The Webcomic Watchman

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review #38: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

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The mob boss with a heart of gold.

Name: Coffee Time
Creators: John Kratky (writer) & Tobias Kaschinski (artist)
Genre: Comedy/one-shot gag (Volume 1), Drama! (Volume 2)
Updates: Monday/Wednesday

"Dr. Haus?" The receptionist boy knocked on the door to my office, expecting a sign of life from beyond that solid block of wood yet receiving none. He somehow escaped that crazy man from the mountain like I did, but then tried to enter my office. Couldn't he understand I was busy trying to inject some antibiotics into a patient?

"Dr. Haus?" Came the cry again, followed by more knocking at the door. Couldn't he see that there was nothing he could say until I was finished with this patient?

"Dr. Haus? I have your coffee!" With those words, I ran to the door and ignored the whining of the man in whose left arm I had forgotten to remove the hypodermic needle. As I opened the door, the receptionist boy indeed carried a steaming double mocha from a coffee shop that wasn't pretentious enough to rename its cup sizes "grande" or "venti." Feeling that awesome elixir of life slipping down my throat, I finally felt energized and ready to face the day while my brain began to uncurl.

In my excitement, I went back to my patient and ripped the needle out of his arm. For some reason, he didn't seem to feel grateful that I had cured his illness as I wrapped part of his upper left arm tightly in gauze to stop the bleeding.

Awright, awright, Dr. Haus trying to get back into the reviewing groove that he once had awhile back. Let's see if we can't get a new review done through a haze of painkillers.

It's a bit difficult to review this one, because it's broken up into two volumes. The first volume obviously showcases when the creators of Coffee Time were just dicking around with their ideas. The second volume takes a much more serious and edgy turn. So I'll try to sum up both as best as I can.

The first volume sets up the cast of characters, including

  • Steph, the Nice Girl
  • Cypress, the Bad Girl
  • Vince, the self-styled mobster with a big heart.
  • Tom, the Nice Guy(TM) with the baseball cap.
  • Eddie, the badass with a cool car and a knit cap.
  • The Angry Ashkenazi (my name, not theirs), a young Jewish wrestler (with stylish yarmulke and matching headgear) named Eugene.
  • Karate teacher and prideful Japanese guy Tanaka.

Is it really that easy to sum up? Yes, for the first volume the characters mostly play their type in three/four-part gags. The artwork is workable if a bit sloppy with the characters and too much unused background space, and the jokes kinda meander in their own zones as the various character types play across each other. All of them (except Eugene and Tanaka) work at the coffee shop called "Coffee Time" while some anarchist pastiche of Willie Nelson looks on.

Things pick up later in the volume two, but whether for the better or worse is questionable. Like NJ Huff of Emergency Exit and "Mookie" of Dominic Deegan, the creative minds behind Coffee Time seemed to tire of simple gags and decided to try something more story-oriented. And how do they kick it off? With a horrible car crash during a race with badass Eddie in the car and Cypress ending up in the hospital to mark the end of volume one.

It only gets more angsty and dramatic from there: Tom has mommy issues and nets a girlfriend who turns out to be a devout Christian. Eddie keeps blaming himself for Cypress being in the hospital and having bad dreams about the race. The Angry Ashkenazi decides to try training in martial arts under Master Tanaka, probably to justify keeping him around in the story. And there's also a developing plot about a bookstore with a not-Starbucks threatening to suck away business from the Coffee Time shop that most of the aforementioned cast works at.

Personally, I found this comic interesting because I found myself identifying with a few of the characters in the strip in volume 2. From Eugene's determination to master karate to Eddie's questioning his values in the wake of a car crash, I've actually known some people with these same traits in my life. On the artistry side, the artwork gets a little more creative without using a generic manga or American style. This style seems to shine a lot more during brief action or exaggerated emotional scenes, but it does show quite a lot of progress on the artist's part.

So in the end, is this a good comic or a bad comic? The cartoons start out as cardboard caricatures and slowly get some depth written into them, the artwork is a lot better in the current strips, and I find myself empathizing with a few of the current characters. It doesn't try to be anything too expansive or complicated, nor does it take itself too pretentiously. For those of you who want me to pigeonhole it into a category, I'll sweep it towards the crop of "good" comics.

But I reserve the right to sweep it back into the "bad" pile if the characters don't continue growing out of their two-dimensional selves.


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