The Webcomic Watchman

Monday, October 29, 2007

An awesome development!

Just so you all know, Dr. Haus has been asked to do a review for the website ComixTalk (formerly "Comixpedia"). Keep your eyes posted for it to appear, and I'll provide a link here when it's up.

Fear not, dear readers, for I am not abandoning this blog anytime soon, and those requesting reviews will eventually receive their just rewards. But at the moment, the CT review takes precedence.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Review #32: "3's and 7's"

Image Hosted by
"He made love like an eagle falling out of the sky..."

[Two song references and this review hasn't even started! I'm on a roll!]
Title: Spades
Artist: Diana Cameron McQueen
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Updates: Unknown

"Your move, Doctor Haus." The man to my right said in a heavy Russian accent before proceeding to exhale a cloud of smoke directly in my face.

"You realize that cigar will eventually kill you, tovarash?" I muttered after I finished coughing from the smoke.

"Forgive me, I keep forgetting to read your Surgeon General's warning on these things." The man waved his cigar in front of my face anyways, and said, "Of course, if one has a death wish, a bullet is much faster and more efficient than death by cigar. Now, are you going to call, or are you going to fold this hand?"

My attention turned back to the two playing cards lying face down on the soft, velvety green table. There were three spades in play already, I only needed one more...

"Tell you what, I'm going all in on this bitch." I shoved all my chips into the center of the table as the assembled crowd around us suddenly oooooed and ahhhed at my play. The Russian nearly choked on his cigar. All the while, I was hoping that whale would jump away from the bluff.

The artist has billed her comic Spades as a sort of "modern fantasy." Usually, this kind of genre mixing is among one of my favorites: seeing the battle of old-school vs. new-style, evolution vs. tradition, spiritualism vs. humanism, magic vs. bullets...and the list goes on. It is difficult to pull off correctly, but when it's done right, it can be quite awesome.

Spades certainly has the makings of a good comic, but as it stands, there ain't much to get excited about. Storywise, McQueen jumped right into the characters without talking too much about the setting they are in. It seems to me that Spades could've been set in Arthurian Camelot (for lack of a better example), traded the guns for swords, and little would've changed from the story.

The story features a guy with one eye, named Kanon, who happens to have amnesia. The only thing he can remember is that his name is Kanon. Somehow, he has the power to fly and to stop a speeding vehicle with his bare hands just like Superman. After 100+ strips of canon (no pun intended), all we've got is that Kanon has teamed up with a pair of thieves, has amnesia, there's an evil snake-headed guy who knows about him and a fortune-telling mage hinting at danger in his path. That's not to mention the long-haired Mr. Hydra, who can't possibly be evil. I have yet to see the twist away from "Generic Fantasy Story X."

As for the artwork: While the drawing of the characters is decent, there is just too much damn shading. Even in chapter 3, which supposedly starts during the daytime, you can hardly tell from flipping through the pages that there's any sunlight at all. In some pages, the background just disappears entirely, leaving naught but a grayish blob behind the character, as if the background were just a luxury for the characters to talk in front of. It only leads to more confusion as to where exactly the characters are in terms of the setting. The coloring does provide an interesting symbolism for the magic that pops up every so often in this world.

Another little bug in this comic are the speech bubbles. Sometimes, it seems that McQueen didn't quite plan how big they should be in regards to the art of each panel, and in some cases the text is so squished it can be difficult to read.

As of right now, I can't quite give Spades the Doctor's recommendation. I can understand not giving everything away too early, but you do have to drop a few clues in the story about the what/where/when/why at some point, otherwise people may just grow tired of being dragged along and stop reading.

As the river card came up, it appeared that I didn't have the hand I was hoping for. But that didn't matter anyway, as the Russian had hit the floor wheezing from all the smoke accumulating in his lungs and folded by default without calling my bluff. As he was escorted out of the room by his posse, I peeked at his hand. Had he called, he would've destroyed me.

"Told him those cigars would kill 'em," I smirked at the dealer as I collected my winnings. Now maybe those collectors would get off my case.

UPDATE (10/25): [The first couple of paragraphs in the actual review were kinda dangling alone out there, so they've been absorbed into other paragraphs for better effect. The gist of the review remains unchanged.]

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Where is Dr. Haus?"

Short explanation here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Review #31: Perpendicular Sanity

[a.k.a. "The Medicating of the Dead III"]

Image Hosted by
Odds are 20:1 that's a woman, and
4:1 that she will say "Nuclear Wessels"

Title: Parallel Dementia
Artist: Ben Fleuter (a.k.a. "834n")
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
Updates: Mondays and Fridays
[Disclosure: An alter-ego of mine appeared in a cameo role in this PD strip, other than that, I have no personal connection to this comic or its creator.]

Just as we expected, the brain-dead druggies eventually rammed through the door to the pharmacy. Shouts of "PILLS!" and "DRUGS!" and "I NEED MY FIX, MAN!" covered the room.

As soon as it swung open, the receptionist boy and myself tossed out capsules full of hydrocodone, rohypnol, sildenafil citrate mixed with a hearty dose of dextromethorphan from your everyday cough syrup. Just as we had hoped, the brain-dead druggies started piling on each other, diving at the capsules full of the sweet, sweet drugs we threw at them.

We quickly filled more plastic drug capsules with cough syrup, antidepressants, aspirin, whatever we could grab off the shelves. It didn't matter what sated those druggies, what did matter was holding them off until my man at the FDA could drop the Big Red One.

"Dr. Haus! There's too many of them!" The receptionist boy started fending off a few extra druggies with a two-legged stool.

"Dammit, receptionist boy! Hold the line!" I quickly injected one druggie with a needle full of morphine I found, "Just another minute!"

"I can't hold them off much longer!"

Suddenly, my cell phone chirped as I delivered a large dose of NyQuil to another druggie before punching him square in the face. Mr. Edwards sent me a text message informing me to step back. A moment later, I watched as a gigantic red capsule crashed through the roof directly on top of the closest wave of druggies. A few seconds after that, a rope ladder appeared in between us and the Big Red One as a chopper hovered above the caved-in roof. I could almost swear I heard Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" playing in the background.

Over the cacophony of enraged druggies, my receptionist boy's bitching, the helicopter and the classical music, I heard Mr. Edwards shouting for us to get up the ladder before the Big Red One started heating up. I prayed we had enough time before the massive, red, double-chambered gel capsule started to release its payload.

Parallel Dementia is a rather interesting specimen of a webcomic. On one hand, it hits quite a few cliches that would normally put it in my "meh" category. But at the same time, it manages to put a unique spin on these cliches with a somewhat interesting story with characters that aren't all godlike.

Having said that, there is a lot of stuff that I couldn't help but mock in off-hand comments. If this becomes "tl;dr" (too long;didn't read), then just scroll down to the last 2-3 paragraphs for my summarized thoughts on this.

PD takes place in a post-new-Depression America where an evil corporation (there are never any good ones) named Uni-Corp seems to have experimented on people--or so I'm guessing from the flashbacks of Fall Boxer (Yes, that is the main heroine's name. Was "Rip Torn" taken? Wait, don't answer that.)--until something went wrong and the corporation shut down. Apparently, the majority of America was employed in this massive company, thus sparking an economic depression when it shut down. (What? How could one company spark such a wave? When Enron tanked, it didn't exactly bring us into another Great Depression on its own...but ah, I digress.)

So apparently, in post-new-Depression America, a pair of organizations have sprung up. A reincarnation of the Knights Templar (just "Templar" in PD) to hunt down evil beings called "Nightmares," that were possibly created by Big Evil Uni-Corporation's experiments. Also, she has a robot friend named Reginald.

There's also some sort of US Peacekeepers organized to keep order (because "National Guard" is soooo pre-9/11), but no one seems to care about them. The main hero, named David Shizukana, is a former Peacekeeper, but he quit because he doesn't like killing looters. His brother apparently worked for Big Evil Uni-Corporation and now regrets screwing people over from his desk job. He also has a cat named "Mittens".

Together, Fall and David fight off evil with lots and lots of guns. They also have a smart-ass demonic sidekick named Timmy who provides comic relief in between setting things on fire. And there's a Russian woman named Alexandra Ivanova ("Alexi") who "speak every vord like zis, cuz she's Russian!" and has exploding knives.

One big problem I noticed through PD is that Mr. Fleuter has a problem with drawing distinctive feminine qualities on any of his female cast members. Seriously, back when I first stumbled across PD, I couldn't tell whether or not Fall was a woman until I read more of the dialogue. It gets a little better in the later strips, when the characters don't just look like lanky stick figures with flat faces, but look at one of the more recent strips with Alexi, and you'll see only minor improvements.

Though in the artist's defense, he mentions Alexi having tomboy-ish qualities.

So it seems that PD's story is a convoluted mess that tries to combine "evil Corporation" with "supernatural creepy-crawlies" as mixes it up with semi-biblical mumbo jumbo, and only succeeds halfway. The shading in the later strips does help set a dark mood, but it's still difficult to tell the women from the men.

But, if there's one thing I do like about PD, it is that there is no one super-protagonist who everyone relies on to destroy the bad guys. Everyone's got a role in fighting these "nightmares," and even the smallest character has a chance to not end up in a "Redshirt" role. It's possible that PD can still be saved, but it's going to take some work untangling the knots of this story.

[Addendum: No, I don't want to get into the big-ass crossover Fleuter did with NJ Huff's Emergency Exit crew. That will be a topic for a later time.]

The chopper finally whirred away from the office as the receptionist boy was seated. A faint smell of medicinal marijuana reached my nostrils even from this height as the Big Red One began releasing its payload. Soon, the druggies that didn't already swallow the crap we threw at them would become too mellow to harm anyone else.

"Receptionist boy, I hope you learned a valuable lesson today." I said.

"What is it, Doc? Is it 'Drugs can ruin your life and turn you into a brainless zombie, so think before you down that next pill?'"

"Actually, I was gonna say that 'if you're gonna take drugs for recreational purposes, do it responsibly.' But that works too." I took one last look at the now-disintegrating top half of the Big Red One, having been melted away by the flame buried in the bottom of the capsule, wondering how my insurance company would ever believe this story.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Review #30: "Now in Spooky-Vision!"

[a.k.a. "The Medicating of the Dead II"]

My thoughts exactly, Charlie.

Title: The Zombie Hunters
Artist: Jenny Romanchuk
Genre: Zombie-Horror
Updates: Weekly-ish

"Dr. Haus! Dr. Haus!"

"Ugghh, receptionist boy," I muttered as the world seemed to swim around me, "Tell me this is a bad dream."

"What are you talking about?"

"Something about brain-dead druggies being a metaphor for mindless zombies, and my humble office being overrun with them?"

"You stuck yourself with a needle full of morphine!"

"I did?" I stared for awhile at the empty syringe that I was still holding for some reason, "Oh yeah, I was gonna use it on them, but then I only had one of these and there were so many bad guys. Y'know 'waste not, want not' and all that."

"You're lucky I managed to drag you into the pharmacy, the nurses are either gone or looking for a quick fix with the rest of those druggies by now."

"Do we have more drugs in here?"

"Enough to make a small, liberal-arts college campus start 'Robo-tripping' for days, but not even this supply will hold out forever against that many druggies once they burst through that door!"

I glanced towards the door to the pharmacy that the receptionist boy gestured at, hearing progressively louder pounding on the door. Either that, or some rich kid with a pimped-out ride was showing off his massive bass system in the parking lot again. If I didn't think of something fast, I was going to have to argue for days with the insurance people about whether or not this event was covered...oh, and the possibility of being bitten by brain-dead druggies also sounded bad.

The Zombie Hunters brings us into a desolate wasteland where zombies roam the Earth and one last band of surviving humans tries to...okay, you've heard this story before, haven't you?

Yeah, that's pretty much how the story has progressed to so far, with a cast of characters that has been sorta developing over 90 pages of escaping from zombies. They run up to a roof, make an ill-fated attempt to cross a power line, hit the ground, and then continue running. Also, Charlie might be a half-zombie, or something.

One thing you can definitely say while digging through the archives of The Zombie Hunters is that even the earlier strips have a sort of cinematic flair to them. Though it seems that Ms. Romanchuk takes this a bit too literally as every other page for the first 13 strips displays some sort of "opening credits" sequence. While it might look nice in a movie or a Flash animation, in the webcomic format it just becomes annoying very quickly.

Around strip 50, it's almost like we have a brief interlude from the doom and gloom feel of the earlier strips as Jenny (the hatted one) and Sammie (the blue haired girl...wait, is that natural coloring? Who really has blue hair outside of Japanese anime?) crack jokes while their heads shrink and noses disappear.

I think this comic has the same problem as Dead Winter (see below), in that while the art has its interesting quirks, the creator can't decide which direction the story should be going. While Dead Winter has a Quentin Tarantino-esque gunfighter alternating with a Simon Pegg-like everyman (or woman, in that case), TZH goes from dire peril to a light-hearted action sequence with a brick flail and a shovel. However, I gotta say that this is the first webcomic I can think of that has juxtaposed these two scenes.

Perhaps this would be more permissible if we found out why young girls and an old half-zombie dude were sent out together in the first place, and why they couldn't bother to spare a few anti-zombie suits like these guys had. And on a side note, how does one who claims to be hemophobic in her blog entry draw a comic that depicts several pints of blood splattering every which way?

In any case, the comic has some very nice artwork, but the story is still struggling to catch up. One can only hope it doesn't take another 90 pages before we finally figure out what the hell really happened in the world of TZH.

Thinking fast, I pulled out a cell phone and started dialing a number, "I never thought I'd have to call in this favor, but desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Who are you calling, Dr. Haus?"

"My friend at the FDA, he owes me big time." I waited for the call to connect, and then spoke, "Lady, get Mr. Edwards on the line, tell him Dr. Haus needs him to drop the Big Red One right in my office...yes, I know the consequences, but this is a goddamn emergency! Brain-dead druggies are about to bust through that door...look, I'll sign whatever forms you need, just find Mr. Edwards, and tell him to get me the Big Red One!"

To Be Continued...