Comical Musings

Tag: medieval

Review: Ren Rats

by on Mar.01, 2010, under Review

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: Ebin & May

by on Jan.11, 2010, under Review

January is something of a doldrum time. The holidays are over, so the lights start coming down, but the night is no less dark and only shorter by a few minutes. There aren’t any other big events to look forward to (and with no family living by Lake Chautauqua anymore, that’s the Ice Festival gone), and the snow this year has been particularly relentless, leaving me somewhat down in the dumps. And to top it off, the amazing Lint came to a close, leaving me bereft of a wonderful fantasy comic about a dispossessed prince.

So to stave off a portion of that gloom, here’s Ebin & May, a collaborative effort by Christina “Smudge” Hanson, Ed Garcia, and Baron Engel.* While, in the past, I’ve expressed strong distaste for furry webcomics, Ebin & May has so far been a pleasant surprise. (For starters, there isn’t a single reference to fur or a species name anywhere in the title.)

The title characters are a usurped prince and the clever servant girl whom he loves. Living along with them are a pair of foreign mystic knights and a stablehand who you just know is going to be more trouble than she’s worth.

Perhaps the easiest way to describe the plot (so far) of Ebin & May is to compare it to a video game. The first few chapters serve as tutorial levels, establishing the characters and some of their motivations through easy quests and training battles. Another apparently easy task leads to the revelation of the overarching plot: a nefarious emperor who takes over kingdoms through unfortunate “accidents”.

(This does raise the question of why someone whose life and family are in danger would be announced as such during a ball, but perhaps theirs was a more innocent age. The analogy between species and ethnicity is left just a little hazy, as is the relationship between religion and magic. This might be expounded upon in the future, though.)

The characters and costumes are a visual treat; so is the scenery, when it comes into play. I’m not entirely certain how much of the garb is period-accurate, especially where the decolletage is concerned, but in general the art style of Ebin & May is a lively blend of comic book and fairy tale. Which, in spite of the careless spelling and punctuation to be found here and there, is a good summary of the comic as a whole.

Comic Rating: Three, since it comes up so often in fairy tales.

* I’m not sure what it is that Garcia and Engel do, exactly. They’re listed as “Art Assistance”, which sounds like the sort of job where you sit and ink someone else’s drawings, but I don’t have the full details. If you know what they do and feel like enlightening me, then by all means feel free.

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