Review: Three Panel Soul


Way back in 2002, I was first introduced to webcomics by my amazing friend Diana, who showed me Megatokyo, by Fred Gallagher. I read through a good deal of it before finding a guest comic by Ian McConville and Matt Boyd, the respective artist and author of Mac Hall, a comic about a bunch of guys living together in a dorm during their college days. But the college days must come to a close sooner or later, and what do you do then?

If you’re McConville and Boyd, you bring the college comic to an end and start up one about the rigors of adult life. Enter Three Panel Soul. As the name suggests, each comic is limited (or stretched) to three panels; this even extends to the sketch pages put up when there isn’t a comic. And where Mac Hall’s comics focused almost entirely on the sorts of raunchy humor that goes on in and around college, 3PS is just as likely to go down the pensive route. I’d call it “soulful,” but that would just accentuate the pun. Except I just did, so the point is moot.

McConville uses an intentionally sketchy art style for the comic. (If you doubt it’s deliberate, take a look at the animation in this page‘s rant box.) That’s not to say that some of the shiny, colorful styles developed in Mac Hall don’t make the occasional comeback, usually for comics set in MMORPGs. Sometimes the super-deformed style makes a comeback as well. In retrospect, the art style changes as frequently as does the mood of the comic. But the sketchy, semi-realistic style is something of a baseline, certainly the most frequent. In statistics terms, it would be called the “mode.” And it’s relatively easy on the eyes, in all its pseudomonotone splendor.

Having but three panels per comic to work with, 3PS doesn’t generally do much in the way of plot. There’s a small story arc revolving around the way Matt reacts to the death of his grandfather, but for the most part, the comic follows the whims of the duo, devoting equal time to mocking commercials, making obscure pop-culture puns, referencing older Mac Hall jokes, turning sentimental moments into introspective comedy, and letting loose with the positively bizarre.

This, of course, is split around the basic slice-of-life material that the comic gravitates toward. Hey, if you want to write a journal, you might as well enjoy it. I personally can relate to this comic far too well, although other comics can really only come from his point of view. And sometimes a certain amount of the surreal peeks through. The jokes are crude sometimes, but sometimes it feels like that’s to be expected from an online comic. Sad, but there you go.

In the end, 3PS is an entertaining comic with a variety of jokes and observations. And a couple of prancing death knights. And a cat named Schrodinger. I mean, how cool is that?

Comic Rating: Three panels.

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