Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Before I start anything in earnest, I'd like to say that when I first sat down to read through Gothbunnies I was expecting something far different. Now, as the writer of a slice-of-life comic with a gamer comic name, I'm not going to criticize - I just want to make it known that though the comic may sound like an anthropomorphic gag-a-day emo comic, it's not. Rather, Gothbunnies is a lighthearted fantasy story with dozens of well blended elements and a lot of promise.

I must admit, however, that 100 strips in to this fairly fast paced magical mystery and I'm still a little confused. I understand the basics of the story, but I'm a bit ambivalent about the direction. The three main characters have been explored with some depth, but it seems as though the other characters are only just now coming in view, leaving the identity of the antagonist, or antagonists, completely unknown and the direction somewhat fuzzy. Until a dozen or so strips ago, it wasn't even terribly clear that there would be an identifiable antagonist. A bit of attempted drowning and some magical aggression points to the existence of a villain, or at the very least a larger conflict, you're just not quite what flavor.

Now, I'm more than willing to entertain the notion that I'm just being impatient. I'm sure it won't be long until a few pieces slide into place and my confusion evaporates, but a little taste of clarity a few strips back would have eased some of my anxiety. All of that aside, I do like the feel of the story so far. The dialogue is well rounded and the characters feed off one another nicely, each one adding a new dimension to the story. There are touches of humor and hints of drama, and all-in-all, the writing is quite convincing.

Artistically, Gothbunnies is quite impressive. The character designs carry a nice blend of realism and style, with postures and clothing choices doing a great deal to accentuate their very different personalities. Done entirely in black and white, the line art is crisp and very professional. Backgrounds are simple and well integrated, and a quick scan of the archive shows how the artist has grown over time. Anyone curious for a look behind the scenes would do well to take a look at the Tutorial section which is a welcome addition and very easy to follow.

The website itself is pretty bare, but adequate. The cast page isn't quite complete, but does cover the main characters and doesn't give away the plot. The About page is definitely worth the read, but be aware that it's not so much about the comic as it is the history of the artist as it relates to the comic.

Overall, I give Gothbunnies a thumbs up. The story is progressing nicely, it's skillfully done, and I've high hopes for its future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Those of you paying an inordinate amount of attention may have noticed that I did a bit of shuffling with the review list. Why doesn't much matter, I had my reasons, but the end result is that this week I will be reviewing a comic that's mostly new to me - Kaspall

It's always a treat for me when I get to take a first look at a comic, especially one for which I haven't been inundated with ridiculous hype. My first impressions are actually my own and that's rather pleasant. Unfortunately, my first impressions of Kaspall were rather confused. However, what started out as bits and pieces of something I wasn't quite sure about transformed into an engaging murder mystery about 45 pages in and I was hooked. A handful of pages later and another puzzle piece was locked in place, instantly converting my earlier confusion into a firm sense of foreshadowing. Further puzzle pieces were instantly recognized as such, pulling me happily along. Yes, I'm a bit excited - it's been a while since I found a new bit of fiction I really enjoyed, let alone one in comic format. I readily admit I cursed aloud when I reached the current page - it's a bit like getting knee deep in a novel and then finding a "to be continued" page half way through. Quite upsetting.

You know what else? I'm not going to tell you what it's about. Go read it, damn it. It's engaging, it's good, and it's beautifully done.

Though it may be a rarity in the webcomic world, Kaspall is both wonderfully written and skillfully drawn. Done in highly detailed black and white, the artistry is just as creative and enveloping as the writing. Rich in variety of textures and environments, the comic has such a natural feel that the alien forms of some characters are immediately comfortable and nothing feels out of place. Body postures, even unfamiliar ones, have a wonderful sense of flow and character and both clothing an scene give a steady impression of distinct cultures. Facial expressions are so well defined that one can even tell when a character is lying. Certainly the framing and pacing assist in such subtle feats, but it's still quite an accomplishment. Structurally, I enjoy some of the panel layouts nearly as much as I enjoy the artwork itself. They're used not only to move the story along as expected, but also do a great deal to create an overall mood and control the pacing.

The website is simple but functional and integrated well enough to be passable. The Cast page is quite complete, and includes the first appearance of each character. The About page is brief, but as with other story comics, I still feel it gives away too much to be read before the comic itself. The Blog feature beneath the comic is typically more about the artist than the comic, and a nice insight it is. A guestbook has recently been added, though I do wonder why the creator didn't take the extra step and install a forum. The archive is nicely arranged by chapter and page, and there is an RSS feed available for those that might forget to check in every Monday when the comic updates.

I know I won't forget.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Beaver and Steve

Just in time for the holidays I bring to you Beaver and Steve, a comic suitable for the whole family. Well, suitable in that there aren't any naughty bits. It's still mildly insane and likely to be considered confusing by the average eight-year-old. The confusion isn't caused by metaphorical explorations of cultural and linguistic themes, however. No, it's caused by funny wrapped in nonsense. Pure. Comical. Nonsense.

Wowsers. This would be easier with less nonsense. It wouldn't be as funny... but I'm not really sure how to categorize writing that ranges from cereal munching panda infestations to Quiche vanquished daemons. The writing is good, clearly, because within this nonsense is enjoyment. Oh, so much enjoyment. It's like play-time for your brain. The story lines are generally brief, and often include completely unexpected twists and turns. Occasionally science laced, I certainly wouldn't consider the comic educational in any way - more "geek friendly". Most punch lines are a clever combination of slapstick and one liners, very few of which are groan worthy.

The artwork is as whimsical as the writing. Fluid outlines and bright colors abound, but the hues are tame enough to avoid being obnoxious. Most strips could be considered full comic pages, though they do very in size. I'm fairly sure that no other art style would support the writing as well as the one creator James Turner has developed here. A quick look at the first comic will show you just how far that style has come in the three years the comic has been running.

The site is great visually, and my only real complaint is the lack of an About page and navigation links at the top of each comic. Granted, the navigation beneath the comic is more than adequate, and the archive is nicely arranged by comic title and date, so I won't complain too much. The blog section is a must read, offering both humor and news. There's also the ability to post any comic on your own site, send a comic to a friend through email, and sign up for the newsletter and RSS feed.

Honestly - I'd be amazed if there was a single one of you that wasn't well aware of Beaver and Steve long before this farce of a review. If, for some bizarre reason, you haven't read it in a while - go do so now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cat and Girl

Unlike last week's comic, Cat and Girl is tame enough for a child to read. Assuming, of course, the child in question is a prodigy with a finely tuned interest in sociopolitical trends.

Let's just start off by being honest - not everyone is going to get it. Like most forms of intellectualism, Cat and Girl is destined for a niche audience. That being said, the comic isn't typically linguistically challenging, nor is it peppered with higher mathematics or other forms of exclusionary collegiate knowledge. Mostly philosophical in nature, it's the references that are likely to throw some potential readers. Be they political, literary, musical, or otherwise; these references often form both the set up and the punch line and are left, necessarily, unexplained. I don't find the writing elitist by any means; but if you have to be coached through it, you probably wouldn't find it terribly funny anyway. Happily, the subject matter is eclectic enough that you'll probably have better luck with the next one.

While the titular figures aren't the sole population of the universe, they often carry the comic and are the most deeply explored characters. Girl's bitterly sardonic views are often juxtaposed with Cat's heady optimism; giving the comic a playfully oscillating feel. The black and white artwork is clean and supports both characters and tone quite nicely. The visual flow compliments the pacing well, spacing what could have easily been an overly verbose strip into progressive bites with skillful ease. Body postures and facial expressions are constructed in such a way that the overall mood of each comic could be readily determined without script, without being so prominent as to be distracting.

The website itself is clean and functional, though I'm ambivalent about the use of an all white background. Sometimes I feel it's too sterile, other times I feel it's actually complimentary. In addition to the navigation buttons beneath the comic, a Random Comic link is nestled in the main menu - a feature I love in stand alone comics.

In closing (wow... how pretentious is that?) Cat and Girl may not be for everyone, but I feel as though it ought to be. There just isn't enough thought on these here internets; and it heartens me to see comics like this one filling that void.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Debasement *NSFW*

This week's comic Debasement is Not Safe For Work. As an intellectual look at Internet based culture, particularly porn, its premise alone is NSFW. Unless you work in the adult entertainment industry - then have at it.

Yes, I said an intellectual look at Internet based culture, specifically porn. It is, in fact, possible to have an intellectual discussion of such things in an entertaining fashion; though I may not have believed it if Debasement weren't on my regular reading list. Reading through the archives is far more likely to stimulate your brain than your genitals. Or, at the very least, it's likely to stimulate both.

I fear we've actually stumbled upon something new. Breaking it down to simple visual elements I suppose the comic could be described as a photo-based-sprite comic with an excellent sense of composition and balance. The writing could be described as philosophical and nuanced. All of those things are true - but they ring hollow here. Debasement (and its related comic - Aarin's Desk) seems to me more than a sum of its parts. Personally, I consider each episode more a launching point for thought and discussion than a neat little finished package. My own fascination with the psychology of language and sexuality begs me to dwell on each offering, happily picking it apart and inserting my own opinions. It's important to note, however, that the comic isn't wholly collegiate in nature - peppered with humor and resplendent with 1337 speak, there's something in here for just about everyone.

Well, everyone not offended by base humanity of course.

The flow and stature of the writing is really what makes this a comic worth reading and the complexity of the overall universe allows for a full exploration of the writer's skill. Though the plot is probably best understood by newcomers through a study of the Characters page, the comic is only on it's 91 single panel episode so there's really no excuse for not starting at the beginning. If that doesn't appeal to you, however, click the Modes link under the current comic and you'll be taken to a fancy little archive that's arranged by individual story arc - a very good idea as the story arcs don't run sequentially. Another brilliant aspect of the Mode structure is that the comic links work within the chosen Mode - they'll take you to the next comic in that Mode rather than the next one in sequence. Also, the chosen Mode is clearly displayed in both the title graphic and at the top of the comic to help avoid confusion.

Yeesh. Its hard to describe, but really nice to use.

Among the Bonus Goodies you'll find a spiffy little Glossary (though if your troubles are in deciphering Hax0r text you'll need to Google up a translator) and the Blog section is a must read. My only real disappointment with the site came when, having thoroughly enjoyed myself reading through the blog, I headed over to the Short Stories link only to find it "Down for edits". Extreme sadness followed - Aarin Edwards is a damn good writer. Honest and thoughtful, I'd love to have an actual book to page through but I couldn't find anything resembling a store. Hopefully I'm wrong.

The review doesn't do the thing justice. I'm captivated. Go read it - from home or some other place where the occasional glimpse of digitized boobies isn't going to create a scene.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mob Ties

Just in time for Halloween, I present to you Mob Ties! Mind you, I originally felt that line was going to be a complete farce. After all, there isn't anything terribly terrifying about most Manga and with only a passing knowledge of the comic before I sat down to read through the archives I had no reason to believe this one would be any different. There's plenty of tension here though, and now I'm hooked on the damn thing. Yeesh.

Mob Ties starts off a bit slowly, but once the main plot is established it takes off at an engaging pace. A large part of the story is tied up in the reveal of various twists and turns so I'm not going to say much about it - no point in spoiling it for the sake of a review. I will say that the writing is a balanced blend of light and darkness that keeps you clicking on the next link. It seems awfully tempting for Manga writers to bog their plots down with so much overly emotional trauma that the entire story sinks in a mire of angst; happily, this is a temptation the creator avoids by utilizing a zany sense of humor to meter the punch of more dramatic moments. Another temptation that was happily avoided - displaying the comic in traditional Japanese Manga format. Writing a comic in English assumes the comic will be read by a primarily English speaking audience. As such, it should be written left to right and top to bottom. Yes, it may seem authentic to write it right to left and bottom to top - but you're far more likely to confuse your intended audience than intrigue them. No such confusion here - saving the creator a tongue lashing. Oooo... scary.

The artwork is mostly in simple black and white with the occasional use of full color panels or effect colors. Chapter titles are also done in color and serve to give the comic more of a print feel. Emotions are displayed in both facial expressions and in perspective and character size in classic Manga fashion and I admire the artist's ability to use those visual effects without relying on them for pacing. Each comic page has an easy flow, excepting, of course, those that are specifically created to give the feel of either confusion or jumbled memory. There's been a steady progression in artistic skill and staging; a clear indication that there are even better things to come.

Mob Ties is hosted on Drunk Duck... which means I would have critical things to say about the website if I actually knew what was in the creator's power to change. Though you do have the option to email individual comics to your friends and pin it to various services like Digg and Reddit, I'd love to see those elements I so love in self hosted comics. The author does do a decent job of communicating with the comic's audience in the blog beneath the comic, allowing the readers a peek into motivations and news. The archive exists as a drop down menu which lists issue and page - certainly not enough to go on if you're looking for a specific comic, but helpful if you're reading it issue by issue.

Personally, I suggest you start with issue number one. Now. Go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A little question for the RPGers among you - ever feel sorry for the NPCs? I mean, seriously - ever felt a twinge of guilt as you walk through the blood of that kobold family you just slaughtered around their own hearth? Ever wonder if there was a family at home waiting for that wandering villager you just speared and relieved of his belongings? Ever wish you could give them a little of the power you hold? Watch them kick some ruthless newbs ass and steal his shit? Revel in your humanity, what shreds are left in your gamer soul, and head on over to Goblins.

Goblins is an epic tale of a small group of... well... Goblins that have declared themselves player characters. The premise may seem simplistic, but creator Tarol Hunt has written a deep and affecting plot that pulls the reader though the full range of emotions. A careful construction of character first plays on the reader's sense of empathy and justice while tying them to the individuals they'll follow throughout the story. There are certainly some touching moments along the way, but I've never found the comic cloying. The humor is genuine, the plot engaging, and the action easy to follow - in fact, I don't believe there's any writing aspect in which the comic falters.

Originally drawn in simple black-and-white outlines, the comic quickly progressed to full color. Characters are easily differentiated, and body postures and structures are consistent. The backgrounds are varied and quite complete, giving a full sense of scene without being over bearing. It's difficult to say if the colors are realistic, considering the completely fictional nature of most characters, but they are pleasant and easily accepted - not a single Muppet poser in play. Facial expressions display emotion and personality with ease even when accompanied by scars and other obstructions. Clothing has been styled with a variety of textures and matched nicely to each character.

The website has displayed an under construction banner for some time now, but it's still mostly functional. (Only the Languages and Creators links seem dead.) While there is a FAQ section I still feel the site could use some kind of about page as I couldn't readily find mention of an update schedule. There are a number of backgrounds available for fans, and a couple of items available for sale as well as links and additional artwork. An extra feature, Tempts Fate, is probably the most ingenious donation drive I've ever seen. Goblin adventurer Tempts Fate is faced with a new series of challenges each month. Written in D&D crawl style, each obstacle is linked to a donation amount - if the amount is reached, Tempts Fate clears the obstacle and comes closer to the dungeon reward. Should the donation goal fail to be met, Tempts Fate will die. A tribute to both creator and gimmick - he's still alive and going strong.

Though D&Ders may have a larger spot in their hearts for the comic, the overall plot isn't dependant on specific RPG knowledge and I highly recommend the read. Head on over and cheer for the underdog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plush and Blood Presents The Unstuffed

Described as a graphic novel in electronic format, The Unstuffed is an action filled Science Fiction/Fantasy populated by living stuffed animals locked in an epic battle against a Hitleresque hamster.

Yes, I do know how silly that sounds. No, it doesn't come across as silly at all in it's actual telling.

There are a number of serious subjects lurking here, from the ethics of dictatorship to the nature and value of free will. Such subjects could easily become weighted to the point of burden, but when viewed through the lens of this lighthearted fantasy format they can be pondered as hypotheticals without losing their emotional impact. So far a great deal of the story has been action based, and being an individual that isn't typically fond of extensive action sequences, I was surprised by how eagerly I followed this one along. Of course, my interest can mostly be explained by the dialogue that accompanies many battles - I love the interplay between the characters that brings out their personalities as well as a touch of humor. Now on page 86, we've only just begun to delve into the fullness of the plot but I've enjoyed the story line thus far, and have been pleased by the manner in which it has been doled out. It would have been tempting to simply info-dump the necessary information, but the creator has instead wisely used a mixture of dialogue and flashback that runs seamlessly along with the unfolding events.

The artwork is quite good - detail varies with distance and the coloring has full range without being garish. History panels are given a soft look that simply feels like memory. Action lines are given a similar treatment, widened and stretched beyond the typical black slash, they give an impression of airflow rather than simply indicating the direction of movement. While this technique wouldn't work with all artistic styles, it works beautifully here. The creator employs interesting panel layouts that add to the over all look and flow of the comic and makes excellent use of "silent" action panels; using the artistic medium to it's full extent rather than simply having the action explained.

The web design is nicely integrated with the comic, wrapping it like a frame rather than crouching behind it. Extra features include the typical FAQs, About, and Links sections as well as a complete Cast section and an assortment of gallery works. Also included is a Story section that may actually be a bit too complete if read before the comic. The archive consists of thumbnail images of each comic page along with the chapter title; a layout that is certainly quite helpful when one is looking for a specific comic they've already seen. Because the comic is story based, and in graphic novel format, I would like to see the holiday and other special strips moved to their own section rather than having them in the archive where they tend to break the flow - but that may be a petty complaint considering the ease with which one can simply navigate to the next page. The Unstuffed updates Tuesdays and Fridays, and has only just begun. I suggest hopping on board now.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something Positive

I'll be damned if this isn't just one of the hardest reviews I've ever attempted to write. Something Positive was one of the very first webcomics I ever read, it's certainly the first one I read with any sense of regularity, and it's remained in the top five comics I check on a daily basis when time is short. It heads the webcomic trinity that gave me the inspiration to start my own little life draining webcomic adventure. I've read through the archives more than a few times. Hell, I've read through the FAQ section more than a few times. I've often found myself identifying with the lead character, Davan, and I've never had the inward decency to be ashamed of that fact. Never once has it forced me to roll my eyes and wonder if the creator had died and been replaced with a putz.

As a result, everything I write sounds like it's coming from a fluid soaked fan girl. Possibly one with cat ears, and that sort of thing just shouldn't be tolerated here.

So, to Mr. Milholland, I apologize. It's highly unlikely you'll garner anything useful from this review beyond the fleeting ego boost of knowing some chick thousands of miles away really likes your comic; and considering your typically sardonic views, you'll likely squash your own buzz by assuming I'm merely a stalker in training. Also, your review is late.

Here we go - take three.

Something Positive is a strongly character driven slice-of-life that began in December of 2001. It updates frequently, and the short bursts of inactivity that pepper it's nearly 6 year history haven't done any discernible damage to it's rather impressive readership - a fact that speaks quite loudly for the quality of the writing. My personal history with Something Positive came in the form of an email containing a link to the first strip. As my coworkers and I gathered around to read it a brilliant sociological event took place - only two of us laughed. We were then clearly identified by the others as freaks and eventually became best friends. It seems that not everyone is comfortable with their inner monsters. Pity, that.

Taken over all, I'm convinced the comic isn't nearly as edgy and shocking as some might have you believe; but bold moments have a way of sticking in the mind and overshadowing the more mundane. The humor is quite often dark, aggressive, or both, and it does tend to flirt with the razor edge of social taboo, but those are all things I adore. When presented with something reprehensible in a clearly fantasy setting we're free to explore those feelings without consequence. This isn't shockabilly bullshit though - it's a readily defined story with all the depth and complexity of real life. The affect of the writing is so great that some readers have apparently forgotten from time-to-time that the comic is, in fact, a work of fiction despite the presence of impossible characters and highly illegal plot lines. The creator states in the FAQ section that most characters are based on real people, either singularly or by amalgamation, and his writing skill is such that one couldn't easily determine which.

The artwork is full color, well rounded and genre appropriate. His background style integrates well with the character designs, adding to the feel of casual reality - they're not a stage for an act, simply depictions of every day surroundings. Character expressions are fluid and do a great deal in pushing forward their individual personalities and expressing the energy of each conversation. Body postures are accurate and allow for a sense of motion without resorting to action lines. Traditional panel layouts are occasionally interrupted by frameless scenes for effect, usually to highlight a single statement or moment in time. The artist's black and white works reveal that he isn't hiding flaws behind color as the varied outlines are quite capable of holding their own. That isn't to say that the color is superfluous; it adds depth, personality, and occasionally even comic relief.

The steady improvement in timing, plot construction, framing and artwork makes the archives a must read for any aspiring creator and the blog posts hold hidden gems as well. I don't know that I'm terribly fond of the formatting on some of the extras pages, which typically consist of punctuated lists of links, but they're still functional. It's also worth noting that Something Positive isn't Mr. Millholland's only strip, and links to his other works can be found near the title header on the main page.

The urge to wrap up with something pithy like "Something Positive rarely is" bears down on me like a ridiculous weight. I'm not sure why - maybe it's the sweet, sweet overdose of humiliating sarcasm bringing forth the need for falsely casual defenses. Hardly matters. Something Positive is by no means a one-size-fits-all laugh fest. It's a dry, sardonic, and intelligent look through a slightly warped glass that hedges between humor and tragedy. Dewey-eyed fan girl ravings aside, I recommend the comic for it's strong characters and engaging story lines. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


* NOTE - Because of last week's glitch this week's Wednesday Webcomic Weview will feature two comics - the scheduled review of Something Positive will be posted later this evening. *

Where do Superheroes and Supervillians alike go to spend their golden years? Why, Valhalla of course - Home for the Supertired, and setting for today's comic The SuperFogeys.

SuperFogeys is one of those rare cases where the premise alone was enough to get me interested. I've read my share of superhero comics like most geeks, and I've worked as a nursing assistant in "adult care facilities" - how could I not relate to a combination of the two? I did have a slight fear, however, that the whole thing would be nothing but a slapstick mess. Happily, my fears were never realized. In many ways the writing reminds me of those earlier superhero comics; peppered with foreshadowing, character associations, and flashbacks; but with a much appreciated dose of humor. While many of the jokes are spurred by depreciating powers and advancing age, I never get the feeling that they're dependant on them. The punchlines are appropriate for the characters they frame and not at their expense.

SuperFogeys is only 70 strips in, which is early in the plot development stage for this one. It isn't dragging by any means, but the nature of the characters practically demanded that they be introduced before they played their parts for the collected audience. Atypical characters require set-up, a fact the creator clearly understood, and artfully executed. No boring bios here - you're introduced to the characters in a playful manner, allowing you to settle into the plot lightheartedly.

The artwork is absolutely enjoyable. It would have been easy for a lesser artist to over-emphasize the physical aspects of age for comedic effect, but just as the other potential pitfalls were avoided, this one was dodged as well. Line variation and subtle touches add depth to each panel without distracting the eye, and the colors chosen round out the feel of the comic rather nicely. Backgrounds are simple but more than adequate, giving a full sense of scene without pulling the eye from the characters. There's a great deal of variation between the characters - no chance of getting one character confused with another should they suddenly change hair styles. To quickly garner an appreciation for the artist's skill, take a look at the amazing detail of Comic 52, absolutely beautiful.

Created by Brock Heasley, The SuperFogeys was picked up as an exclusive earlier this year by Th3rdworld Studios.  As such, I'm not terribly sure if he has any control over the website at all.  Nevertheless, it bears mentioning that while the website is very clean and certainly functional, I just don't like it very much.  There's a big numerical block in between the navigation buttons and the comic that stands as an archive, and the menu links all lead to th3rdworld items rather than anything specific to the comic you're actually trying to read.  The strip is also available over at Pixelstrips, but it's much of the same there.  Syndication is generally a good thing, especially in terms of marketing and reach, so a creative approach to offering those items fans look for is in order - adding an About Me, FAQ, and/or Extras section to the MySpace group for example would be a welcomed addition.

Petty spoiled bitching aside, head on in and smell the ointment. Now if I could just find one of those damn space pigs...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Muffin Time

The comic I was originally scheduled to review today, Casual Notice, has gone on hiatus while the artist improves his craft. I wouldn't have felt quite right reviewing a comic that the artist is currently working on improving, just seems like a cheap shot, so I've switched the schedule around a bit. Casual Notice will now set for a December 26th review. Today? Today it's Muffin Time!

As my schedule is still a bit hectic (you may have noticed I'm a tad behind, see MySpace later this week for details), Steven (BetaPwned's John) has offered to do today's review:

"It's called Muffin Time and there are no muffins. That's stupid. The art is funny though."

Uh huh. Then again, maybe I should just take the time to do this myself. *coughs*

Actually, Steven has given me a perfect segue into the review in that his sense of humor is nearly identical to that of the comic. Almost completely nonsensical, occasionally punny, and intrinsically silly, Muffin Time is what I read when I'm done thinking; when I'm looking for a zany, rainbow filled escape from normality and all the horrible sanity that comes with it. It's a static Saturday Morning Cartoon for quasi-adults, and I love it.

Though the comic began as something quite different stylistically, the humor has remained fairly constant. This isn't the type of writing you hone over time, that kind of approach would require you to take it far too seriously. The art, however, took a rather dramatic turn for the dynamic in 2006 and has become sharper and more fluid with time. The character designs are simple and reminiscent of those odd plastic type bendy animals you can buy to twist around pencils and such. The expressions are varied and attention grabbing and perfectly match the character personalities. The backgrounds are similarly dynamic, adding more backdrop than scene they allow the characters to pop forward in the frame.

The ability to change the "season" of the website ads an interesting bit of personalization as does the ability to easily tag a comic in the archive, effectively saving your place. This function is brilliant for those of us that find ourselves pouring through archives whenever we can find a snippet of time. There's also a rather funny little blog spot beneath the comic, saddled up next to a chat box, a few links, and a flicker spot. There are also some enticing items in the store, and a passable forum. The links page is a bit bare, and I'd love to see some information about the creator, but over all the site design is pretty complete. Especially of note is the Bonus Points page which, though a bit outdated, includes a snazzy how to section, a few desktop offerings, and a nice list of guest comics.

Come on. Where else are you going to find an anthropomorphic udder? Head over and take a break.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ansem Retort

(Today's scheduled comic was Indefensible Positions, however, this wonderful (and highly recommended) sci-fi/fantasy comic has come to an end. As I've made it fairly clear that I won't be reviewing any comics that have stopped updating, due to either neglect or completion, I will instead be reviewing the last comic on the schedule - Ansem Retort. See, there is hope for those of you scheduled in 2009.)

I found myself on a panel not too terribly long ago discussing how to launch a webcomic. In that panel I offered the following piece of advice: Just say no to sprites. See... the word "sprite" is just a fancy way of saying "using clip art taken from someone else's work". Using other people's work without permission, and possibly a release form, annoys lawyers.

Annoying lawyers is generally a bad idea.

Sprite comics also annoy some potential readers because the artwork is, by definition, repetitious and unoriginal. The images do help tell the story, but not as much as images that were specifically crafted for the script. Additionally, there's no point in critiquing it... so I'm just going to move on.

Ansem Retort is a satire of the modern trend in reality television, with popular game characters as the unlucky house mates. While some of the humor is dependant on a basic knowledge of the characters, readers unfamiliar with the game elements should be able to ascertain the point of most punch lines. Adding a bit of a twist, the reality show is produced by FOX and the house mates are regularly assaulted by enemies in order to keep the show interesting.

Pop culture, drug references, and cartoonish violence are the building blocks for most of the scripts but there are a few character based plot points floating around. I certainly wouldn't stretch to the point of referring to it as intelligent humor, but it isn't Bevis and Butthead ridiculous either. Appropriately, I wouldn't give the comic's contents higher than a PG rating, and I didn't come across anything I would hesitate in allowing my ten-year-old to read. The humor is likely spot on for it's target audience, and even managed to pull a few chuckles from me.

Thanks to the premise, the comic is conveniently portioned into individual "seasons" - meaning that it's not entirely necessary to start at the beginning to find a good entry point. The website is dedicated to more than one comic so I couldn't find any of the additional goodies associated with single comic sites, but the navigation is simple and the comic takes center stage. All-in-all, it's a fairly entertaining comic and certainly worth a look.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Fine Example

Napoleon is an ankle biter, but only during pledge week.

I really shouldn't have to say anything else. Every freak among you should be popping over to A Fine Example just for the sake of What The Fuck.

What the fuck was, by the way, my most prevalent reaction as I toured through the archives. A Fine Example is neither character driven, nor situational. It's driven by some sort of random insanity. It's a good insanity... the type that drives you to come back time and again just to see where the hell the creator is going to wander off to and who might come along for the ride. It might be a fancy feast eating... something-or-other. It might be a slogan wielding horde of "Undead Americans". It might even be, well, assorted body parts oddly joined at unnatural angles. Oddly enough at it's very base, deep down under layers of madness, A Fine Example is a family story. Dad, girlfriend, son. There are family dynamics at play, deep seated issues between a young boy and the woman that plays the role once held by his departed mother. The silent conflicts of the man that loves them both. Yes, deep down, this is the stuff that dramas are made of. Only it's not. It's an oddity, an oddity formed of excellent writing.

The artwork is also a bit of an oddity. Sketchy black outlines and cross-hatch shading seem to hover over the simple backgrounds, almost as if made of layered bits of torn paper. The drawings have the feel of newspaper lithographs with an added stylistic flare. The children of the comic are especially enthralling - faded as though lightly erased bringing them immediately into the foreground. The effect extends to the son's expressions which are muted and faint, and a vague white aura surrounds him. He seems isolated, intelligent, and acts as an anchoring force for the quirky and animated personalities that surround him.

The website is simple and functional, though not all the bits are up and running. The Store, for example, seems to be under construction and the Blog is somewhat neglected. (The last post was July 27th) The About page is flooded with the same humor that makes up the comic and is likewise worth the read. Though there was a bit of a hiatus, A Fine Example may well be back on track now - updating "Mondays, Thursdays and more".

Go on now... the parrot waits for no one.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Devil's Panties

Realizing that life quickly gets in the way of artistic endeavors, artist Jennie Breeden discovered a delightful way to force daily practice - she started a webcomic, The Devil's Panties, the second in my personal webcomic trinity.

If there is a Queen of the slice-of-life webcomic world, it must be Jennie Breeden. Aside from obvious elements of fantasy, the strip is often a word-for-word rendition of her real-life experiences. Armed with a tape recorder and an ear for snippets that will readily entertain others, Jennie captures those seemingly mundane moments that will resonate with the majority. The intimacy of the story telling would make it tempting to swamp the comic with inside jokes, but that's seldom the case here. In fact, on those rare occasions where an inside joke pushes it's way to the surface, the joke exists in the simple fact that, without context, the comment is almost completely nonsensical.

The artwork is mostly black-and-white with bright splashes of color acting almost as punctuation. Cross hatch and line shading gives a sense of tone, and the plentiful detail work is done in a simplistic style that compliments the casual feel. Many weekends, and the Portfolio page, bring an extra treat in the form of colorful portraits in various degrees of abstraction. (Don't miss the black-and-white artwork that appears beyond the first page of the Portfolio.)

The website is simple, but functional, and includes a number of fun side projects and giggle spots. Also present is an awesome FAQ section that is a must-read for new webcomic creator's hoping to turn their hobby into a full-time job. Speaking of making webcomics a full-time job, Ms. Breeden has done just that and you'll find a number of items in the online store that helps keep her going.

Above all - The Devil's Panties will always be special to me. It was one of the first truly slice-of-life comics I read, and one of the ones that made me feel as though I should give it a go myself. The whole thing has a friendly and casual feel, like a text-message from your friends. There's no pretension, no smarmy drama, just life presented in a fun and engaging way. Definitely worth the daily read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was first introduced to Bardsworth in a popular webcomic forum artist Peter Tarkulich and I are both members of. Five strips in I was hooked, and I've been a fan ever since.

Though the light humor and cute character design certainly helped catch my attention, it was the realistic relationships that really won my affections. Perhaps it's an extended quality of the natural dialogue, or an aspect of the casual pacing... regardless of it's cause, the relationships are almost instantaneously endearing. So much so that I hesitate to say the story is character driven as much as relationship driven. It's a refreshing change of pace, especially considering that, at it's base, Bardsworth is a fantasy comic.

Yes, I almost hesitate to mention that this falls firmly in the fantasy genre. It's been done poorly so often that a simple mention is enough to turn some people away. This one is a bit different though - yes, there are fairies and elven girls present and the concept is riddled with magic and burgeoning power... but Bardsworth isn't cloying. Stylistically the comic is more reminiscent of coming of age stories than typical fantasy, and I suppose I prefer to think of it that way. The fantastical elements of the comic offer humor and plot, of course, but they also advance the story and provide insight into the characters.

The artwork started out as a clean black and white, only to transform into a brilliant full color strip over time. Appropriate use of light and shadow bring the characters forward into center regardless of the backgrounds, and the use of rich colors in clothing and other textiles more than makes up for the necessarily monotone castle walls. Accurate body postures and proportions, combined with detailed clothing, rounds out the character designs and gives a sense of movement and fullness. Backgrounds are sparse on occasion, but never at a detriment to the individual strip. The character's expressions are absolutely delightful in their simplicity and range.

The website itself is quite nice, with easy navigation and clear menu items. There's a wonderful blog space under the comic serving up the latest news as well as a paragraph or two featuring the current Spotlight Comic - webcomic's the creator feels are worth another look. A Twitter box, Chat widget, and forum round out the communicative aspects, giving the website it's own friendly feel. The About page offers not only information about the comic and it's creator, but also a declaration of intent titled The Bardsworth Manifesto. Quite worthy of respect, indeed.

Bardsworth is one of the few comics I read I don't hesitate to share with my kids. Not because it's childish, but because of it's good natured appeal and quality story telling. Updating thrice weekly, I look forward to following this story through to conclusion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bear and Kitten

Before I start this week's webcomic review of Bear and Kitten let me say this to the writer, Andy - Naruto has also eaten a great deal of my life, regardless of the fact that I too find it less than remarkable.

Now, down to business.

Bear and Kitten, though it sounds cute and cuddly, is quite a quirky little disturbing romp. The premise is simple enough - an anthropomorphic slice-of-life, the comic follows the day to day adventures of two unlikely room mates. Fairly new to the webcomic scene, it began in April of 2007 and has updated on a mostly consistent twice weekly schedule. Each strip is a quick read as even the most verbose consist of only one or two sentences a panel. Thanks to this stylistic brevity it doesn't take long to plow through the archives, and I certainly suggest you do.

Before anyone assumes the succinct nature of the comic points to poor writing, let me assure you this isn't the case. There is a simplicity to the writing, certainly, but simplicity shouldn't be mistaken for poor form. As most comic aficionados are aware, a great deal of the writing takes place beyond the scope of dialogue - it's the totality of the scene that tells these short stories and it takes the skill of both writer and artist to pull off a mostly silent script.

It's this skilled teamwork that makes Bear and Kitten such a joy to read. The artwork is a soft comfort that lulls the reader into a mindset that makes the disturbing aspects of the comic even more so. Just as a cold ice cube down the shorts is more shocking on a hot summer day, the relatively mild violence and uneasy concepts come across as much more tantalizing when everything else is so warm and fuzzy. It's an excellent blend. It's dainty meets deleterious, antipathetic adoration, eerie enchantment. Okay, okay... it's late, give me a break.

I like the comic. I like gazing at the first panel and knowing that before the story ends something odd and possibly horrific will have happened. I like feeling as though I'm getting a virtual hug from something delightfully wrong. The comic isn't twisted - in fact, I suspect that if you took any of the scripts and drew them in a realistic fashion they would loose not only their charm, but also their punch. It's the mix that makes the comic work, the parts aren't all that spectacular when taken alone, but the sum of those parts makes for a great read.

The website is simple and easy to navigate. I rather enjoy the picture used for the About page, though I wish it were simply featured off to one side rather than panelled as a full background - I had to highlight the text in order to be able to read it. The Forum appears to be popping along quite nicely, and there's a great poster for sale in the Store along with the opportunity to buy prints of any comic. There's also a promise of shirts eventually... a promise I hope they keep. Baby dolls, if at all possible, please. T-shirts make me look boxy. *grins*

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chris and Smith

I've always suspected it. There have been hints and clues along the way, even one or two personal experiences. This week, my suspicions were confirmed. Canadians are freakin' nuts. The final nail in the loony coffin? Chris and Smith.

Probably best described as a gag-a-day comic, this thing is all over the place in a zany, completely insane way. It's not entirely nonsensical, the characters have distinct personalities and the environment is basically stable, but complete consistency of plot is clearly not the goal here.

In a nutshell - take every bizarre, caffeine and/or alcohol fueled conversation you've ever had with your friends after a day long geek inspired movie fest and throw it in a blender. Add some pigment, a maple leaf, a touch of political commentary, and a communion wafer and you've got Chris and Smith. Aside from it's random humor, Chris and Smith is also an excellent educational tool. For example, I now know that JFK was, in fact, assassinated by a large purple triangle and that Bronson Pinchot knows the only way out of hell.

A proper reflection of reality isn't intended in the art any more than it is in the writing, leading to an appropriately cartoonish style. Though somewhat static, the artwork conveys both emotion and tone, providing a suitable base for the dry humor. Taking a look at the first strip and the latest strip side-by-side the first clear improvement lies in the addition of backgrounds. A closer look reveals a number of more subtle improvements including more pleasing line work, panel design, and composition. The text bubbles and lettering have also become blessedly clear over the years, leading to a much more polished look over-all.

It is my understanding that the website is currently undergoing some changes, so please take the following with a grain of salt:

For most of the comic's history, navigation buttons were absent... now they're there but are a bit of a mess. The First button brought me either to the current or the latest comic, but the others work as expected, at least where they're available. There is a nearly complete archive, but each comic opens as a stand alone image, which leaves you hitting the back button after every archived comic. Adding to the archive difficulties is the lack of change when a link has already been followed, forcing you to try and remember which number you were on. The Links button doesn't seem to be functional either. Other than that, *coughs*, the website design is clean and the comic takes center stage.

Updating Sundays and Thursdays, Chris and Smith offers more than just an odd-day webcomic read. It offers an odd experience, and more than a few "what the...?" chuckle moments. You're clearly a weird man, Mike Thomas, keep up the good work.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Today's webcomic, Lifelike, presents me with a challenge due to a unique and masterfully executed format - one very talented writer, and many very talented artists. To be truly fair, each of these comic stories ought to be reviewed separately. Unfortunately, I can't justify dedicating that much time to a single webcomic when so many others are waiting for review. So, forgive my awkward brevity, and trust that the comic speaks very clearly for itself.

A series of succinct independent stories, Lifelike is everything the dramatic slice-of-life genre ought to be. Each vignette is a snapshot in time, some moments little more than a mist of touching memory, others a tortured exercise in penance. There is no central theme beyond life, and it's presented here with a varied richness that I greatly enjoy. Fans of realistic fiction won't be disappointed.

The author, Dara Naraghi, births each character mid stride and carefully completes each profile before the story's end. By giving each character a distinct voice, Mr. Naraghi allows for a sense of familiarity beyond the artwork, and for him this is especially important. As I mentioned earlier, Lifelike utilizes the talents of many artists. In fact, each story is illustrated by a different artist, in their own distinct style. This ads yet another layer of perspective as each story comes together in a blend of creative voice and artistic expression.

One of the Stan Lee Sunday Comics presented on Komikwerks, Lifelike updates twice weekly and will soon be available as a Graphic Novel thanks to IDW Publishing. (Pre-orders are being taken at a 32% discount through now.) A full list of contributing artists, along with biographies, can be found on the Lifelike main page.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Geek Blather

What I remember of High School is that I wasn't very good at it - academically or socially. Of course, my High School was nothing like Eyrie High, and the students there were nothing like the cast of Geek Blather. Had they been, I would have at least been far more entertained.

Populated almost entirely by High School students, there are those that won't give the comic the chance it deserves. Add to the cast a sprinkling of homosexuality and the potential readership probably drops a touch more. I doubt that creators Quinn Gillespie and Kara O'Brien will notice their absence, however, as the comic seems angled toward an abundant demographic. Set in the present, Geek Blather is a shiny slice of life comic with a definite middle-class feel. This isn't to say that the comic's setting is a fun filled wonderland like the ones foisted on us by those bubble-headed tween flicks - Bullying, drugs, and even casual prostitution rear their heads here. Happily, these issues are artfully handled with a realistic sense of the frustrating nonchalance that permeates their real-life mirrors rather than with angst riddled stereotypical behavior.

From my perspective, the characters seem older than the plot dictates - though it's quite possible this seeming discrepancy is due to a simple generational gap. Regional differences, writer's prerogative, and the fact that the characters existed in RPG form before hitting webcomic fame may also play a part in this apparent time warping. Interestingly, I don't believe I would balk if the characters were portrayed as college students - apparently a couple of years makes all the difference for me.

The artwork is similarly realistic and very well done, especially considering the update schedule. The backgrounds lack detail, but one would have to drag their attention away from the characters to notice and they deserve the focus. Accurate body postures, complex facial expressions, graceful hands, and rich clothing designs overlayed with appropriate shading and highlights testify to the artist's talent. In fact, the artwork is so natural it may not be fully appreciated - take the time to really look it over once you've worked your way through the archives. I'm especially fond of her ability to clearly depict the characters in a realistic style without making them appear forced.

Various web goodies include a step-by-step "making of" tutorial followed by a spiffy video that allows you to see the process in action. A visit to the Glossary is mandatory, if only to finally name that horribly undeniable urge to draw or write something regardless of what you ought to be doing. Also, speaking of being distracted from what you ought to be doing, there's a lovely little paper doll flash that ate a good 20 minutes out of my review time.

Regular story lines update Tuesdays and Thursdays, with grab-bag strips thrown in for good measure on Saturdays... though to be perfectly honest I would love to see the Saturday strips evolve into their own stand alone slice-of-life. Come on gals, what do you say?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Nineteenth Century Industrialist

The Nineteenth Century Industrialist is... different. Half story comic, half gag-a-day, the strip seems to relish defying both convention and definition. The premise is simple enough, factory owner Hiram Thorpe is in the wrong century - but rather than conforming to the times, he continues to live as though he were still in his own. A century not exactly known for it's human rights and environmental championing.

Don't mistake the premise for a story line though - it's more of a launching point, a stage prop even. The comic itself is pointless... but pointless by design. It's not as though the creator set out to write a cohesive story and simply failed, the chaos is clearly intentional and actually well done. Each of the characters has a fairly straight forward and easily discerned personality and that offers enough consistency to tie each individual strip to the others.

The humor isn't exactly dry... it's sort of laced with an inherent sadness. A sense of entitlement that clashes with our current cultural norms in such a way that a humorous skin is formed. I do realize how unflattering that sounds, but I do enjoy the comic. It's not a laugh out loud frolic, but it's general mood alone makes it worth reading.

The artwork is a zany simplicity. Stylistically sketchy, the line work lends an added dimension to the anatomy bending physiology of the character designs and the sparse yet appropriate backgrounds. Slave Labor Graphics fans are likely to notice what seems to be the creator's primary influence as quickly as I did, in fact, I'd be shocked to learn my initial impressions were incorrect.

The comic is hosted on Comic Genesis and utilizes OhNoRobot for easy archive searching. The web design is sparse, but easy to navigate and devoid of distraction. I would be appreciate a bit of information in the form of an About page, but I suppose I can live with the mystery for now. The Nineteenth Century Industrialist updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Jump on in, the century is fine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Questionable Content

In a recent interview I was asked what webcomics I read and how they influenced me. In my answer I included my webcomic trinity, the first three slice-of-life webcomics that I really related to - Devil's Panties, Something Positive, and today's comic Questionable Content. Does that make me biased? Hell yes, but it's my damn review and I'll do with it as I please.

Before I get into the meat of the review I just want to say this - kudos for improvement. Granted, most webcomics that run for more than 900 strips show marked improvement, but QC has shown improvement in all categories from character design to writing and that at least deserves a mention. Early strips were hardly Paint induced scribbles, of course, but a quick glance at the first strip followed by a glance at the latest strip should serve as encouragement to even the most amateur of webcomic creators.

QC is, at it's most basic, a 20 something's slice-of-life. Dramatic story lines and personal growth certainly have their place, but this isn't a drama - soap opera or otherwise. Liberal outpourings of sarcasm and good natured self-depreciation clearly identify this as a comedy, and those that insist on forcing it into another genre do both themselves and the comic a disservice. No it's not slapstick nonsense, it's that day to day humor that we all appreciate in our friends and family. It's a humor that endears you to the characters - you're laughing with them, not at them, and that's a damn good thing. I relate to these characters, I recognize their reflections in people I know, and hear their lines in familiar voices. As such, I'd probably be defensive and pissy if they were simply puppets to laugh at.

This minor revelation brings me to a little factoid that absolutely tickles me - according to Jeph Jacques, the creator, none of his characters are based on real people. This just tells me that I'd find a day in Jacques' head absolutely entertaining. His easy writing style combined with only a handful of panels each strip lend themselves so well to the "snapshots in time" method that his characters are absolutely believable. You're definitely given the impression that when you're not watching the gang is pretty damn boring. Oddly enough, I mean that in a good way. Characters that feel as though their always on a stage become pat, their reality constantly stifled by a laugh track. It's important to note, however, that Jacques hasn't allowed this writing style to hurry the pacing with longer story lines, and has allowed it to provide occasional relief from slower plot advancements.

The artwork is done in a casually detailed black outline style with minimal line variation. Filled color with layered shading and highlights round out the look providing depth. Slightly over sized eyes, especially on the women folk, give the characters a bit of Manga feel but it isn't over done. Body postures range from slouchy to awkward, providing more support for personality than biology, and I very much appreciate the way one can tell how the character feels merely by looking at them. Delving into finer details, look for subtle clues that extend beyond the droop of a shoulder - the slight forward tilt of the head, for example, that signifies Faye's general disgust or the lines under Hannalore's eyes that deepen along with her mania.

The site design is simple and easy to navigate. Jacques ability to keep up with his cast page is a skill I deeply covet, and his QC Tutorial of Doom is very nicely done. The About, FAQ, and Contact pages are succinct but effective and the Music Picks page reads like an indie lovers wet dream. Also on board is a fairly active Forum, which even includes a thread to pimp your own comic - assuming you have one to pimp. QC updates 5 days a week, Monday through Friday and is certainly worth the daily read.

(Apologies all around for the lateness of this review - I gathered some sort of crud at the office and spent the last two days either sleeping or in a "gods I wish I was still asleep" coma-like haze. My only real hope is that this thing actually makes sense and I didn't do a huge injustice to a comic I really do love. *oi*)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Pessimistic Sense of Inadequacy

I'm tempted to say that anyone familiar with younger webcomics is familiar with today's artist - Fesworks, and his webcomic A Pessimistic Sense of Inadequacy. A solid year old this month, P.S.I. has not only been a consistently well written comic, it has also served as a springboard for some very enjoyable crossover efforts; and it's those efforts that so often have Fesworks in the spotlight.

The artwork fluctuates between penciled black and white to simpler black outlined block colors, and while the change ups may be a bit unusual each style has it's positive attributes - the thinner line work of the penciled style offer more detail, while the block colored strips offer more definition and a more eye catching appeal. In recent months a few animated strips have appeared as well, each one enhancing the writing by moving the plot forward without ruining the pacing. Aside from advancing the plot, the animated panels are a nice surprise for readers; especially as they're so nicely done.

The writing has had it's own evolutions, growing from something akin to a slice-of-life comic to more fantasy based plot lines. Of course, slice-of-life may have been a stretch to begin with as one of the two main characters is a large talking rat. Yes, this is an antrho comic - but a very well thought out anthro comic. The characters do notice their differences, and the subject of food has been nicely dealt with. Also tucked aside as a non-issue is the comics frequent tendency to break the fourth wall - Fes and Ernst are described as "webcomic aware". They understand that they are characters collaborating with their creator, and they also understand not all characters are similarly aware. This has created some interesting scenarios in the current crossover plot line - one I'm certainly curious to see concluded.

I think it's important to note that working your way through the P.S.I. archive will not only introduce you to Fesworks' well written and entertaining characters, it will also introduce you to a number of other webcomics. What's impressive about this is that the writing is so easily able to support this influx of new characters and situations. The plot moves along at a decent pace, and what little knowledge of other comic characters is needed to keep up is effortlessly provided along the way. The archive may not be terribly pretty, but it's nicely sectioned and functional so I'm not going to complain. The website itself is easy to navigate and contains a number of can't miss features including an audio webcomic review titled 2 Cents in 60 Seconds.

Congratulations Fes - here's to another year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

World's Worst Webcomic

There's one glaring problem with The World's Worst Webcomic - it isn't. Okay, the artwork is as amateur as possible without losing all cohesive and recognizable qualities, but the writing... the writing is fucking hilarious.

In all honesty, the comic is a bit like an auto accident. You want to look away, but something compels you to turn your head and gawk, even knowing there's a possibility you may see something horrible... and deep inside knowing you may want to see something horrible. The World's Worst Webcomic is horrible. The plot lines are very basic, though not as basic as the artwork, and occasionally amble about like a drunken zombie. Sometimes the plot stumbles, falls face first, and lies there a while before finally getting to it's feet and starting off in a new direction. Other times it never gets up, and while you're staring at it's lifeless corpse a new plot ambles in from the distance, groaning.

Strange thing is... that doesn't matter. I still read it, and I still laugh.

One thing I absolutely adore is the archive system. There's the typical list of comics, a respectable 200 as of today, arranged by date and title - but some are also listed by plot, and that's where the genius comes in. The comics are typically done in strip format, and when you choose to go through the archive by plot you're given all of the comics in that plot line on a single page, saving you the trouble of clicking "next" every 40 seconds as you finish each comic. There's also the Airlock Series, which simply has to be viewed as a whole because the whole damn thing is animated weirdness. Don't get too excited though - you really should go through the archive one comic at a time because there are single shots in there that range from social commentary to complete idiocy.

Oddly enough, it's entirely possible that the best way to judge the comic's humor as a new comer is to skip reading the archive until you've read the rest of the site. Check out the FAQ first, then wander over to the About section. If you're mildly amused, head over the archives and read through a few. Think of it like being inoculated before heading into a pandemic zone.

The World's Worst Webcomic updates five days a week, though should you require notification, it's worth noting that The World's Worst RSS Feed is 13,003% larger than the competition. Yeah... there's just nothing else I can say about this... I need a brain wash.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


These reviews aren't always going to have the best timing. I managed to hit There's Always Porn during a guest week, and I'm hitting Ardra during an entire guest month. This poses a bit of a challenge. Add to that the somewhat verified rumor that Ardra is in for some sort of change on the horizon, and I nearly cancelled the review. Cancelling would be the easy way out though, and what kind of fun is easy? Wait... don't answer that.

I'm quite amused by the basic premise of the comic. An atypical female scientist decides to embark on the greatest experiment of her life - truly logical parenting. The children display a few genetically engineered quirks - both Eileen and Lenore share their maternal provider's unusually high IQ, and Lenore has a dash of telekinesis thrown in just for kicks - but the writer manages to use these qualities as personality traits rather than as gimmicks.

Unfortunately, the comic's life has been somewhat tumultuous having changed artists more than once. Early comics were drawn by Ardra's writer, Jason Dunstan. Fans of the webcomic Least I Could Do may recognize the work of original artist Trevor Adams in later strips. Finally, Fesworks of the webcomic P.S.I. has taken over the artist's helm and he doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. Jason has stuck through it all, though, even squeezing a number of guest comics from other creators to fill in the gaps between regular artists. That's a tenacity rarely found here on the web, where comics frequently come and go before they're even noticed.

Aside from all else, the humor is consistent. Intelligent without being pretentious, there's a good natured ring to even Eileen's pessimistic sarcasm. The harsher pokings are reserved for popular culture rather than specific individuals keeping the "family" focused as a tight knit unit without fostering animosity. Sarcasm is a subtle game, and Jason definitely has the knack.

The current artwork is a nice blend of Feswork's style and the already established character designs. The line work is smooth and sufficiently detailed to support the block coloring. The backgrounds consist mostly of layered color that seems to exist behind the actual frames, continuing it's patterns beyond the scope of a single panel. While this technique could be distracting, the tones used keep the colors from drawing your eyes away from the characters, which clearly deserve center stage.

Despite some bumps, Ardra seems to have hit a stride. With any luck, future bumps won't knock it off the road.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


He's small. He's furry. He's orange.

Nope, wrong character. I'm talking about Sidgwick a character that, unlike that cat, rings with sarcastic political humor. He's a dry rub of current events presented as the creator's conversations with his imaginary friend.

Right off the bat I'm tempted to say that this comic won't amuse everyone. It is current event based, and often deals with American politics. I do believe there is enough popular content that the comic could appeal to readers from other countries, but a good deal of the content deals with news that didn't hit the evening networks. As such, people with little regard for those rather interesting political items that so tickle me may not see the point.

Aside from being intelligent and culturally relevant, Sidgwick is a comic I also find consistently funny. The humor is dry, not dark, mostly sarcastic but occasionally entering into the realm of sardonic. Falwell and Limbaugh fans should probably steer clear unless they're looking for something to bitch about, but there are a few gentle jabs aimed at the liberal crowd as well.

The artwork is cartoonish, as one would expect, but not amateurish. The expressions are endearing and clearly read, and the settings and perspective have a naturally casual feel. I appreciate the differentiation between the creator's voice and his creation within the comic - the creator's bubbles differ in both shape and shade, leaving a clear impression of origin.

The comic is currently hosted on MySpace, and while it's a passable solution because of it's timely nature, I would pretty much prefer that every comic hosted on MySpace found a more appropriate home. Assuming you have your own MySpace, subscribing to the blog would insure that you didn't miss any updates. Those of you without MySpace pages can either sign up for the RSS feed, or just check in every now and again. Regardless of how you get there, it's worth it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wapsi Square

Today's comic is populated primarily by women, yet is written and drawn by a man.

Yes. I am aware of the images that conjures.

I did not, however, say that today's comic is populated primarily by dolls. These are women. They have real breasts - you know, the kind that come in different shapes and sizes - and they have the hips that go along with them. They have issues, yes, but they also have the intelligence and guts to tackle them - no matter how fantastical and frightening. They have flaws, sometimes even dark secrets, but their personalities shine though with strength of character - crystal clear and honest.

So before I get into the review of Wapsi Square, let me say this: Kudos to you, Paul Taylor. You've created characters that that feel like people, not fantasies. I'm proud to share this one with my daughter.

Wapsi Square is one of those rare comics that has it all. Brilliantly molded characters, strong story lines, steady pacing, and professional artwork. All that, and the creator manages to update five days a week, produce a steady stream of images for sale, maintain an online journal, appear at conventions, and help his wife raise their son.

Busy guy.

Taking place in a fictitious neighborhood in Minneapolis, Wapsi Square follows the life and times of Monica Villarreal - an anthropologist with a rather vivid connection to Aztec mythology. Beginning in September of 2001, Wapsi Square originally felt like a 3-4 panel punch-a-day type comic. Those early days, however, were actually the foundation for an incredibly engaging story. Rather than diving in to a complicated plot line, the author allows the reader to get to know the characters much as we get to know the people in our lives. People engage in small talk before they reveal their inner thoughts, and the plot evolves much like a personal relationship. By 2004 the small talk is over, and a dark intimacy takes its place. The writing never feels contrived or rushed, and though some might find the pacing a tad slow, I feel it contributes to the comic's realistic nature. Yes, this is a fantasy comic, but the characters are taken aback by the supernatural in their lives. This isn't a world where metaphorical unicorns are expected, but rather a world where, once confronted with them, the inhabitants are forced to accept, live with, and even attempt to control them. It's easy for me to find myself in these characters, not necessarily relating to one in particular, but instead recognizing bits of myself in their reflections. The intensity of emotion the author is able to elicit is testimony to that reflective nature. It's very easy to imagine myself in their shoes, and while I don't always like what I see of myself, I always enjoy the journey.

The artwork is simple and skillful, black outlines with hatch mark shading and sketchy detailing. The backgrounds are given a grey wash, allowing the characters to remain rightfully center stage at all times. Each character design is a clear match to it's personality, giving one the feeling that their physicality helped in molding their person; and let's be honest - that's more reality than fiction. My early teens were filled with groundless rumors of eating disorders due to an unusually high metabolism, the way people viewed me had an effect on the person I became. I'm sure tall/overweight/short/busty/etc kids were partially molded in the same way, and Paul's character designs flesh out that truth.

Masterful story telling and crisp artistry have made Wapsi Square one of my favorites. Don't take this one lightly - start at the beginning and work your way through as you would a novel. Once you're caught up, read it every weekday. Then, as each story line wraps up, go back to it's beginning and read it as a whole. The impact each strip makes on a daily basis is multiplied when reading them in blocks. I will own the compilations, and they will take their place on my nightstand to be read over and over again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

School Spirit

I don't know a damned thing about cricket, and for the first time in my life, I'm actually sorry that I don't.

Don't worry, an understanding of the finer points of cricket is hardly a requirement for enjoying School Spirit, though it might help on occasion. For once, this review will not contain any warnings to younger readers. School Spirit is wholesome goodness for all. There is still a content warning, however - this comic contains Aussie speak. Not enough to throw most readers, though, just enough to add personality and charm to some truly endearing characters. Refreshingly, I find that charm to come from an easy balance between artistic style and writing - with neither competing for attention over the other.

Beginning with young Casper's first day at a new school, the reader is invited to join him and his new friends in nothing less than childhood. A bit on the spirit filled side from what I remember of my childhood, but the feel is familiar regardless. The writing is laid back and unassuming, in both narration and speech, bringing about a feeling of casual enjoyment. More a summer picnic than a roller coaster ride, and rightfully so. While technically story based, a number of the strips read like illustrated children's jokes and riddles. In other comics I've found such a format jarring, but placed in the context of a grammar school and constrained to speech the format works perfectly - adding to the good-natured, child-like feel the creator so eloquently maintains. Regularly placed recapitulations allow new readers to catch up without pouring through three years worth of archives. You'll also find a few history lessons sprinkled around the plot line, likely to enlighten the yanks more than the Aussies, but worth the read regardless.

The artwork is equally charming, with cleanly stylized characters and consistent backgrounds. Deftly avoiding the pitfalls of overly cute or tiny-but-adult child characters, the creator maintains a cartoonish feel without rounding the bend to wacky. I especially enjoy his use of silhouette and the occasional placement of what appear to be slightly altered photographs or paintings. Most of the strips are done in a three to four panel format, and in full color, though some are double that with the longer comics typically breaking slightly from the story line.

Navigation is simple, clean, and keeps to the theme of the comic quite nicely. The only thing I might add would be navigation at the top of the comic for those times when a quick turn through are called for; though the calendar navigation below the comic in addition to a complete archive does help in that regard. Other features include a a very interesting history page, a cast page, and a forum in which one may even ask the individual characters questions. (The art page, though included in the main menu, doesn't seem to lead anywhere currently.)

Updating dutifully three times a week - Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday - School Spirit is a playful romp well worth a try... and with hints of ghostly pasts on the horizon, this would be an excellent time to dive in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


This isn't something I'm going to do regularly. It makes a little piece of me sad... no, not sad... just less happy. Today's comic requires a tiny investment in order to read the entire archive. Stop where you are, no running away, no clicky. Clicky bad. Hear me out...

First of all, Gypsy! is a great comic that I'll be rambling about endlessly as soon as we clear the subscription hump. Secondly, you're getting full access to all the Girlamatic comics for a measly $2.95 a month. Less than three bucks, and as the current comic of every series is available for free, it would seem that subscription fee is only really necessary to get you through the archives. Personally, I think the price is well worth it.

Now, on with the comic.

Gypsy! is a black and white story based comic created by the prolific John Peters who "once delved into the deepest, darkest recesses of his own soul only to discover a half-used roll of paper towels and dozens of empty, rusted Dr. Pepper cans." If you're hip to the indie world, you may know John as the illustrator of Forty Winks, Pixie, or dozens of other things. I mean, damn.

Other works aside, Gypsy makes me uneasy. Or rather, the people that "care" for her make me uneasy. The plot is compelling enough to have hooked me for good within the first few pages, and it may very well have been the sense of unease that did the hooking. These people aren't right. They're not evil, they're just so pointedly apathetic toward Gypsy you ought to feel sorry for her, but they're so casual in their indifference that you don't. It's like indigenous nudity on TV - just a slight change in setting and you'd have a whole different set of feelings. I don't want to go into the plot too much here for two reasons: One, the story isn't over yet. Summarizing a few chapters is pointless. Two, The plot sounds ridiculous shoved into a brief paragraph. This one is meant to unfold slowly, pulling the reader from event to event along a winding path. As the story opens, Gypsy is presented in a catatonic state. Seven chapters in, she hasn't shifted from that state. I don't get the feeling she'll be doing so soon. Oddly enough, that hasn't stopped her from engaging in an adventure.

The writing here is as absolutely solid as the artwork. The dialogue supports the characters as well as advancing the plot without overpowering the artwork, allowing for multifaceted character expression. Quirky remarks and minor sidelines are presented and allowed to fade away without distracting from the plot. The artwork is clean, but certainly not without detail, and the shading defines both light and perspective quite well. John clearly has no difficulty with body postures and movement, and the overall character design fits the story perfectly. Though it's not something that's often mentioned in reviews - the panel work here is brilliant. While there is never any difficulty following the progression, they're rarely staged in a typical format. Frequently, bordered panels appear over top a single borderless panel; a technique that actually seems to inject a sense of drama, environment, and even time. Another aspect seldom discussed bears witness to it's importance here - the text style itself assists the flow and emotion of the dialogue, often granting the characters tone that could not be portrayed otherwise.

Currently in the midst of the seventh chapter, Gypsy! updates Sundays and will most assuredly be available in book form once complete. Website wise, I find the current page background distracting and I wish there were small directional buttons at the top of each comic to compliment those at the bottom. Certainly not deal breakers by any means. He makes up for it with a really charming Cast page. Consider yourself warned, however, there are spoilers in them thair descriptions.

I suggest this - go to the site. Read the freebies. If you're even mildly interested, cough up the three bucks and read the rest. You'd be supporting deserving artists, and you'd be well rewarded for it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I'll never eat another gingerbread man.

You see, I have empathy for the little guys now.  I can quite vividly, for example, imagine their terror at the prospect of a glass of milk.  See their bloodied bodies left dismembered on a plate.  Pity their joy at being digested.

Thanks a lot, GingerDead.  Christmas will never be the same... though Halloween just might become another reason to bake.

Yes, yes... it's time for another rambling late night review.  This time, I take on my favorite macabre cookie, GingerDead.  Written with a dark slant, the comic manages a Gothic edge without the blatant effort of other works.  Yes, the title is a bit punny, but the writing is not.  Instead, it's a mixture of haiku, quiet contemplation and gentle humor.  The writing itself feels of winter, even without visual aid, a feat I quite admire.

The art is simple, dramatic splashes of red where appropriate, backed by shades of black and grey.  Line work is purposely rough, but certainly not sloppy, a technique that compliments the feel of both artwork and writing.  The characters quite easily manage to be both disturbing and cute.  GingerDead and Lenore have a familiar warmth, despite the former's habit of being eaten and the latter's utter lack of flesh.  I would love to see Lenoir in doll form, preferably munching on some flowers.

Easy enough to navigate, though a button leading to the first comic would be a nice addition, the site is minimalistic in design.  The archive can be found in both date and title formats, a few icons and desktops are available, and it would also appear the creator has some stock in Second Life.  GingerDead is not a laugh riot.  It's not intended to be.  It is, however, charming, quite amusing, and well worth the read.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


I seriously thought about starting and ending this review by simply stating that Achewood is like Winnie the Pooh on anti-depressant laced crack.  Fin.

Then I changed my mind.

The comparison, oddly enough, is rather apt.  The characters of Achewood do have a very "based on stuffed animals" kind of charm, and if the About section is in any way indicative of reality, they are.  Of course, in this version Pooh only wears bling and a thong and piglet is some sort of... I don't know... otter perhaps?  Okay, the art isn't stellar.  No one cares.  We read Achewood because it's seriously crazy funny.  Also, it's amazingly educational - did you know that you're presented with a 1982 Subaru Brat when you enter hell?  That shit has got to be important.

Unfortunately for stressed out reviewers, Achewood doesn't exactly present itself in such a way that you can outline the content in four or five neat paragraphs.  Though there are clear plot lines, there's also this callous and unrelenting disregard for sanity.  In the midst of a storyline regarding Philippe's bid for the presidency, for example, Ray finds a talking shoe with a dysfunctional family and a penchant for stocks.  I mean, damn... the whole storyline was wacky hilarity, but how do you summarize that?  Clearly, there's just no point in trying.

Achewood has been running for nearly 6 years now, having launched October 1st of 2001.  Though there doesn't seem to be a firm update schedule, a new comic does appear 3-5 times a week and an RSS feed is available for instant update notification.  Actually, there are a number of things available: Dork Resources, Desktops, Pictures of girls in underwear winning contests having nothing to do with Achewood, character blogs, Radio Achewood, a huge and varied store, the ability to purchase a signed print of any comic... you name it, Achewood's got it.  One of my favorite extra features is the Current Toddler Status in which creator Chris Onstad posts various parental observations.  Achewood also sports a subscription only version which promises a "huge archive of rare, multi-format Achewood content", but I'm poor so I have absolutely no idea what that might look like.  Actually, the subscription is only $12 so I'm apparently more lazy than poor.  It's important to note, however, that it's not a lack of love for the comic that has keep me from subscribing and I'm sure I will at some point.  If for no other reason, I'll do it to get my hands on the entire Nate Small novella.  There's no reason for Beef to keep those goods to himself.

I have one last thing to say for Achewood.  It's fucking addictive.  This review took me 4 hours to write.  4 fucking hours. It's not even a good review.  It's aimless and rambling.  It is, however, well researched.  Yes - you got a crappy review because I spent 4 hours reading through the archives.  Archives I've already read.  Twice.

If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.

Friday, April 27, 2007

There's Always Porn

A simple truism identifies this week's webcomic - There's Always Porn. (NSFW) Yes, it's yet another adult oriented comic, so I recommend the kiddos run off and read Mr. Moo's Day Out.  It has pretty colors, aliens, you actually get to turn the pages just like a print comic, and I like it quite a bit.

Written by the prolific and talented, Wiz Rollins, and drawn by the mysterious Bob Sugar, There's Always Porn isn't exactly a newbie effort.  Rollins' credits would take up more space than the review and a perusal of his ComicSpace page is certainly worth the time.  Sugar however, won't pop up on a search beyond this project, though there are certainly rumors that he's a known artist working under an alias.  I'll not be a monger, though, and instead will allow you to draw your own conclusions.  No, that's not a hint for the conspiracy nits.

The comic is fairly new, having started in January this year, but it's off to a good start.  They did manage to time a stint of guest strips to coincide with this review - but the talent they attracted is a good indication of the comic's jovial quality. &bnsp;
It's true, the premise hasn't been new since the 70's, but TAP brings forth scenarios Oscar and Felix would have never explored.

Possibly the first thing that should be mentioned is that the comic itself is not, in fact, porn.  Porn is discussed, porn is depicted, but porn is not created with the comic. &nbps;In the comic, yes, but not with it.  Also, while content may occasionally be shocking to some, it's clearly not intended as a shock-a-day gross out.  I'll admit that I may be ill suited to making such judgements, but I've not run across anything in the comic I wasn't previously aware of and okay with.  No, they're angling for laughs not gasps, and they get those laughs by presenting their material in such a casual fashion.  The vernacular isn't annoyingly cloy, nor is it medically cold, it's comfortable - and that's important to maintaining a realistic feel.

The artwork is stylistic and cartoonish, pairing nicely with the writing. &bnsp;Body postures and angles are accurately portrayed, and with this comic that must be a bit of a challenge from time to time.  Facial expressions are varied and carry emotion well, as does the coloring where mood is sometimes expressed rather subtly in the backgrounds and shading.  I especially enjoy the details in clothing, backgrounds and props.

Certainly for mature audiences, and not exactly safe for work, There's Always Porn is a crowd pleaser.  Favorite line - "I'm pretty sure that would turn my vagina into an almost impossibly dense singularity."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Raymondo Person

Where else could one possibly go for AIDS weilding cheese and oppressed tampons? I dare so nowhere but Chicken Nation, home of this week's comic - Raymondo Person. This is another Web MA - so the young ones should be off to read something entertaining and age appropriate like Able and Baker.

I need to start out by saying that creator Patrick Alexander is clearly disturbed. Not just a little bit, either. He's quite profoundly distrubed. If perusing the Raymondo Person archives doesn't convince you of that, have a look at Cunt!, his 24 hour comic submission for 2005. The man clearly needs help, but he's funny so we'll let him free to roam.

*coughs* Anyway...

At first glance the artwork may seem less than impressive, especially as most of the characters are little more than stylized stick figures, but take the time to look a bit more closely. The backgrounds, shading, character expression and basic composition are really quite good; leaving one with the impression that the artwork is really a matter of style, and not mearly a crutch. A quick glance at his commission work firms up that impression rather nicely. He also draws a really mean penis, which has to be some kind of accomplishment.

The dialogue is the clincher here - alternating between something that vaguely smacks of a plot and shear unadulterated offense, I never know what I'm going to find when I click that link. Will Satan stop by Raymondo's house again? To what perverted depth might Mabel plunge? Will there be shit explosions? For sweet mercy's sake - will someone wind up drinking it??? On more than one occasion I've found myself reading the comic, staring in horror, moving on to something else, then coming back, reading it again and finally chuckling. It's often a bit like a slap to the brain with the remnants of a wet dream. (There's an ad worthy quote....)

The website design is sparce, but reasonably easy to navigate. If there is a fixed update schedule, I haven't been able to figure it out, but you can choose to be notified of updates through Live Journal, RSS or ATOM. As mentioned before, Patrick Alexander does accept commission work and I agree with him that his work would make outstanding gifts for your more twisted friends and family.

I can't honestly say that you're all going to like this one, but I certainly do. It's not too terribly far in, so start with the first one and work your way through. You've got nothing to lose but your greater sense of well being. *grins*

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Toy Division

If you're under the age of 18, go read Beaver and Steve it's a wonderful comic that I very much enjoy; there is nothing here for you now.  Shoo.  Wait a minute!  Get back here!  If you're under 18, what the hell are you doing reading BetaPwned?  Kids these days, just begging for a whacking I tell you....

Speaking of a well deserved whacking, today I'm serving up another one of my top-ten favorites - Toy Division.  It's almost a shame I love this comic as much as I do because this review is just plain hard to write.  The characters are the Nazi equivalent of Chibi, fetish laden cupie dolls, adorable abominations, and highly entertaining.

It's not often I come across a work that could be described as both scandalous and charming, let alone a work swimming in BDSM references and casual violence.  The creator's ability to be interesting and arousing without being blatant is wonderfully refreshing, the talent punctuated by the brazenness of the content.  The artwork is mostly tone on tone, though color comics are sprinkled about, as are some very spiffy interactive flash works.  I especially enjoyed playing dress up - who knew you could accessorize with a speculum?

My only real complaint is the update schedule, mainly that there doesn't seem to be one.  I suppose I could just chalk it up to well trained dominance - we're rewarded when the master sees fit, not on a schedule.  *grins*

I was once told that erotica is the thinking man's porn, a statement I think Toy Division illustrates quite nicely.  Do not mistake my brevity for disinterest, I love Toy Division.  I love it for it's uniqueness, for it's elegant and engaging artwork, and for it's brilliantly charming dialogue.  It's just so damn hard for me to describe without doing it a horrible disservice.  Be you of proper age and inclination, please take a look through the Toy Division Archives.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Thinking Ape Blues

I'm going to start this off simply - The Thinking Ape Blues isn't for everyone.  It's an intellectual and opinionated sarcasm, a sometimes brutally honest view through the eyes of a pragmatic realist fraught with iconic references and philosophical ravings.  Then again, it's not all collegiate fodder... while one strip may contain references to the Dali Lama, Hunter S. Thompson, Cher, Paul Stanley, the Keebler Elves, and Ronnie James Dio, another may be nothing more than an elaborate poop joke.

The creator, Mark Poutenis, originally published The Thinking Ape Blues solely in print; gracing the pages of no less than nine publication including The Boston Weekly Dig and the New York Waste where it can still be found.  While initially challenged by the differences between print and web publication, Mark has clearly hit a more comfortable stride; evidenced by both a prolific marketing campaign and a new series of single panel voting incentives.  A nearly complete archive, picturesque navigation, a brilliant About Page, and a product line that includes the ability to place any archived comic on a T-shirt testifies to his professionalism almost as much as his artwork.

Speaking of his artwork, my only real criticism is that he frequently seems to dislike it.  Reading the blog posts often leaves me wondering just who's comic he's commenting on.  Mind you, I believe the self-depreciation is genuine, it simply isn't deserved.  Almost exclusively drawn in black and white, the artwork is consistent, detailed, creative, and expressive.  Any cultural icons appearing in the strip are accurately and stylistically portrayed, allowing for both easy recognition and comedic effect.  The backgrounds are supportive, interesting, and drawn with distinct attention to accurate perspective.  The character's body postures and facial expressions easily convey both tone and mood without script competition.  There is quite literally nothing to complain about here, it's just damn good.

The writing is equally impressive, delivering necessary complexity without being overly verbose.  Though occasionally crossing the boundary from thoughtful sarcasm into sardonic ranting, the overall feel of the comic is strangely and pleasantly neutral, neither inciting nor depressing.  It should be noted, however, that it appears Mark and I fall on roughly the same end of the political, religious, and philosophical spectrum and that may be why he has failed to draw my ire.

The character concept is clever and well constructed, especially considering it's a main cast of only three.  The Progress Brothers - Abe, Ben, and Carl seem to represent three aspects of our very humanity.  If Ben is described as "being stuck between the heavens and a hole in the ground", Carl must be heaven and Abe must be the hole. Perhaps meant to symbolize the three divisions of the Freudian psyche, the stages between primal urge and profound logic, or some other philosophical or psychological classifications I'm simply not intelligent enough to pontificate on, the characters are engaging and complete.  This seemingly simply set up allows for a nearly casual introspection on any number of topics.  I especially admire his ability to discuss difficult, emotionally charged subjects with both honesty and compassion.

Ape Shit, the creator's single panel comic which serves as the weekly voting incentive, allows for more gag oriented expression, but they're equally subject to cultural examination and are certainly worth the vote.

Mark Poutenis is the Samuel Clemens of webcomics.  To be both poignant and witty is a rare gift indeed.  The Thinking Ape Blues updates every Tuesday, and compilations are available here.  (These are coffee table companions if I've ever seen 'em. They're practically guaranteed to spark discussion.)  Ape Shit is made available every Friday, and past panels are available in their own archive.