Established webcomics often struggle to balance two conflicting forces. The first, a desire to maintain the status quo, results once characters have established themselves and have settled into a specific role. The second force is the need to change and grow… for without growth a comic risks becoming stale and uninteresting. Newspaper comics are often prime examples of bland unchanging characters that have lost their charm. However, too drastic a change in established characters risks alienating readers and fans of those characters. Change, while necessary, needs to be a natural evolution of the characters else it will feel false.
The recent coital hookup between Questionable Content vestal virgin Faye and reformed playboy Sven is a good example of character shift that while seemingly rapid, actually established roots months back. The relationship between Faye and Sven has long been adversarial though mostly on Faye’s part; Sven has actually long been working to redeem himself in Faye’s eyes and it’s been obvious to me that he’s attracted to her. Still, I must admit I was as shocked as Faye’s friend Hannelore to see Faye in bed with Sven; after taking a minute to assess the situation, I must admit that Jeph Jacques handled the scene with considerable maturity and intelligence (along with a delightful lack of fan-service).
Faye’s psychological issues have long been a core part of her nature. Indeed, her fears of abandonment (due to her father’s suicide years before) were the primary reason why she never hooked up with her roommate Marten. These issues have remained central to Faye with her seeking out counseling; fortunately, this has helped her start to heal. Ironically enough, it may also be partly to blame for Faye and Sven ending up in the sack together. When you consider Faye’s somewhat impulsive nature, it’s actually quite reasonable for Faye to spontaneously sleep with a guy whom she’s been building a relationship with… especially one who has been working to reform his own character flaws, and very likely because of his own attraction to her and her disapproval of his lifestyle.
It would be easy to try and explain away Faye’s actions, perhaps by suggesting that Faye got drunk and that affected her better judgment. However, she had only had one drink the entire night. While Sven’s “come-hither” look did cause Faye to start blushing, in the end it was Faye who took the initiative. Nor was alcohol a factor when she climbed back in the sack the next morning to have seconds after deciding it was better than going home to cry about it. (Though I must admit to some amusement that the first thing Faye does when she wakes up in the morning is grab her glasses, rather than pulling on a shirt or some undies. Sure, it let her get a good look at Sven’s bottom, but I doubt that was on her mind when she first grabbed at them. I mean, seriously… why her glasses?)
The rest of the story is fairly easy to predict. It is comedic tradition for Faye’s female acquaintances to glom to the fact that Faye got lucky last night. From there, Dora will quickly figure out that Sven was the only guy Faye could have shacked up with, and she’ll want to castrate her brother for “taking advantage” of her friend. Raven will want to kill Faye because she wanted Sven for herself, and has for some time now. But I suspect that Faye will be able to keep Sven’s balls safe for now (if only to go back for thirds and fourths and probably fifths), and Raven’s easily distracted. More interesting, however, will be how Faye’s roommate Marten reacts to Faye and Sven shacking up.
For close to a thousand updates, Marten had a crush on Faye. He held her when she was sick. He caught her when she stumbled. He was willing to wait for her, and it took Faye pushing him away and insisting he move on before he did, and before he and Dora started to date. In an ideal world, Marten would be happy for his friend and for the fact that she’s starting to heal. But it’s rarely an ideal world. Jealousy and unhappiness over lost could-have-beens may strain not only his friendship with Faye… but also his relationship with Dora. It would be an ironic twist for Marten to end up single just when Faye ended up dating his ex-girlfriend’s brother.
Jacques has managed to tell this story with a combination of humor and maturity that is quite refreshing, and while his artwork could use some brushing up (specifically, blankets don’t lie flat on top of people; some wrinkles and shadows would help in making the blanket look more three-dimensional), it’s nice to see a sexual story told without fan-service and the like. Jacques proves once again to be an established cartoonist willing to bring change into his strip… and in doing so making his characters all that more human.