Comical Musings

Tag: political

Review: Escape from Terra

by on Mar.29, 2010, under Review

Those of my readers who are majoring in English (or similar programs) may have noticed an unintended side-effect from all that literary analysis: you start to watch movies for their plot. This becomes exasperating when you complain about a film, only to be shouted down that it was “pretty” or “awesome” or “technologically astounding,” as though the dialogue and actions were just filler text* between explosions. Implausible plots and lackluster half-dimensional characters are happily disregarded as long as the CG critters have enough supplemental material explaining how they’re biologically possible.

This is where I would normally go on to provide a link to the comic Escape from Terra, a science-fiction comic and political screed resulting from the collaborative efforts of Sandy Sandfort, Scott Bleser, and LEE OAKS** . . . and then just as I was getting ready to review it, the plot took a turn for the lesbian erotica. I don’t consider myself any sort of moral guardian or gatekeeper or anything like that***, but I can imagine the outrage from people I know if I were to link to stuff like that.

So suffice it that Escape from Terra takes place in the late 21st century, when space has been partially colonized and humanity is actively mining the asteroid belt for useful minerals and organics. Earth has unified into a single socialist government that preaches an exaggerated form of political correctness, which the people of the other planets want nothing to do with. The protagonist, Guy Caillard (pronounced “ghee,” as in French), is a United World agent sent to the asteroid Ceres in order to bring the residents under the same tax regulations as Earth. Once he gets a taste of libertarianism****, however, he promptly switches sides and becomes an accountant for the Cerereans.

The science-fiction technology is indeed fascinating, and the art is done decently well. That is to say, the spaceships and other artifacts look feasible, and characters are realistically proportioned, other than their mouths often getting too large*****. Unfortunately, the plot feels a bit like it was jammed in around technical explanations and explanations of why non-aggressive anarchy is the best political system. And this brings an interesting thought to mind:

Those of you who say that good visuals and intriguing creature/technology concepts excuse terrible characterization and a plot that mostly stands in for the writer’s political message******, look up Escape from Terra and see if you can make it all the way through. I won’t blame you if you can’t.

Comic Rating: Two hockey pucks.

* Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
** Mr. Oaks provides his name in all caps on the EFT site. I presume he also affects a deeper, more dramatic voice whilst saying it.
*** This is an outright lie.
**** The fact that the buxom Fiorella Stellina also converts to libertarianism should not be discounted.
***** Then again, the comic was designed as a political soapbox. Perhaps big mouths are simply part and parcel.
****** Yeah, Avatar failed to impress me, if I haven’t made it a bit too obvious.

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Review: Less than Three

by on Nov.30, 2009, under Review

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.

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Review: Crooked Gremlins

by on Nov.09, 2009, under Review

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.

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Review: Sandra and Woo

by on Aug.17, 2009, under Review

A few hours before writing this review, I was cleaning out a closet (the joys of moving and resettling) and got clocked in the forehead by an unexpected large decorative glass thing-a-ma-bob. It inspired a good deal of pain, dizziness, nausea, and nostalgia for all things that involve surprise attacks by somewhat softer things. Calvin and Hobbes, for instance.

So imagine my delight when I remembered the comic Sandra and Woo, written by Oliver Knörzer, drawn by Powree, and copy edited by Sarah Dunphy. This is one of the first officially multilingual comics I’ve reviewed, being also available in German. Seeing as my own skill with German only goes up to recognizing what an eszett is, however, I’ll have to limit myself to reviewing the English portion of the comic.

The combination of a German writer, an Indonesian artist, and an American editor leads to some interesting complications for the comic. Speech bubbles that would be fine for a sentence in German wind up being rather loose around a laconic English equivalent. And sometimes the translation doesn’t account for styles of speech, leading to the oddly charming “be damned!” moment or two. And the art is unabashedly Asian in style. That last part isn’t really a complaint, other than the big sparkly eyes and Hime Cut on a girl named Sandra North feeling strangely incongruous.

Another side effect of the multinational team-up is that the comic will occasionally take a turn for the political. Sometimes it’s part of a plot arc, but rather often it just sort of pops up out of the blue.

On the one hand, Sandra and Woo acknowledges the influence of Calvin and Hobbes quite openly–and does it twice, just to make sure. On the other, Hobbes’ token solo adventure didn’t end in a spin-off set of friends or successful hunting, so Knörzer is safe from any copyright infringement problems. (Granted, Bill Watterson would have to get past all those Calvin-defiles-a-logo truck stickers first anyway.)

Sandra does, however, share Calvin’s capacity for sophisticated sarcasm, as well as his strong eco overtones. Of course, she also lives in a world where just about all animals have proven human intelligence, so saving various wildlife species may be more an exercise in keeping the neighbors happy. Of course, given that people can legally (or at least openly) keep raccoons as pets in her world, I may be way off base.

Sandra’s precociousness may seem a bit strange at first, especially to those who haven’t read Calvin and Hobbes, but it makes a good deal more sense once you realize that Sandra probably had to grow up really quickly. Her mother is deceased, and her father doesn’t always pay her terribly much attention. (In fact, as one of my friends pointed out, it seems like all of the adults are video game addicts for one reason or another. At least it seems to come in handy sometimes.) And now she has to deal with a talking raccoon that could almost seem like an imaginary friend . . . or schizophrenic hallucination. An extensive vocabulary doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, does it?

So in the end, has Calvin and Hobbes found a weekly successor? You’ll have to answer for yourself, but this pun tips the scales for me.

Comic Rating: Three stuffed animals. They couldn’t eat another bite.

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