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.