The Webcomic Watchman

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Review #37: "The War" (Revised)

[Ed note: the way this comic's website is set up, it won't let me link to individual pages. So you'll have to excuse the lack of embedded links in this post

Now revised to include actual review and hopefully less ambiguity.]

Title: Alpha Shade
Creators: Joseph and Christopher Brudlos
Genre: [TBD]
Updates: Sporadically
Link: http://www.alpha-shade.com

From the war journal of PFC Gordan Haus

Today we arrived in a desert region. Apparently, we were covering the flight of some folks escaping an evil empire. For some reason, our CO was a young woman. A young woman leading our forces? I couldn't believe it either. Next thing you know, they'll want the right to vote.

Wait a minute, they already have that? Ho boy...

Anyways, there I was, manning the artillery, and then we see giant fucking birds flying overhead. No, I'm not just talking about planes, I mean giant fucking birds. Big blue, raptor-like ones that look like creatures from a Michael Crichton novel, before he jumped the shark and became all preachy.

How do I know about Michael Crichton, you ask? Because just as the huge battle scene is getting good, the story flashes back to a scene where my CO happens to be a gymnast in a futuristic American college (all the way to the year 2006!), and the senior officers are her assorted friends, or at least alternate dimension copies. They haven't really explained that yet. There's also some magical stone found in Peru, and magical, telepathic cats with the power to kill people. I knew those LOLcats were part of an evil plot, but did they listen to me? Nooooo!

But then, just as we're getting to know the main characters, the story kinda wandered off to elaborate on evil secondary characters that are apparently running some secret operation in our world for the purposes of...well, I don't know why. Something about power among Great Houses and a Lord named after an old hardware store. But why is my CO a college girl, and how did she and her band of merry men appear in this world where giant birds drop bombs and people travel on giant airships despite only having 1940's technology? Are they actually from the future? Another dimension? Who gave her the command? Did she earn it or what? I still haven't gotten an answer to those questions before the writer decided to raise brand new ones. Kinda like that chick from Arabian Nights, but without the looming threat of death from a crazy sultan.

I tried to tell this to the men in my unit--after all, the dreams were filled with such vivid imagery that they seemed true enough--but my friends just laughed and told me to stop hitting the shisha. Apparently, those blue birds with giant talons were just Nazi planes, the college girl CO was just an effeminate guy who hadn't cut his hair in a long time, and the magical telepathic cat was just a normal mind-reading cat I ran into outside of France.

Wait a minute, how are those cats reading my mind again? Fuck it, I'm going back to the shisha.

Okay, it's a bit tricky to explain Alpha-Shade in one sitting, especially since it's reached 225 full strips and I can't link to the individual pages, but I'm gonna try to explain anyways.

So far, the story seems divided up into three parts: Part one starts off with a huge infodump, where we learn about rich mineral deposits and two great empires fighting each other over protectorates that seem to control said mineral deposits. A bit direct, but hey wars have been started over less.

Oh, and it also seems that a young woman named Laura Stone is the leader and Commander in Chief of one of these protectorates that is getting squished between this war of two great empires. She also has some magical cat named Grey. Okay, now I'm curious.

Soon enough, war breaks out, the briefing gets cut short, people die, biplanes and "Flyers" smack each other out of the sky, moments of truth are realized, and I'm in danger of using a run-on sentence to describe it. Just as we reach a climax between Laura, her cat, her wristwatch and some crazy woman on a big blue raptor/bird thing, the first part ends on a cliffhanger by abruptly switching to an archaeological dig in Peru.

Part II begins afterward with Laura the college gymnast, who bares a stark resemblance to the C-in-C from Part I. A little backstory is revealed on Laura and her troupe, a few of whom also resemble various senior officers from past pages. There's even a little fight scene about how they escaped from some guys trying to shoot them because...well, I don't know. I guess it's to set up the fact that they can fight on their own, and maybe to excuse the reasons they become the senior military staff in whatever world was mentioned in Part I.

But oh no, don't think that we'll get an explanation, because before you know it, we're already at Part III, where we see various evil or evil-ish characters running some dummy corporation in modern-day America for a reason that still hasn't quite been revealed. Apparently, traveling and adapting between the our world and whatever world comes from Part I is as easy as stepping through a magical gate. If that's true, one would be tempted to ask why the bad guys couldn't just teleport a cache of AK-47s and Uzi submachineguns or some C4 to their world. It seems they're skilled enough that no one from our intelligence agencies asks about a big freakin' raptor-bird appearing in the middle of a major coastal city or what Lord Hechinger has been leasing that huge tower for.

Currently, there's a subplot about House Shapira and how their eldest daughter was killed in action. Not quite Part IV, more like Part IIIa.

So what's the point to all of this? The writer of this story seems to have gotten so far ahead with making an epic that he seems to be tossing in new characters and other folks into the pot of established A-S canon that he's forgetting to actually tie up the original plotlines he started all the way back in the first hundred pages. Maybe there's a huge plot synopsis bible somewhere, but trying to click on any page listed under the "AS Guide" tab takes you to an unfinished character page.

Individually, these three parts could be pretty good stories on their own. But connected together, they seem to form a loose narrative that only raises more questions instead of answers. On the other hand, like Prime of Ambition, I'm sure there will be some better payoff if you stick around, but I am wary of those stories (webcomic or otherwise) that take more than 200 pages just to get to the freakin' point. Or maybe I'm just an impatient bastard.

4 Comments:

  • *scratches head*

    Man, this entry really confused me. I never read Alpha Shade, though tempted on multiple occasions...so I was hoping for a better review of it here. Oh well. I think I'll glance through a few pages anyway...Perhaps then I'll know what you're talking about on the entry

    By Anonymous Jason, at 6:49 PM  

  • It is difficult to explain, especially without being able to hyperlink individual pages. Still, I did the best job I could with the tools I had.

    By Blogger Dr. Haus, at 8:30 AM  

  • Oops. Did you add in that review on the bottom of the entry just now or did I miss it earlier? Anyway, thanks regardless for putting it up. I'm actually surprised at the negative comments since I've heard a lot of good reviews on this comic.

    I admit though...I still haven't read Alpha Shade myself. I think it's the flash website that turns me off.

    By Anonymous Jason, at 1:19 AM  

  • Yes, the actual review was completed after your first comment.

    Also, I don't hate the comic, but as I've said long ago it's my job to find the cracks even in the comics I like.

    By Blogger Dr. Haus, at 9:28 AM  

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