Friday, December 2, 2016

The Successor: Cityface

Tom Siddel's comic is amazing in the end.  Through Gunnerkrigg Court he has created a world that is both familiar and fantastic, characters that are relatable and inscrutable. and a story that is both tragic and humorous all at the same time.  There aren't many comics that can do all of those things.  Bet you can't guess 3 of them.

I think, though, the thing that really keeps this whole thing rolling is how Tom relates to his readers.  Most of his initial comments come in little blurbs at the bottom of the pages.  These are quick, often silly comments like "This guy!" or something equally goofy.  Though when things get serious, those comments vanish very quickly, a quiet sign that the reader should be paying attention to what's going on.

He does videos where he reads through earlier chapters of the comic and makes his own comments.  I haven't watched them yet, not because I don't want to, but because the comic is good enough on it's own to not need it, but it's something I've NEVER seen another comic artist do.

I believe he probably reads his own forums regularly, though I doubt he says much.  He's very much aware of how people respond to his comic, as I mentioned back here.  Ultimately this led to Chapter 55 and, well, my brief response.

Which leads to the fact that he really has a good sense of humor, and knows when to pull back and be silly.  Whether it's his own "about" page, or his vacation filler strips featuring this post's title character, Cityface, he knows when to have fun and be very, very silly.  And his readers love it.

Ultimately, Tom Siddel is probably one of the best story tellers in comics today.  He combines excellent, ever evolving art (which he isn't afraid to admit to, BTW), imagery, character, seriousness and silliness all into a single package and creates a story that likely will only grow stronger with time.

If there is any comic I would recommend with no information (and I try not to), it would be Gunnerkrigg Court.  It has a little of everything and deserves to be the new king of the list.

Next time it's the return of the Quasi-Awards.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Successor: The Bridge

Between the Forest and the Court is a chasm with a river at the bottom, the Annan Waters.  Across this chasm is a bridge.  It's alarmed by the Court, so if any one crosses without permission, they'll know.  There are lights along it to keep the glass eyed men from crossing back.  There is no railings.

Along the waters is Jeanne, imprisoned to be a guard of the waters, another layer of defense of the Court, established long ago and in the most cruel way possible.  Her love, a resident of the Forest, was killed in the waters to trap her spirit there, a spirit of rage.

Gunnerkrigg Court is not about that bridge, but the actual bridge, in the form of Antimony Carver.  She's the main character, of course, but more than that, she is the link that draws it all together.

She was born outside of the Court, in the World.  She has been guided and basically trained to be a Psychocomp.  She's a student of the Court, a daughter of it in many ways.  And she's part Fire Spirit, a creature of magic and the Forest.

Through her we see the story of Gunnerkrigg Court, all the intrigues and mysteries.  Annie touches each area, and sometimes more than she expected.  Of course we get glimpses through others eyes, especially Kat who is as much a main character as Annie is really.  In the end, though, the comic is about Annie, her friends and their collective adventures.

Which isn't to say she's a perfect bridge.  She's very much a child still, a teenager at best, still learning and growing.  She makes some big mistakes, misinterprets what's she's being told, and even lies when she has no reason too.  Her biggest failure is cheating at school, using Kat's friendship to do so.  That ended when she got caught by her own father.

It's through her we experience the comic, and it's the lynch pin that holds the whole thing together.  It's clear that she will move the Court into it's next phase of being, though how and why are still in the future.  That said, every reader is following her, watching, and worrying over every little thing.

I can't say it enough, after all Gunnerkrigg Court is about Antimony in the end, but without the world to bring together, she's nothing.

Next time, Cityface.  Go ahead, guess what it's about.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Retrospective: Sorcery 101

Look a post!  That isn't on the first friday of the month.  What sorcery is this?  Well, about that. . .

Sorcery 101 ended last week and I felt I needed to write this up as soon as I could because I have a few things to say about it.

Let me start off by saying it isn't a bad comic, but there was something missing.  Even back in my reposting of the original review (which added a current comments) I noticed I wasn't quite getting into it that much and at the time I couldn't understand why.  I do now because in ending, it made it all the more obvious.

It does have a rich and involved world.  There's lots of characters, interactions, magic, werewolves, vampires, angels, demons, monsters, bureaucracy and all that detailed out and played with to one extent or another.  There's a lot of good characters, their motivations and goals well spelled out, and some with eternal mysteries (what hell is up with Seth anyway?).  It's got a lot going for it and I think when I started reading it I expected it to go somewhere grand.

It never did.

The ending spelled it out because, well, it just kind of happened.  There was no grand battle, or plot to foil.  There was no mystery revealed or legend confronted.  There was some minor fighting, a car crash and a death, but nothing else.  And then the comic is over.

To an extent, I suspect that this is kind of on purpose, it was just supposed to be the daily lives of these people in this strange world.  Urban fantasy without the world destroying plots or heroics.  Just everyday living.  And that's fine, it did it pretty well, but constantly it was being driven as if there WAS more going on, hints and tips abound, mysteries running through, plot threads seemed to be drawing out.  Yet nothing was done with it, and while some ends were kind of resolved, for the most part if the last chapter happened after the first, I don't think anyone would have noticed.

I think the best way to put it is that Sorcery 101 feels more like the prologue to another story.  It's setting up the world, the characters, the major players and their motivations, and in the NEXT comic, that's when the interesting stuff happens.  But there is no next comic, this is it.  And considering it's been going for 11 years, at this point next comic was never going to happen.

Again, it's not BAD because of that, it's just not fulfilling.  The only bit of the ending that was interesting is the reflection of the first and last page of the comic.  Beyond that I think this is a comic I will just remember as one I used to read, and nothing more.

Next time, which should be next week, should see the next part of The Successor.  Until then kiddies.  Oh and happy Halloween.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Successor: The Court

The titular location of the story is Gunnerkrigg Court itself.  Much of the story takes place within it, or near it, and much of the plot is due to the odd things that happen on the Court's grounds.

In many ways, the Court is as much a character in it's own right as it is a place.  It's imposing, massive and oddly empty place.  Soulless would be a great description, an almost lifeless place.

It isn't dead, per say.  There are no free animals and plants that have been noticed, but there are a lot of robots, a LOT of them.  They perform so many tasks that humans are almost unnecessary for the bulk of the tasks at hand.

There are people in the Court, of course, mostly students (a couple thousand at best) and their teachers.  There are others, but they are few and far between, or if they are many, they are unseen.  This makes the Court feel very sterile indeed, so when life forms appear, they are usually magnificent and unexpected.

The Court is order to the Forest's chaos, and the result is that despite the lack of adults or guards, the Court is generally safe enough for the students to wander around unsupervised.  This may actually be intentional as well, as the students often go off to do experiments and the like because, well, there's not much else to do.

The real embodiment of this is in Kat, who is both an exceptional mechanical genius but possibly some kind of robotic angel (however that works).  When not taking classes or going on adventures, she busies herself building, designing and modifying various bits of technology, from an anti-gravity device to bio-robotics.  The Court does little to reign her in, though how much is because they don't know is unclear.  The results have been rather spectacular honestly.

And here in is another difference from the Forest:  how fast and strong one is doesn't matter within the Court.  Well, not matter is relative, but it does mean it's not necessary for survival.  Being intelligent or having a special power will make one a big shot within the Court, maybe, if the Court's leaders view it as important.  Characters like Zimmy and Gamma are allowed to run free for some nebulous reason, for example, when danger is all the two of them actually represent.

This results in many of the students of the Court coming FROM the Forest.  They're converted to human forms and do odd computational tasks within the walls.  The only prize for them is a name, which is just kind of thrown to them.  The Court doesn't seem to much care what they do, as long as they do what they want, beyond that. . .

Beyond that what the Court wants is nebulous at best.  Hints are given that what it's up to is no good, but there's nothing solid there.  Any action the Court takes, in the past or present, seems to be about defending itself from the outside, rather than something more sinister.  Nothing good comes from this, of course, but it does make one question whether it SHOULD do these things.  In the end, the story of the comic is about peeling back some of these mysteries and seeing what the Court actually is and what it wants.

The only way to do this, though, is to bring all these elements together, and that is through a Bridge.  Until next time.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Touching Base #26

One might think I'm still shirking posting with this, and you'd only be half right as a lot of stuff changed in the last couple of months, so it's time to find out what.

The Wotch is still having issues with artists, mostly in the fact that their current one hurt his arm and can't post at the moment.  Honestly, at this point they probably should consider throwing in the towel.  I'm moving it back to Monthly until things shake out one way or the other.

What Birds Know is slowly drawing to a close.  I think they're up to the last chapter, so there will be a retrospective in the near future for it, maybe.  There does seem to be some time between posts, something about 5 days of summer and Canada.

Pole Dancing Adventures stalled out in May, again, no idea why.  The news posts are still updating, but not the comic, very odd.

Rounding out the cast of comics that should update more, Dead Winter isn't updating either, with little to no obvious reason.  Kind of a shame as it was just starting to get the next arc rolling too.  Both this and BDA stay on the Weekly list for the time being, despite lack of updates.

It Hurts! had an interesting transition to hell via exploding planet, so the current course of the story is, um, odd.  Lots of odd this update.  I do like it as it reset the storyline a bit and keeps things moving in that, um, crazy  weird way it does.

Still little solid information on what happened to Kiwi's By Beat!, but at least there's a mirror for most of the comics.  Yay, I can still read minus and Great.  That said, there's no official word on what happened, guesses range from bankrupt to dead, so yeah.  If I hear more, I'll keep you informed.

Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks still haven't updated since their last round of doing so.  Don't count that as "dead" just not moving much.  As such I'll ship them over to Monthly to keep an eye on them.

Out There's finale, um, still doesn't exist.  Which is leaning toward it being a dead comic.  I'm glad we were TOLD it was probably going to be shelved, but some kind of ending would have been nice to have.  Expect a Retrospective on it soonish.

Commander Kitty has had sporadic updates thanks to the fact that he has to work for a living.  But you know, if I had a job in animation, I wouldn't be as worried about the comic either.

Finally, Pete Abrams is planning Sluggy Freelance past it's 20th year (next year I might add).  Specifics are still in the air, but the gist is there's no way to wrap up every storyline (not that I was expecting him to, mind you) in that last year.  Some of the idea is make a less scheduled comic after the 20th anniversary.  He does like to eat, and the comic has been making him money, so I could see him trying to keep something going (Howard Taylor over at Schlock Mercenary has talked about something similar in the past).  How it'll work out, I don't know.  We'll see, and I'll be here updating this blog for it.

Next time kiddies, hopefully I'll get The Successor moved along some more.  Until then.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Wild Webcomic Review?

Wait, I took time off how can there be another

WILD WEBCOMIC REVIEW!

Funny, backing off the weekly updates has given me a chance to, you know, read comics for this site again.  Go figure!  Seriously, I randomly spotted an ad on another comic, and it started me off on another round of comics, and so, review time.

276.  PopChromatic - I shouldn't like this comic.  It has elements that alone and often together just don't attract me.  Pop music, teen girls, rebels without a clue, a character named Justice (again, really?) and a competition show (still proud to never have watched a single episode of American Idol).  And yet, this comic is actually pretty good.  I think it's because it is NOT about winning that pop music competition, but about what a family member is willing to do for another (in this case, it's become a pop music star, despite not really wanting it, like at all).  I've got some issues with the characters acting a bit older than they should (They're 16?  Are you sure?), but it's not overpowering and I enjoy the cynical, and realistic take on pop music and that competition show idea.  I'm worried that it's a weekly updater, so that might effect the flow of the story, but we'll see how it goes.

277.  Pants Are Overrated - I mentioned this strip back in my review of Calvin and Hobbes, so I figured I might as well read the rest of the comic.  Of course it's been dead for like 5 years (completed, technically) so I wasn't in that much of a rush.  That said, it's a silly comic.  Nothing super amazing, just a silly, brief comic that takes it's cue from other comics, like Penny Arcade, but doesn't go completely over to the dark side.  It is very wordy at times, too wordy, but I think that was the joke, honestly.  Fun, quick read, but nothing that makes it "I MUST READ THIS FOREVER."  Mostly because you can't.

278.  No Pink Ponies - I think I've had this in my Future Reads folder for a long time, and it's been around a long time, kind of, get to that.  It's okay as a slice of life style comic.  It has some of that wish fulfillment stuff going on (comic nerd girl is hot and has the money to open her own store, really?), but it doesn't strictly hurt it.  The fact that said nerd girl attracts lesbians like moths to a flame is a bit weird, but we'll leave it as quirky.  The downside?  LONG gaps in updates.  The last new comic was posted on New Years Eve 2015 (8 months ago by the time this goes up) and the last news update was in April 2016.  There are also massive gaps while reading the comic (the annual comic convention in the comic seems to come very frequently because the gaps so it's kind of obvious).  I don't have a problem reading the comic, but I think it'll have to go into Hiatus until it actually updates.

279.  Cosmic Dash - I really enjoyed this comic.  It's a space adventure comic, and a fun one too.  It's definitely a positive comic, where the good guys are actually good and the bad guys aren't horrible terrible monsters, at least so far.  Even when things are looking bleakest, they really aren't.  Not sure if that's the artstyle talking, or if it's just the general attitude of the comic that keeps it from going into the morose where it could easily do so.  It's a good comic and I think I'll be reading it for a while.

280.  Dark White - Wow, what a contrast to Cosmic Dash.  Not only is this a high fantasy comic, but it is DARK as hell.  Not only does it open with some poor creature being tortured, but it eventually brings up child sacrifice, zombies and the apocalypse.  Yeah, it's dark, so dark I might have to do an article comparing these two comics against each other.  It's well done dark, even if it is pretty early on, but there's a sense of world here that really keeps me invested in it, and the story plays out pretty well.  I think I'll be reading it for a while, at least as long ad Dash, and it's a nice contrast.

Well, that was a nice surprise.  Don't expect anything more any time soon.  Still, expanding the amount of time between updates has given me time to work on stuff like this, so I'm happy about it.  Wish my job wasn't so overbearing, but that's what happens when you're good at what you do, I guess.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Successor: The Forest

The comic of Gunnerkrigg Court has many opposites that play against each other, and no where is this more present than the contrasts between the Gillitie Wood and Gunnerkrigg Court itself.

The Forest is a place of magic, myth, full of overt danger and wondrous beauty.  It serves to sharply contrast the Court, but we'll get to that later, but also to serve as the home for the magical in a world that seems empty of them.

Make no mistake that it is a forest, full of the things a forest has, from trees to animals, all living in a way that nature seems to have designated.  Survival of the fittest is the word of the day, and being fast or strong means the resident lives to see another day.  Simple, yes?

This means the Forest is overtly dangerous.  A visitor, when they're allowed, is not safe, no matter how strong and bold.  The Court typically has one representative that is sent into the Forest, and one guard for just this reason.

To anyone on the outside, the Forest is chaotic, with the only rule being Darwin in action.  This is made worse by the presence of magical and mythological creatures next to the variety of animals and plants.  Fairies play in the woods, the Shadow People hide among the shadows of the trees, and then there are the tricksters.

Renard (or is it Reynardine, it's a bit unclear), Ysengrin and Coyote are the real stars of the Forest and represent it's interests and powers.  They are tricksters each, but also wise in their own, sometimes odd, ways.  Renard is the most civilized, as it were, more than capable of interacting with the humans of the Court in a way that is more mischievous than anything else, yet is likable and fatherly when it is necessary.  Ysengrin may be going mad, but his representation of power, animal and aggressive, is at once frightening and fair.  And Coyote, well, he's the most philosophical of the three, but also the most maddening one to deal with.

They are not the Forest in and of themselves, but they show that it is more than just eat or be eaten.  There are layers there, and a world that is no less complex than any other.  It is alive, developing, and growing everyday.

Chaos and survival, passion and mischief, power and philosophy, the Forest is more than just "that other place" or the world of magic.  It lives and breathes, and interacts with the humans of the Court when it could just as easily not, allowing the dynamic and conflict of the comic to exist at all.

Next time, the other side of the Forest's coin.  Until then kiddies.