Comical Musings

Tag: predictable randomness

Review: Dume

by on Mar.15, 2010, under Review

Let me preface this week’s review by saying that the place I work had a big fund-raising event over the weekend—the night before Daylight Savings Time, choir rehearsal, and a handful of other activities. So while no alcohol was involved for yours truly, there was still enough running about and acting energetic that I’m running on fumes. So if this review comes off as something of a wreck, it’s just art imitating life.

I’m an Ohioan, born and bred, which says the following about me:

  • I grew up surrounded by history, mosquitoes, and Amish folk.
  • My classmates had names like Frajter, Slepko, and Rzeszotarski, but somehow spelling “Shepherd” was beyond anyone’s grasp.
  • I think of Cleveland as a major metropolitan area, no matter how much this makes people laugh.
  • I have a love-hate relationship with Nature, which is sometimes adorable and placid . . . but also has a disturbing tendency to devour the garden, dig up the foundations of various outbuildings, leave “presents” for people to step in, fling itself under the bumper or at the windshield with wild abandon, and get itself trapped in the dumpster where it caterwauls for help.

One animal particularly adept at the dumpster-diving arts is the raccoon. So prevalent and hilarious is the raccoon in the area around my hometown that the whole county takes its name from the local native word for the little fuzzy bandits.

So when a friend directed me to read Dume, on account of one main character being a raccoon from Ohio, how could I resist? Well, as Randall the raccoon himself states, the real protagonist (and title character) is Dume, a chubby otter who was raised by hippie sandpipers and splits his time between sport and harassing his roommate in implausible ways.

And really, that’s just about the whole plot right there: The Odd Couple with surfboards. Sure, there’s a twitchy barista and the Little Red-Haired (fox) Girl, but most of the jokes revolve around Dume bothering Randall with his cheese-monkey randomness.* He even winds up with another character to provide the crazy when Dume’s just not enough.

The art, at least, is pleasant enough and consistent from one strip to the next. Sometimes it’s even self-referential. Some of the jokes and facial expressions remind me of Bloom County, for whatever reason, but not enough to set off any warnings. And sometimes it’s fun to see how far they can stretch things.

Of course, Dume hasn’t updated in close to six months now, having come to a halt just after an author-insert comic. I’m not sure whether to take that as Jonas and Rayce running out of ideas, time, or enthusiasm. Perhaps they’re merely taking a break until better waves come along.

Comic Rating: three hefty piles of neurosis.

* Sometimes, Jonas and Rayce do it to us instead for a change of pace.

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Review: Rob and Elliot

by on Aug.03, 2009, under Review

Have you ever had a friend who’s just a bit random and unpredictable? The sort of person who always cracks the weirdest jokes at the most inopportune times, keeps trying to do relatively dumb things just ’cause, and seems to live off of defying everyone else’s expectations, whether or not this is actually a good thing? As you can probably tell, I’ve had several. After a while, you start to notice something: for all the weird things the person does, you can actually see a pattern to it. Sure, it’s not what you’d normally expect from other people, but it’s just as easy to figure out what the person would do in any given situation.

I say all of this because it’s a similar condition to that of Rob and Elliot, a comic produced by Clay and Hampton Yount and part of the lineup at Boxcarcomics. The comic not only stars a character like that, but is itself like that. Nearly every comic makes one of four jokes: cheese-monkey randomness (sometimes with a literal monkey), inverted expectations (occasionally two of them in a row), labored puns, or Rob being flat-out bizarre.

The art itself is really quite pleasing. The lines are smooth, the characters are easy on the eyes, and the backgrounds can be quite nicely detailed depending on the needs of the joke. Sometimes, the one-panel comics are things of beauty, hilarious to behold in their conciseness. Unfortunately, the good art is used as the setting for jokes about a guy making claims that would embarrass an eight-year-old.

This brings me to another example of the patterns that Rob and Elliot falls into: the four-man band that becomes integral to most webcomics. Rob is the wacky guy, existing pretty much entirely to be the person I described in the first paragraph of this review. Elliot, as Rob’s roommate, is obligated to be the straight man, ineffectually disapproving of Rob’s shenanigans time and again (unless, of course, the joke requires him not to be). Noel is the female, although she at least breaks the mold by being attracted to Elliot more than to Rob . . . and to her old boyfriend, Clint, even more so. And then there’s the iMonkey, who is the obligatory weird cute-ish thing.

The rest of the cast of characters exist to be even more freakishly bizarre, like the extras in an Adam Sandler movie. If you think I’m kidding, then take a gander at the story arc where Elliot finds out that somehow Rob is more normal than every other person in the apartment building, except for the guy who’s too heavily drugged to care. Satan makes regular appearances in the comic, and Jesus shows up once, too. Most of the other one-shot characters are little more than BLAMs.

I can’t say that the writing is naturally terrible. The Younts obviously know their pop culture well enough to make some very clever references, not to mention some truly obscure ones. But clever writing and insightful humor don’t get nearly as much screen time as poop jokes, especially if you factor in the numerous guest strips that are nowhere near safe for work.

So I can’t really call Rob and Elliot bad per se . . . just . . . disappointing. I can tell that the Younts really do have great artistic skill and a flair for witty writing, but it gets buried under so much puerile, predictable humor that I have to sigh dramatically for the ignored potential.

Comic Rating: Four *pie in the face!* Bet you didn’t see that one coming, huh?

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