Just as a heads up, Tangents is taking a two week break. There will be no updates during this time.
If there’s a core truth to Rich Burlew’s fantasy stick-figure webcomic Order of the Stick, it’s that it stays true to storytelling tropes. Thus after Roy and his companions were overwhelmed by General Tarquin and his associates it was obvious to me that we’d be seeing a Deus Ex Machina appear to save them. Elan’s mentor, Julio, and his traveling airship fulfills just this purpose. However, while some readers may think Julio will take the sacrificial role that Tarquin intended for Roy, I suspect the end result may surprise some readers.
The core story for OotS is the ongoing efforts of Roy and the Order to stop Xykon and Redcloak (and in doing so, fulfill the Oath that Roy’s father never bothered to finish). While we’ve spent a significant bit of time on this side-story with Elan’s father (which also managed to bring closure to the Elan/Nale dynamic), there is no reason for the Order to return and deal with Tarquin once the Snarl has been secured and Xykon’s threat ended. Thematically the story concludes with the death of Xykon and Redcloak. So why then would we return for Tarquin?
Obviously we won’t. Tarquin is a bit player in the grand meta-story of OotS and has served his purpose (both in killing Nale and in bringing closure to Elan’s story). Julio’s entrance is not to provide the Order with a means of escape but to end Tarquin’s threat permanently while allowing Elan to retain some iota of innocence. And in doing so he’ll also give readers a glimpse at the greater world around the Order. Just as Tarquin and his companions are more powerful than Roy and crew, so too is Julio part of the greater world of heroes and villains that the Order is just one part of.
Finally, this provides closure to yet another character’s backstory. Of all the crew, only Durkon has not had a major arc focusing primarily on him. But now that he’s dead, he can return to the dwarvish lands… where I suspect the final Gate lies concealed. Durkon himself will not destroy his people, even as a vampire. Instead, it is Xykon and Redcloak that will be the catalyst… and Durkon will serve as the herald of the dwarves’ doom. And who knows, maybe when Julio delivers the Order to the dwarvish lands, he can die by Xykon and give Elan a chance to declare vengeance as was hinted at long ago.
One of the cornerstones of the reviews I write is that I always try to be respectful of the work that goes into a comic, even if I may not necessarily enjoy the comic itself. Part of this is out of respect to the cartoonists; art is a deeply personal thing and to share it is to make yourself vulnerable. This is especially true for autobiographical comics as the cartoonist is not only exposing their art to criticism, but in essence their life as well. Despite this, the autobiographical comic remains a vibrant genre for cartoonists, especially those who embrace the philosophy of “draw what you know” – and what do you know better than your own life?
Amusingly enough, it’s these autobiographical comics that give me the hardest time in reviewing; while life itself is filled with many stories, it can be difficult crafting those story so they remain interesting and accurate. Instead, these slice-of-life comics often touch on quick scenes that caught the whimsy of the cartoonist. This is definitely the case with Angela “Jam” Melick’s comic Wasted Talent, which focuses on her life as an engineering student and then once she graduated and managed to find a job in the field she studied (a most rare and unusual of events).
To be honest, the first comics are a bit rough around the edges. Jam initially was drawing these comics on loose-leaf paper without any intent of putting them online. But after she’d drawn enough comics, she decided to scan them into a computer and started sharing them online. As such, it’s not until a little after 300 strips in (and about the time that she graduated) that the art significantly improves once she was able to put extra time and effort into the strips. This is also when she started coloring the strips; interestingly enough, Jam prefers to color the comics separately with markers rather than rely on computerized fills.
Perhaps because of the roughness of her early art, these older comics have considerable charm (which is not to say her later strips are lacking in charm; it’s just this charm has evolved over the years). And while some of the comics might be confusing to those without some level of engineering knowledge, it is Jam’s depiction of herself, her boyfriend and eventual husband, and the people she went to school with (and fictionalized coworkers who are not real but definitely have taken on lives of their own) that truly carries the comic.
Just a year or so ago, it seemed like webcomic Kickstarters were a seasonal affair, chasing after the hard-earned income tax returns of their readership. But given the success of previous Kickstarters (and the heavy competition for tax return funds), these Kickstarters have started drifting into other seasons in the hope to gain financing in the off season. And truly, what better gift for the holidays (even pre-Thanksgiving) is there than helping a webcartoonist’s dream come true?
There are three Kickstarters that I’m currently aware of (though one has surpassed its goal): Peter Tarkulich’s Second Bardsworth Collection, Kambrea and Thom Pratt’s Crimson Rhen of the True North, and Aaron Alexovich’s Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years.
I must admit that the Kickstarter I’m personally rooting for is Tarkulich’s Second Bardsworth Collection, due in part to the fact Bardsworth is sort of a sleeper hit with me. While I’ve not raved about it frequently in the past, it has been updating for eight years now and both the world and characters of Bardsworth have been developed quite nicely. And as with many webcartoonists, his initial goal is quite reasonable at $4,380.
The second Kickstarter, for the fantasy steampunk comic Crimson Rhen of the True North, with the first part of the origin story for Crimson Rhen of Shadowbinders fame. This story will run 144 pages and is an original story that’s not appeared online (with the exception of a few pages which are included on the Kickstarter). The Pratts are hoping to raise $25,000 dollars for their Kickstarter.
Last and most definitely not least is the Kickstarter for Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years, a 450 page hardcover edition of Aaron Alexovich’s comic Serenity Rose. This Kickstarter has actually been running for nearly two weeks and has easily surpassed its initial $5,500 goal; however, fans of the comic may wish to chip in so to get either a digital copy of the comic or an early print edition.
It’s an odd time to Kickstarter, what with tax refund season long since passed, but with the holidays coming up some may have an eye to truly unusual Christmas gifts. Whether it’s the gift of helping someone’s dream come true, or an unusual comic collection for a loved one fond of reading, there’s lots of exciting things on Kickstarter. These are just a few of them.
There are some names that come to mind right away when it comes to webcomics. One of those had to be Joey Manley, proprietor of the subscription-based webcomic service Modern Tales, who recently passed away at the age of 48 due to pneumonia. While I personally disagreed with the subscription-based model of webcomics and spoke against it several times on this site, I respected that he provided a home for a number of webcartoonists at a time when hosting a comic wasn’t cheap. Manley leaves behind a legacy of support for webcomics that few could match, and will be missed.
I’ve corrected the URL for Extra Ordinary, which was the first comic reviewed during my vacation. Sadly while I was gone, my hard drive decided to die on me. Fortunately, I do keep a backup, but I still have had to upload new software and the like. Updates will recommence in a couple of days.
Since my cohort Tangent is currently finding himself wending off to the wilds of Colorado to rid the Earth of the scourge that is elk-kind–I’m amply familiar with your horrible cousins the deer, who have launched several suicide missions against my car–and the yutz has once again procrastinated himself into a schedule hole, I’ve stepped in to throw a bit of help his way with a review for D20Monkey, which is, oddly enough, one of the better gaming comics out there, assuming you favor the tabletop game.
D20Monkey follows a group of gamers with a variety of secrets, most of which I really can’t spill out of a desire to protect against spoilers. I can, however, say that things are about to get really meta for Sam–the GM, and employee at his father’s game shop–and his group. Everything from homicidal boyfriends with serious issues to a stack of secrets three-deep and five-wide will come into play here, and most of said secrets will raise serious issues for Sam and the crew.
Those interested in gaming will of course do best here, by virtue of the massive amount of games going on. Several plotlines will involve a game realm known as Karthun, which Sam cobbled together himself from scratch. It’s a real step up from the normal gaming environment, as it starts out with ridiculously overpowered characters–not to mention enemies–and only goes up from there. Further fun comes in with a Lovecraft-style affair involving the ladies of the strip, as well as one game involving Jenga as a plot device.
But beyond the games will include more mundane topics like romance and job issues, some downright afterschool-special affairs like homophobia and issues of disability, and some stuff that’s so blatantly bizarre that, well, it probably shouldn’t be here and yet it is. Hey Kids: play along at home–guess which character is related to Santa Claus! The worst part is, that’s a plot. It will come up several times.
While not every plot here is handled well–one recent plot involving an extradimensional entity who occasionally provides Sam with guidance while more frequently trolling for strippers was a sterling example of how to crater a plotline–most of the time, D20Monkey will handle its scripts with care and due aplomb. It’s a quick read, and usually a joy, but there are some parts that will come across hackneyed by any measure.
Gamers will be overjoyed with D20Monkey, and while it’s not a natural twenty, the bonuses to the “will you enjoy it” roll should prove more than sufficient to pass the check easily.