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*)