who seems compelled to speak in l33t. Look, this may have been funny back when Megatokyo was new, but now, it's just freakin' annoying.

As for the rest of the humor, he seems to hit most of the usual suspects: Star Wars nerds, drunkenness, video games, Dragonball Z...c'mon, we've heard this shit before. You can't tell me there's a way to introduce some freakin' originality into your script? I'll admit, there was one strip that did make me laugh, if only because I once dabbled in the supermarket business. The good Doctor is into both stupid and intellectual humor, but this comic doesn't quite fall into either category, nor does it try to distinguish itself.

Art: 1.5/5 (Barely better than a sprite comic)
Story: 1/5 (Guy goes to college...and that's it. Doesn't bother to talk about the college, what the main character wants to do in college...this could've been set in an apartment in Brooklyn and nothing would've changed)
Humor: 2/5 (You've probably heard most of the jokes by now)
Action: 1/5 (A little, mostly involving Charlie killing someone)
Characters: 1.5/5 (Outside of the usual stereotypes, there's not much unique about these people)
Overall (not an average): 2/10
Evil Stuff: Mild cartoon violence.
Final Thoughts: Beats out The Avatar for Worst Comic I've Reviewed (so far), but at least The Avatar's been getting better recently. The Doctor hopes that someone will put this comic to sleep.

If anyone feels like dropping a comment here, I enabled it so anyone can post.

Apparently, the greatful NJ Huff, creator of Emergency Exit, has seen fit to give the doctor a "shout-out" after witnessing my review of her work from back in March. Thanks a lot, NJ. Now people will be expecting the great Dr. Haus to keep this thing updated.

But as it is summer, and I have found a paying job for the moment, I might just be able to do a little better in terms of keeping reviews on time. Stay tuned.

Do keep in mind that I am accepting requests. Simply drop me a line, and I'll get to it if I have the time. I just ask that you have at least 30 strips in your archive and that the comic in question not be a sprite comic without a damn good reason.