Posts Tagged nsfw

Review: Power Out

As a literary genre, magic realism is something of a minefield. Taking the rough, feverish text of realist fiction and grafting in the limitless whimsy of fantasy can result in stories like “The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit” (a personal favorite of mine, written by Ray Bradbury) . . . but it can also lead to stories involving the protagonist being raped at gunpoint by the daughter of a naked hermaphrodite who knits the universe together with anti-matter yarn.* Fiction in general can be a crap shoot, but magic realism plays with erotic dice.

Which brings me to the topic of Power Out, a story from the ACT-I-VATE collective submitted by creator Nathan Schreiber. As far as I can tell, Power Out takes its inspiration from the Northeast Blackout of 2003**, though it extends the scope of the incident—and, according to Schreiber, the duration.

The story follows Justin, a teenager with ineffective parents, an irresponsible older sister, and some unexplained past trauma. Considering the sorts of people his sister befriends, it’s little surprise that he spends most of his time in a cocoon of video games and online lingerie ads. But then his parents go out on a cruise, his sister heads out to Cape Cod with some people she barely knows, and irony strikes: the power grid gives out on the anniversary of the invention of the electric clock.

Justin is forced to confront a world full of rude people, people who don’t speak his language, and heat exhaustion. He doesn’t take to it well. An explicit and unsettling wet dream follows, though for the life of me I don’t know why we’re treated to it. It probably shows how disoriented Justin is, but at the same time, I don’t feel at all good for having had to read through an erotic scene between a teenager and an old woman.

Schreiber’s line art flows very nicely, such that even straight lines seem like gentle curls. His talent really seems to shine through when he’s depicting the high contrast between light and dark or pretty and grotesque. His landscapes are likewise nothing to sniff at. Honestly, if the style were being used to depict a less unsettling plot . . . but that’s my own personal taste. Power Out is the winner of a 2009 Xeric Award, so people certainly like what it does. But as I’ve said in other reviews, I guess I’m not one of them.

Comic Rating: 3 Amperes.

* I am not making this premise up. The title of the story escapes me, but I had to read it for a class on short fiction. The things a person will do to finish off a degree . . .
** An event that I remember mostly for having gotten the evening off of work. A bit callous of me, perhaps, but then my hometown got power back after a day or so with few repercussions.

, , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Review: Less than Three

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m something of a prude, at least by the Internet’s standards. Granted, I was still a bit more prone to ribald jokes and unkind comments than the average student at my alma mater. The campus newspaper, The Daily Universe, was notorious for featuring letters to the editor whose writers were “shocked and appalled” at various things that got published and apparently shouldn’t have been. Some days I was amazed that the entire population of campus wasn’t stumbling around in a dazed pallor.

This stands in contrast to The Towerlight, student newspaper for Towson University, subject of recent controversy over an explicit sex column and publisher of the comic I’ll be reviewing this week. While that may seem to be an unfair introduction to Less Than Three (submitted for review by Steven Baird, who writes and draws the comic), it’s a bit more relevant than you’d think. Like the last self-submitted comic, <3 does its best to make NSFW seem like such an inadequate tag.

Originally intended to be a World of Warcraft comic, <3 shortly found itself in print and didn’t seem to know what to do from there. There were a few editorial cartoons and cracks in the fourth wall before the comic settled into a sporadic regimen of poop jokes, sex jokes, poop sex jokes, celebrity smear gags, more sex jokes, and loud left-wing politics.*

Some of the time, Baird’s comics rely on pop-culture references for their jokes. (As the saying goes, “Steal from the best.”) This includes sources as diverse as Peanuts, The Wizard of Oz, VG Cats, The Silence of the Lambs, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Resident Evil, Star Trek, Batman, and (perhaps most baffling) The Newlywed Game. His comic titles have also referenced Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, and Terry Pratchett (who is himself referencing Alan Moore). Of course, it’s somewhat depressing to see an allusion to Robert Burns tacked onto a comic about a mentally retarded ice cream cake.

Oh, well. At least he loves his mother.

Comic Rating: Two evil Snuggies.

* Political humor has its merits, chief of which being that as long as you express a popular opinion, people will laugh at your jokes no matter how tasteless or cruel they would otherwise be. The problem, however, is that it’s rarely done well enough to get people on the other side of the aisle to laugh. And once you start regularly expressing your political opinions in the middle of an otherwise neutral comic, BAM—there goes half your audience.

, , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Review: Crooked Gremlins

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail inviting me to review a comic. This marks the second time that I’ve received such an invitation, and since I took several months even to notice the previous one, I thought I’d improve my track record and read the comic for this week’s review. And that comic is The Crooked Gremlins, by Carter Fort and Paul Lucci. I was assured that the comic was “well within the parameters of [my] suggestion criteria,” so it was with an open mind that I set out to read. This was something of a disappointment.

Somehow the phrase “not work safe” seems insufficient when dealing with The Crooked Gremlins. To say that the comic puts me off my lunch would be to leave out all the other meals that have lost their savor. The comic reads like a transcript of conversations from a freshman dorm room. Probably the room that smelled a little off.

The comic is declared to be the chronicles of a rag-tag group of gremlins who, in the tradition of their kind, are devoted to causing mischief to the humans on the surface world (annoyance being far more cruel than mere death). And when it actually focuses on the high jinks* that result from this mission, the comic’s at least decently good.

But it doesn’t. The premise is tossed casually aside in favor of random spectacularly tasteless celebrity references. This of course includes political jokes (with the added bonus of painful stereotypes). When politics aren’t involved, then the raunchy jokes get tossed in. And failing that, there’s always the resident butt-of-all-jokes to torment.

What more is there to say? The art is decent and the site design gives a better attempt at breaking away from the default ComicPress template than a lot of the comics I’ve reviewed of late, but it’s so much pretty dressing around poop jokes and spelling errors (for future reference, a nave is an area in a cathedral, while a knave is an uncouth fellow). Like wrapping a dead rat in gold leaf, it seems like an awful lot of effort to put into something so offensive.

Comic Rating: One rather apparent author insert (just read the character names backward).

* Incidentally, the phrase high jinks is amusing in and of itself when you look at it.

, , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Review: Multiplex

For the year and a half before my recent move, I was on-and-off dating an amazing young lady who happened to work at a movie theater. (Speaking of which, if she’s reading this, hi! You remain awesome.) Her hours and mine were sometimes wildly incompatible, meaning conventional dates were out of the question, but we’d often take walks through downtown Provo and chat about various things. Occasionally, the conversation would turn to the latest bit of drama among the theater staff or the latest bit of head-turning cluelessness from the patrons. She even started sketching a few comics to vent her frustrations.

It turns out, however, that she’s not the only one who’s wanted to do such a comic. Take, for example, Multiplex, a soap opera-style comic created by Gordon McAlpin. The stupid, impolite, and disingenuous customers certainly show up in force. The emphasis of the comic, however, is placed more on the tangled ball of relationships resulting from a hectic workplace with a variable staff of teenagers and young adults. And let me warn you now: being a soap opera with plenty of young adults, Multiplex is not. Work. Safe. McAlpin even hangs a lampshade on the fact.

Keeping up with the story gets a little tough, however, when there are so very many different characters to keep up with, most of whom only get a few fractions of a page of face time. Sure, it’s realistic to have unfamiliar faces show up, but half the time when a side character gets pulled into the spotlight, you’re left scratching your head and saying, “Who was that?”

Adding to the confusion, the staff characters like to cosplay as characters from current movies. This is often also a means of making various subtle references to features of the movies or to the goings-on backstage. Those who aren’t up-to-date on the latest celebrity gossip will frequently be left clueless.

The comic also tends to delve into political and religious disagreements, but over the course of the comic, McAlpin puts in the effort to be fair. Sure, one Christian is a certifiable airhead, but then she and the other Christian get more depth as characters. And while the progressive-minded atheist of the group gets his moments to feel superior to the ignorant among the faithful, he also gets his comeuppance now and then. The comic walks a fine line, and it’s a testament to McAlpin’s skill that he can keep it from tipping over.

Multiplex was originally meant to be a series of Flash cartoons (as alluded to here), and the art style reflects it, starting mainly as easy-to-animate colorforms. The style has grown slowly more complex, though, and sometimes the scenery is simply mind-blowing. McAlpin bases the comic in his hometown of Chicago, and the familiarity really shows.

So on the one hand, Multiplex is a crude comic full of sex scenes, crude language, innuendo, and racial slurs. And on the other hand, it’s a very well-written comic with intertwining plots, thought-provoking concepts, and a willingness to be unabashedly nerdy on a specialized subject. It’s likely to be a guilty pleasure for anyone who spends a lot of time at the theater, on either side of the counter.

Comic rating: Eight sides (at least) on the love polygon.

, , , , ,

No Comments