Posts Tagged surreal

Review: Currhue

I find myself somewhat at a loss for this review. As you’ve seen in previous reviews, I generally spend the first paragraph rambling about some odd topic that serves to segue into the review itself. But this week’s comic leaves me at something of a nonplus. So I suppose I’ll have to set aside the expository banter.*

Here, then, is a comic called Currhue, submitted by its creator, who calls himself Kloob. It is a strange comic, a baffling comic. A comic that moves swiftly from awkward flirting to murder and sworn revenge, which is all promptly swept under the rug for a plot involving future alien dinosaurs and the reckless bounty hunters who attack them. And also the bounty hunters are nuclear robots.

Awkward flirting aside, this sounds a lot like my five-year-old nephew telling me what his afternoon at day care was like.

Kloob is capable of some pretty decent art, all things considered, which makes it rather baffling that he depicts human characters as spindly little homunculi. This actually ruins one joke, wherein Albert is supposed to be naked, but he looks no different from when he’s clothed, save for the absence of a line or two.

I honestly can’t yet fathom Currhue. It’s still a bit too sparse to make any overwhelming judgments based on what disjointed snippets of plot I can put together. The quickly-discarded extras feel like side characters from an Adam Sandler movie, and the art is just intentionally ugly enough to put me off. The whole comic feels a bit like a fever dream, and I think I’d rather sweat it out.

Comic Rating: Two enormous hands.

* Now we review this comic like men! And ladies! And ladies who dress like men!

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Review: Ren Rats

I imagine that writing about the Olympics would be a shameless way to drive some traffic to the site, so here’s my best attempt at forced tangential commentary:

As Bob Costas reminded us Americans again and again* over the last few weeks, a lot of historical things happened during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And my family is very much down with history: my parents have both participated in the local historical play; my brother-in-law has done World War II re-enactments on the beach at Conneaut, Ohio; and I’ve personally gotten involved with BYU’s medieval club, Quill & the Sword. This club has had to deal with a lot of flack from the campus student association—not all of it unearned, since the medieval club seems to attract people who act before they think.

One can ask for no more cheerful celebration of everything that is wrong with medieval and Renaissance clubs than Ren Rats, by a fellow who calls himself Piz.** You have the people who meticulously remember every detail of trivia, the ones who forget what’s important, and the ones who go around offending the “mundanes” as a means of entertainment. There’s the tendency to go for shock humor as a way of getting announcements out. To be honest, the members of the KUMRC are a lot like the main cast of Weregeek: reacting to people’s rejection of them by acting all the more repugnant.***

The plot of Ren Rats is, according to the “about the comic” page, taken from real life. Except, of course, where it isn’t. This means that, in essence, Ren Rats is one elaborate inside joke. Unfortunately, inside jokes don’t translate very well to a public medium, as anyone with a good set of kidneys in their head can tell you. This, combined with the occasional hole in the fourth wall, makes the comedy feel just a little forced. But then, there’s always the fussy nerd to take down a few pegs if the jokes start to feel stale.

The art looks to be just a step above MSPaint, with rather little progress or improvement from day one to nearly three years later. Characters’ cheekbones stick out like they have impacted teeth, and their expressions seem to default to a heavy-lidded smirk. The “scroll” effect on the comics is clever, but it’s added to each comic individually—and then the rest of the area is made transparent to fit with the page layout, leaving artifacts along the edges of the curves. You can see the same thing on the navigation arrows.

The strange thing is that, in doing this, Ren Rats manages to capture the essence of many a medieval reenactor: a bit on the awkward side and in need of some cleaning up, but essentially well-meaning.

Comic Rating: One last rehearsal at 2 A.M.

* and again and again and again . . .
** Ha! I made it tangentially relate after all!
*** This is not listed among the ways to make friends with people, and for good reason. Those “be true to yourself” teen movies generally forget to add, “but still be polite to those around you.”

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Review: Order of Tales

Say what you will about J. R. R. Tolkien’s body of work*, it’s had its influence on just about every fantasy work created since his time. Whether people emulate him through sad-but-overbearing elves, hard-drinking dwarves with a brick-like language, and twisted monsters direct from old folk-tales—or assert that their fantasy races are nothing like his—it becomes almost a game to find bits and traces of Middle-Earth peeking out of other series. One reason for this, in my opinion, is the amount of work that Tolkien put into building his world. He sat down and named just about every location and landmark, developed languages and dialects and lineages and histories for peoples that would barely even see print. He was still building his world when he died, and his son Christopher has been keeping up the production of the History of Middle-Earth ever since.

Working in a similar manner is Evan Dahm, the creator of Rice Boy who is currently working on a prequel called Order of Tales. Dahm has set up a wiki on his site to collect all the information he’s put together concerning his work, including various names, places, and languages he’s set out to create. On the one hand, I admire the sheer amount of effort that must be going into this, and on the other hand, I’m left to wonder if he gets to do much of anything with his time other than design and lecture.**

If you’re well-enough versed in Tolkien’s work, you can definitely see a relationship between Order of Tales and The Silmarillion. Both deal with creation stories, both deal with great wars in prehistory, both trail after the search for lost items of power, and both are bewildering if taken out of context. Of course, where Tolkien had races borrowed directly from folklore, Dahm prefers to use robots, anteaters, animals, and horned creatures named for grammatical concepts. (The jury’s still out as to what species the protagonist, Koark, really is.)

Confusing species aside, the art style of Order of Tales is rich and surreal, lavishing detail on landscapes and calligraphy alike. And where Rice Boy was full of vibrant colors, Order of Tales is a story of grim shadows and terrible bleakness. It’s an interesting step that mirrors an equal maturation in the way that Dahm writes his dialogue, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future.

Comic Rating: Three silmarils.

* Granted, most complaints that I hear are along the lines of “The text just drags! It’s so boring …” or “This is nothing like the movie.”
** I think the insurance rates on my glass house just went up.

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Review: Unity

I have something of a soft spot for science fiction. Some of this might be that I grew up reading “the good stuff”—my dad has an extensive collection of Asimov, Niven, Card, Heinlein, Clarke, and others, so I had a pretty steady supply of sci-fi as long as I could get past the bats in the attic. As a result, I managed to avoid the brunt of Sturgeon’s Law, and the tales of the improbable hold a special place in the stacks of my heart, on the other end of the room from the works of Frances Hodgson Burnett and just past the shelf of O. Henry.

So I was intrigued when a cartoonist named fluffy submitted her* comic, Unity, for review. When a comic starts with a purple-skinned amnesiac thinking in a computer font, you know that what will follow is either science fiction or ergotism. Or, as the case is for fluffy, synaesthesia. (A certain amount of this information is what I’m picking up from the “easter eggs” to be found throughout the comics; a lot of webcomic artists enjoy hiding bonus commentary in the alt-text of their comic images. This can be entertaining or frustrating, depending on how much text is suddenly revealed when you hover your mouse.)

The art of Unity is somewhat variable. At times, there are highly detailed character shots and backgrounds; at others, plucked emus in footie pajamas. From a print publishing standpoint, I’m intrigued by the choice for different characters to speak in different typefaces—a good way to differentiate between characters speaking, but sometimes irritating.

There is a lot of nudity, but when the nudity involves beings descended from the common platypus, there’s not much to be seen (no mammaries, no external privates). Sexuality does crop up a lot in Unity, however. Main character Juni is the neutered virgin-birth clone daughter of a lesbian witch-doctor, while her partner, Sam, is female in anatomy but male in pronoun. This becomes something of a plot hook, as it becomes revealed later that many members of Juni’s species are treated as prostitutes outside of their native lands.

It seems that Juni’s people, being electrically sensitive like their distant forebears, have the potential to recover the information left behind by the ancient creatures who created their world, if only they weren’t so primitive a culture. But it takes a lot of confusion, plotting, counter-plotting, and murder to figure all this out from square one. I have to hand it to fluffy for managing to tie so many baffling story threads into a coherent plot, in spite of the number of interruptions and random art pieces that get thrown in.

One final note: the animated 404 error page is strangely hilarious.

Comic Rating: Three or four recipes I kinda want to try now.

* Fluffy is a bit of an enigma. To my knowledge, fluffy prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, as does the protagonist of Unity. The trouble in this is that it gets hard to differentiate between an it referring to the comic, an it referring to the main character, and an it referring to the cartoonist. In the interest of clarity, then, and because fluffy appears as a human with breasts and a skirt in some of the early journal comics, I will be using her to denote the cartoonist. I offer my apologies to the alternate-gender community, as well as to the American Usage professor who tried to teach me inclusive language.**

**Though even she balked at the use of sie, hir, or coe as pronouns.

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