The Webcomic Watchman

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.


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