Sophistry at its worse

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Narbonic. Click on image to see it full-sized. Note – full-sized versions of the thumbnails are on the server for review purposes only. The comic as a whole can be read at Modern Tales with a subscription. And it’s worth it.)

Hmm. I keep doing this… but I suppose that’s what happens when you write a review after the next day has technically begun. And this time, it’s Narbonic. Now normally, Narbonic is one of those comics that I normally get all fanboyish about. I mean, if you look at the reviews I’ve written for Narbonic, they are inevitably positive.

This isn’t surprising, as Shaenon Garrity is a superb storyteller. Indeed, aspects of the original Narbonic storyline has continued to intertwine its way through the comic even now, with such things as Dave’s working on a Weather Machine actually being an aspect of Dave’s skills as a latent mad scientist.

And more recently we learned that Helen has been experimenting on Dave… knowing of his latent ability and studying it so to find a cure. And just a couple of days ago we learned that Helen has found a cure yet refuses to use it.

Okay, that’s understandable. I mean, this is Helen we’re talking about. She’s mad. She’s whimsical. She’s in love. Maybe she fears that if Dave were cured, he’d stop loving her. Maybe she thinks Dave has already snapped, that he’s gone over the deep end… maybe even “eased” into his mad scientist tendencies through careful manipulation. Anything’s possible with Narbonic (except for a time travel or inter-dimensional voyage to the Girl Genius universe for a crossover, which would truly rock. Come on, can you just imagine how Helen would react upon meeting Agatha? Or what Agatha would say? Sparks would fly (no pun intended, honest!), claws would be extended, and we’d probably have a cat fight like you wouldn’t believe. And Dave would probably pull up a chair, get out popcorn, and offer some to whichever guy in the Girl Genius cast was nearby, and do wry comments).


And then we get to Saturday’s update. Arty is yelling at Helen about not using the cure on Dave… and she says she doesn’t care for the side effects. Understandable. I mean, maybe it’s like using Ritalin on someone who doesn’t really need it. Maybe it’ll zombify Dave’s brain, leave him pretty much bland and uninteresting. (Though I can hear Mell shouting down from Heaven “he’s already got a zombie brain!” (from when Dave died and was re-animated.))

But then she follows with “And I failed. It’s the end of the year, and I don’t have a cure.”

Um, what?

Thursday, Helen says “I have found it.”

Friday she says “Here it is. Sanity in a test tube.”

Saturday is “I don’t have a cure.”

What the hell?

I mean, it’s like saying “there’s no vaccine for polio because I don’t like the potential side effects with the current vaccine for polio” or “I don’t want to spend any of my money so I don’t have any money” or some other bit of sophistry.


She’s got the cure in hand. It’s sanity in a test tube. Yeah, it’s got some side effects… maybe it needs more testing… but it’s a cure! And she turns around and then says “I don’t have a cure”… I don’t know. I feel like something is missing. A ‘yet’ or something.

And this is unlike Narbonic. It’s unlike Shaenon. I can’t recall the last time I was left going “what the…” and felt like something was missing. But something is missing… and it’s big enough that it dragged a tangent out of me about it. Nor one of my usual happy-go-lucky Pollyanna tangents at that.

Of course, there’s one other bit here. Yes, Helen said she was going to tell Dave if she didn’t have a cure by the end of the year… but she’s close. It needs some testing, but she’s got something. And if it has side-effects now… well, refine it a little. Perfect it. Damn it, woman, you’re Helen Narbon! Your mother is feared by many. Hell, she’s responsible for quite a few of the mad scientists out there. And this is your means of striking back! This is how you’re going to prove you’re better than her, by wiping out the others, by making mad science a thing of the past!

I guess love truly does change a person. It’s driving Helen sane. And me, mad.

Robert A. Howard

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