Guardian Devils catch you when you fall…

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Anywhere But Here. Click on image to see full-sized image. Warning, the following images contain uncensored obscene language.)

Jason Siebels is insane. Absolutely positively insane.

There’s no other explanation for it. Way back when I first reviewed Anywhere But Here, I enjoyed talking about a comic that seemed a delightful blend of Bloom County, Doonesbury, and a healthy dash of personal creativity. This was a comic that was easily one of the best new web comics out there. It deserves to win awards and accolades. It deserves to be part of the Keenspot lineup. It deserves to be read.

A week later Jason surprised me with a huge 20-panel mega-comic. I’m no stranger to the lure of a mega-comic. Sometimes you want to say something or show something and the traditional format just doesn’t work. Many Mega-Comics tend to be full-page affairs with what are normally 4-panel comics, and you just cannot tell the story with several days worth of strips. (I went through this with the web-comic Tangents, when I wanted to follow two characters as they tried to find an apartment. I could have gone for two weeks with 3-4 panel comics… but I realized it would get old fast. By combining the two into a large strip, I could rush through the encounters while keeping the humor fresh.)

ABH has had two Mega-strips up until now, each being something that had to be told in one sitting. It couldn’t effectively be cut into smaller strips, not without losing something. But with Friday’s ABH, Jason has gone from creating a “mega-strip” to something greater. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if a record hasn’t been set with the comic.

Jason created not one, not two, not even three… but five mega-strips. While they all weren’t necessarily 20 panels each, all of the comics did match in size and scope (and majesty). And he easily could have split this up, running it for five consecutive days next week. Easily. And people would have been wowed and amazed. People would have loved it. And heck, he could have gotten some rest with a little buffer in place, recovering from what had to be a very intensive and time-consuming effort.

Instead, he posted all five pages in one day. Friday’s ABH has to be possibly the biggest update for any web-comic. Definitely it’s the biggest update for a strip that updates five days a week!

What’s more, this has to be one of the most intense and dramatic moments in the comic. We’ve gone from Chris running into an ex-boyfriend, Mark, who is basically trying to get into her pants to her hiding in a bathroom wondering how she can get out of this mess. In fact, she’s trying to fight years of ingrained behavior, where she’d throw herself at guys to gain approval… something that didn’t work on the main character of the comic.

In a way, Chris is fighting not just feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred that leads her to sleep around or try to get in bed with every guy she’s attracted to in an attempt to feel better about herself, she’s also fighting to keep her new boyfriend’s respect. She’s trying to remain faithful to him. But more importantly, she’s trying to remain true to herself.

Part of our hero’s charm with Chris is the fact he’s not tried to get in bed with her, and that he’s resisted her advances even though he’s clearly interested in her. If it wasn’t for him (or more importantly, his sense of personal honor), it’s more than likely that Chris would have just succumbed to Mark’s advances. She wouldn’t have anything to aspire toward.

Of course, I could be wrong. Chris knows her ex is a scumbag. She only went out to the bar with him because he knows what buttons to push… and she might have fled to the bathroom anyway. And without Mongo, no doubt she’d have punched his lights out or caused enough of a disturbance that the cops would have gotten involved (and hopefully they’d have chased that sorry excuse for a human away from her and escorted her home).

The use of spot-color was also well done. Mongo’s eyes glowing yellow when angry… Mark wetting himself when Mongo picks him up, ready to pull an Incredible Hulk on this tit of a man… and the golden halo around the head of the Guardian Devil panel at the end of the comic. (Indeed, several fans have already stated that the “Guardian Devil” bit should be on t-shirts; I could definitely see those t-shirts selling. Hell, I’d buy such a t-shirt. It suits me.)

Once again Chris’s obscenities are uncensored (the poor little censor boxes must have burned themselves out trying to reverse-censor the white text in the “translated dialog” balloons) (or they’re clustering around Chris’s bottom pretending to be black underwear, but I figure it’s more likely they wore themselves out going white earlier). However, the swearing is limited to the first page, and Chris concentrates on her swear of choice, f___, though in this case half of the time Chris uses it properly. (It’s an action, folks, has been for years.)

What’s even sweeter is watching Mongo comfort Chris and assure her that her daddy (who asked Mongo’s boss to help her out) isn’t in hell. We’re talking… upper management here. I mean… here’s this bloody huge demon who’s probably close to 10 feet tall when he straightens out (think Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies), with fingers the thickness of Chris’s arms… comforting Chris, letting her know that her dad is okay.

This has to be among the most powerful moments in all the web-comics I’ve read. This is as powerful as the Kiss over at CRfH, or the final nightmare sequence when Shelly lets Heather in, at Wapsi Square. There is sheer powerful electric emotion here, playing out and dancing across the night sky.

And Chris has her own Guardian Devil. I mean… how cool is that?

Robert A. Howard

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