The Webcomic Watchman

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Review #31: Perpendicular Sanity

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

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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.


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