Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Lowly Dregs

All right, people. Enough is enough. Somewhere in this list there must be a comic that I won't really like and it needs to come up soonish. Every time I come across a comic on the list that I actually enjoy enough to read regularly I find myself struggling to find something to say beyond "This comic is good... and stuff. "


Yeah, yeah... I know what you're thinking - "Oh joy. Yet another freaking D&D comic." No, the genre isn't exactly hurting for entries, but this one is actually worth checking out so try to save some of that cynicism for the next two-guys-and-a-couch entry.

Let's start with the artwork, shall we? If you've taken a look at some of the other D&D inspired comics out there you might be noticing something new. I know it may be confusing, just take a deep breath and look it over. See the smooth line art, the subtle detailing, the vibrant coloring and consistent shading? That's talent. Nothing to be frightened of I assure you, with luck you'll get used to it. Am I being a bit flippant? Perhaps, but I contend it's not my fault. Being the D&D nerd I am I'm tired of seeing crappy comics piss all over the game. The Lowly Dregs does no pissing and it pleases me. The coloring of the comic perfectly fits the tone, it's merry and jovial without searing the eyeballs. Character designs are well rendered and consistent, fitting the personalities as presented without relying on overly obvious cues. Rounding out the praise are the detailed backgrounds and scene settings that manage visual complexity without overwhelming the characters or action.

Now on to the writing. The first obvious comparison you'll likely be inclined to make is to Goblins. Stop it. This is not Goblins, a Goblins rip-off, or even a Goblins tribute. Yes, both comics look at adventuring from the viewpoint of a typical D&D NPC, but that's where the comparison ends. The Lowly Dregs is a comedy. There are some action elements, but I've yet to have my heart broken into tiny shards by the mass of death and destruction. Death is incidental here, not impacting. I do very much appreciate the way all out farce is avoided as well. The plot is character driven and, while individual strips may depend on puns for a punchline, the vast majority of the humor comes from our knowledge of the characters and their relationships to one another. The pacing is wonderful, neither stressed nor drawn out, and the dialogue is very natural. They haven't quite yet reached the 100 mark, but they've passed the hurdle of plot staging and are moving steadily into development. Now's a great time to jump in and get caught up before things really start taking off.

Ready for my one and only criticism? Word bubbles. They seem a bit tacked on and out of place with the artwork, and are sometimes placed so that conversations seem out of turn. Early font issues were worked out relatively quickly though, so I've no doubt that these issues will similarly disappear. I don't think the site would be hurt by the inclusion of About and Cast pages, but a thread for each in the Forum would work in a pinch.

Last little tidbit - for some goofy easter egg fun, click the apple in the Dregs logo at the top of the page. Spritely giggles are contained within.

Thanks for putting up with me these last two weeks, I'm still trying to get back in the swing of things. I know I'm still one review behind, but I'll have it up as soon as possible. See you soon!

Alaska Robotics

Dear Alaska Robotics creators,

Please put your latest comic on the front page of your website. Ktnxbai!

There. With that out of the way we've completed my list of negative review items for Alaska Robotics. If you were here looking for flames, you can leave now. I also suggest you take a sincerely critical look at the thought process that brought you to my blog looking for flames.

Digression? You get that a lot around here. Flames? Not so much.

As I sat down and read through the Alaska Robotics archive to refresh my memory for the review I found myself chuckling and thinking "I'm really going to enjoy writing this review, it's always nice to review a comic I really like." Then I sat down to review the damn thing and found myself thinking "What the hell do I say about this completely random, yet thoroughly enjoyable, work?" Alaska Robotics is one of those webcomics that defies simple classification. For the most part, it's a single shot comic - you don't necessarily need to go through the archives as most strips are independant of previous strips. Okay, got that. Is it a humor comic? Yes... ish. While many of the strips are humor based, and the comedy is well written, there are a number of strips that are more fanciful explorations of poetry and art. Is it character based? Yes... ish. The same characters pop up time and again, but getting to know the individual characters isn't a requirement for understanding the strips. Is it plot based? Um... kind of. There are brief plot lines, (my favorite being the Robot Zombies story) and you do get the over-all impression that the characters work and/or live together. Is it about robots? Sometimes. Is it about Alaska? I think they live there... but I don't know that it matters.

You know how your brain goes a bit floppy after several hours without sleep and everything becomes kind of whimsical and humorous without really tying into anything solid? That's Alaska Robotics.

Well, assuming your brain is actually funny and maintains great timing in it's more addled states.

The artwork is mostly kooky and playful, making it an excellent match for the strip. The exceptions in style take place during the mini-stories within the comic, most noteably the Ocean City story line where backgrounds are rendered in a beautifully soft painted style. To get a really good look at the painting techniques, I heartily suggest taking advantage of the "Monster Sized" option included under each strip. I do wish there was an archive of some sort available on each page, but this is a minor issue as a drop down archive is included on the Comics page accessable by way of the main menu.

All-in-all, I really enjoy the strip. Whimsical really is the adjective that keeps coming to mind - it's a lighthearted, positive read that's at turns punny, topical, and almost restful. It also seems extremely marketable... but that's a review of a different sort entirely.

Next up - The Lowly Dregs

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I know the review is late, and I managed to miss last week's review all together. I'll be all caught up, and beyond, by Monday. Promise!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Breathless is a (mostly) black and white fantasy adventure comic now in it's eighth chapter. Luckily, as the comic only updates twice a week, you still have time to hop and board and get current before the serious action begins... but I'd hurry if I were you, it doesn't seem far off.

I quite like the story so far, though I do believe the page size ruins the pacing a bit. A typical page runs only four or five panels, and while that might be adequate for other comics there's a great deal of action in breathless meaning that a single fight scene might take several pages - no problem if you're reading a print comic, but a bit drawn out when you consider that those five pages span more than two weeks time. I think the comic would be better served dropping to once-a-week updates and double-sizing each page, but the creator may have other reasons for presenting it as she does. Pacing aside, the dialogue does a wonderful job of distinguishing the cast and advancing the plot and the frequent dream sequences and flashbacks are very well done. At this point in the comic you have a clear understanding of where the plot is headed, as well as an understanding of where the main character is coming from. There are bits of his past that are shadowy, certainly, but I have full faith that we'll be filled in as the story progresses.

This is another one of those comics where the artwork started out good and got better with time, no train wrecks to be seen by clicking "first" with this one. The main difference between chapter one and chapter eight is in shading, which has transformed from a very well executed cross hatching to skillful gray tones. Both styles are pleasing to the eye and support the character designs, but I do think the gray tones help enhance the overall mood. Most importantly for this genre, the artwork captures the action well; clearly illustrating movement, force, and emotion. The character designs are at turns intense and endearing and the backgrounds are both well done and relevant - keeping the attention focused on the characters where it belongs while providing setting and ambiance. Most striking for me are the spirit scenes where the artists has easily captured an ethereal quality that instantly sets the tone.

I would like to see the occasional missed comic message and holiday page taken out of the archive. While I don't mind their inclusion in single shot strips, they really serve no purpose in a story comic beyond yanking the audience out of the fantasy the creator has so carefully crafted. Also, while scanning a couple of the accompanying blog posts I noticed something odd - several of them actually contained a retelling of the displayed comic page. My first thought was that I had missed something and that the retelling was giving details that the art wasn't able to convey. Upon further review, however, I found that not to be the case. I can't speak to the creator's motivations here, but the retelling isn't necessary, the artwork is more than adequate to convey even the more nuanced aspects of the story.

All in all, I'm really enjoying Breathless and hope to someday see this is print form. I'm looking forward to seeing the foreshadowing unfold and the many mysteries solved. As I said before, I'd hop on this one now, I feel there are big events coming.

See you all next week when I review Alaska Robotics