The Webcomic Watchman

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Review #36: Xanatos Roulette

So that's what the ball pit is for...
This is funny. Laugh at it. Now.

Title: Masters of the Art
Artist Creators: Justin Pixler and Patrick Johnson
Genre: Comedy

"To understand the complexity of this art, you must find the simple answer."

"But what is the question?" I asked

"You must find the differences in that which makes us alike."

I couldn't help but cock my eyebrow in a manner not unlike Saint Stephen Colbert in response to that non-answer.

"Dr. Haus! You have patience to diagonse!" I thought it was another non-sensical koan, until I realized it was really the voice of my receptionist boy. I mentally noted that he said "patients," not "patience."

"Where the hell have you been, doc?" The receptionist boy gasped. Apparently, he had run all the way up this mystical mountain to find me, "You know we have 20-30 people waiting to see you back down in our new office!"

"You must face your fears, in order to defeat them." The wise guy continued, "Also, the cowardly squirrel can defeat the mightiest fireman, provided he has laser vision."


"Also, Santa Claus is a hobo. That will be 150..."

"How much?"

"150, in Israeli Shekels and box tops, for my book of wise sayings."

I didn't want to piss off the old man, but I also didn't want to pay for a book of random new-age crap that lasted over 350 pages. So I came up with a cunning plan to trick him, consisting solely of throwing a placebo behind him and shouting, "Hey, look over there!" The animalistic growling from behind me as I ran told me that I should've thought of a better distraction.

Then I remembered another piece of advice from my youth: "When running away from a dangerous wise guy who wants you to buy his book, you don't have to be faster than him, you only need to be faster than your friend." Too bad my receptionist boy didn't learn this lesson fast enough.

Bah, I'm slipping on my narratives, but that still made a little more sense than this comic I'm now reviewing for you all.

Masters of the Art is a comic. It has characters. They do stuff.

Oh sure, the characters have names, and they have a few interesting story arcs with Santa Claus the hobo, a (medi-)evil twin, and some guy named Chef Mysterious. In fact, click here, scroll down, and look at the names of various characters. You can probably guess the various story arcs by looking at the names of the supporting cast members.

And as for the main cast members who get tossed into this insanity? About their only distinguishing feature is their hair color and the occasional pair of breasts where the artist feels like introducing a female cast member into the scene. I usually try to make some kind of effort to learn about the characters, but my eyes kinda glazed over after the 100th strip.

Kim (the red-haired girl) is a slight nymphomaniac, Reed has Super Saiyan hair, Jackson reminds me of that guy from that Full Metal Panic manga I read years ago, and there's probably more quirks I could point out among the regular cast...but really, who gives a damn? The main characters are pretty much interchangeable. The secondary cast is only marginally better, but the characters do a small turn from bland to "pick two character traits out of a hat and laugh at the result!" Witness the superhero chef character, marvel at the hippenpenguin, chuckle at the court case featuring an amazon lawyer!

Anything else? Oh yes, the artwork. It starts out as generic anime-style, but over the course of the comic it becomes a little more Western-influenced. It does a decent job, nothing too flashy and nothing that makes me want to pour bleach my eyes. Aside from the occasional emotive action scene, the art prefers to stay in its little corner, sipping a martini and occasionally stumbling out on the dance floor to perform a drunken rendition of the macarena when it feels like being more adventurous.

Go ahead and read this if you must. It doesn't cost you much and you'll probably find something to chuckle at. But do not assume that you will find much substance (comedic or storywise) within this comic...unless this is one hell of a mystical koan and the characters are soon going to turn from simple gag characters into angst-ridden wizards tasked with saving the world.

But enough about Dominic Deegan.

Happy(?) Holidays

I feel I should do something special for this "holiday season." Like maybe update more than once in a fortnight like I used to.

On the other hand, let's face it: Hanukkah is long gone, Christmas is mostly over (aside from Boxing Day), and if anyone who reads this blog celebrates Kwanzaa or another holiday I forgot to mention I'll give you a cookie.

Okay, here, some winter-ish* comics for* you to enjoy.

[X-mas pics from, respectively: Fanboys, Errant Story, Misfile, The Bastard Swordsman, Two Lumps, Star Cross'd Destiny, and Badass Muthas! I take no responsibility for how much you like or hate them.]
(*possibly NSFW)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Review #35: God is a DJ

[Upon further reflection, trying to review S12ORD right now would be like clubbing a baby seal. The damn thing just parodies itself as it stands. So instead, I have moved to another comic, from my "waiting room" list.

Also, kudos to the person who can guess the musical reference in the title of this post.]

Title: Ratification Retribution of Lambs
Artist: Jason Lai
Genre: Supernatural/Sci-fi
Updates: Randomly

One time, I met God on the bus. He told me the meaning of life and then he gave me a pretzel...maybe I should've written it down. But it was a good pretzel.

--Tommy Chong as Leo from That 70's Show (paraphrased)

Man, I had this whole narrative in my head about how to ratify a lamb, and then the creator had to change the name to something that makes a little more sense, thus removing an area for me to mock. So instead I offer you this quote.

Apparently, ROL (as the "cool kids" call it) has had three previous editions before the current storyline. You can read them here if you really want to, but for the sake of this review, I'm only going to focus on the current edition that has been floating around the top 10 of the Buzzcomix list.

The story starts off with God taking the form of a pink-haired girl bitching at a blue-haired guy who apparently is supposed to be the "Adam." Sure, it may seem like a biblical allegory with a twist at first (how can God's son rape God? Consider this your new koan, my dear readers), but after about 10 pages the theme mixes with some Evangelion-like sci-fi story, mentioning something about neuro-synchronization and killer "angels" and the humans (the "lambs" in ROL) who are trying to rebel against them. I'm going to assume that the "why" of this story will appear within the next 10-15 pages, but maybe I'm just a lazy and impatient bastard.

The girl Yasu bears a striking resemblance to the one calling herself God at the start of the story. The boy she ends up saving (aside from a large hole in his gut) bears a strong resemblance to the Adam. Lai has let slip in his comments that the character of God is supposed to be a slightly younger version of Yasu for reasons he hasn't explained yet.

Onto the artwork: the characters, for the most part, look flat even to my untrained artistic eye. I don't mean flat in the sense of character development, but as if you're really looking at a two-dimensional painting. Not to mention the hair colors that don't exist in the real world without a massive dye job (unless there's a reason for that). However, the latest strips have shown improvement in bringing a better perspective (literally) to the art. I hope the artist will continue improving along this route with his artwork.

If there's one thing that nags at my conscience, though, is the reveal at the first ten pages. To me, it might've been better if those pages were slapped on the end of the story instead of the beginning. Not only does it ruin some of the suspense, but the whole rant about the Adam using God or an incarnation of God as a sex toy at the beginning just feels like shock value for the sake of shock value rather than adding anything of value to the story. However, this is my opinion.

However, as it stands right now, ROL is a decent read, if only because Lai avoids falling into the trap of using his soapbox to promote or bash religion despite writing a comic rife with psuedo-religious imagery. Of course, this comic may be frustrating for those looking for a Good Guy or Bad Guy to root for.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Not-Review #35

UPDATE: Yet more stupid drama.

Bah, here I was all set to rip into S12ORD, and then the comic mysteriously disappears. So, looks like I'll have to find something else to review.

Also, tonight will mark the fourth night of Chanukkah this year. Because I can't find anything better to mark this occasion, here's some consolation.

Finally, this is hilarious (or at least it seemed so at one in the morning).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

CT Review #2: Buddy Cop Fantasy Therapy Hour

This time, Dr. Haus tries to be a relationship therapist while reviewing a comic that's been floating around the Buzzcomix 100 for awhile now, entitled The Prime of Ambition. You can read it here.

It's true, the majority of said review focuses on just two characters from the story, but then again, that's where the creators of the comic have put their focus on so far. The sun elf literally spends an entire chapter arguing with the drow/black elf (I haven't paid attention to the whole Forgotten Realms shtick) about pointless shit while threatening to kill him or feeling threatened by him. The entire time I read this, I kept thinking of a few of those buddy-cop movies that were based around an uptight white man who gets paired with a loose, streetwise black guy (i.e. Steve Zahn and Martin Lawrence in the lukewarm National Security, or Robert DeNiro and Eddie Murphy in Showtime). They always argue with each other because their two different personalities just won't mix until they decide to work together to take down the bad guy of the story in the last 20 minutes.

As for the "TV Tropes" I mention in the review: Do not dig through that site unless you have a lot of free time, because it can be fucking addictive.

My next review here will deal with a lesser-known comic that thought putting a number in place of letters was a good move. On the other hand, the protagonist looks like Samuel L. Jackson with a slight goatee.