For the longest time, cartoonist Chris Hazelton has been teasing his readership on the will-they/won’t-they aspect of Ash and Emily’s relationship in the transformation webcomic Misfile; specifically, will they end up consummating their relationship before the end of the series (when Ash will assumedly become male and erase so much history in the comic for the sake of having balls once more). I must admit I found it interesting (and amusing) to see a repeat of the scene from years ago… only for Ash to back away from Emily rather than risk her ire for another kiss.
No doubt Hazelton’s readers were probably grumbling about the latest tease (though some might be used to it by now). The thing is, Ash’s hesitation makes sense from her character’s point. As she mentions to Rumisiel, each time she and Em have kissed in the past, it’s been awkward. The first time, Emily stormed out of the garage and Ash was left without anyone to talk to about what was going on. The next time, Em took advantage of Ash while she was asleep to get some smooches in. I don’t recall if there were any other instances, but they were undoubtedly full of awkwardness as well; it’s not like Hazelton to let a theme just die out before its time.
The funny thing is, for all that Ash complains about her relationship with Missi (in that Missi is too aggressive), it would take Em being the aggressive one in order to get the ball rolling with Ash at this point. I have to wonder how that would play out; while Ash is strongly attracted to Emily, she freaked out at Missi’s assertiveness (as it made her feel like she’d lost even more of her “masculinity”). Ironically enough, Ash backed away for a reason used so often by women: she didn’t want to risk damaging her friendship with Emily. Though I strongly doubt anyone’s going to tell Ash she was acting like a typical girl right then, even if she was.
I wanted to throw out a quick “Congratulations!” to Karen Ellis, whose semi-autobiographical journal comic Planet Karen has reached 700 updates. Karen had intended on something a little more elaborate initially to celebrate 700 comics, but real life continues to nibble away at her schedule (a sensation I’m all too familiar with myself). Still, while Karen has indulged in increased complexity and skill in her artistry over the years, it’s not a bad thing to draw a simple comic from time to time. Congratulations, Karen. I look forward to your 1000th strip.
After seven years, T Campbell’s high school webcomic Penny and Aggie has finally come to an end. Interestingly enough, Campbell’s epilogue showed that his titular pair didn’t have a “happily ever after” together after graduating from high school. While we didn’t get a precise reason for their breakup, it’s fairly easy to piece things together, what with Aggie’s qualms about her relationship with Penny leading up to the epilogue. As to what happens next? In all likelihood the two get back together (as that surreal “future mindscape” comic when Penny went off with Rich hinted at). But I’m not really sure why. It’s been several years, and both characters moved on. It feels more like “destiny” (or Campbell’s whims) is dragging them back together rather than any legitimate reason. Nor does this epilogue really do anything. Campbell could have left it off with Penny and Aggie going off to college… maybe even parting ways in the final strip, rather than this awkward dance after the music comes to a close. It doesn’t matter; Penny and Aggie has ended, after all. But there are lessons here on how not to end a comic: with a “huh” rather than a bang or whimper.
The current Something Positive storyline has left me with a vague sense of dread. I must admit I’ve been staring over my head, looking for a Damocles sword to be hanging above me. Or more specifically, above Mike’s head, as his foray into herodom has resulted in his actually helping people. Oh, he’s not fighting crime or anything. But little deeds like changing someone’s tire so he doesn’t mess up his suit before going to a job interview or playing chess with an old man? These he can handle. And even in the one instance where he messes up (in “rescuing” a dog from a car for an old lady who ends up not being the dog’s owner) he rectified his mistake. In short, Mike’s showing responsibility for his actions… and is succeeding at doing something right.
Naturally this state of affairs can’t last for long. Mike’s destiny seems to be Fate’s plaything, with bad luck following him around and pulling pranks on him when he’s about to catch his breath. Thus I’m still expecting bad things to happen. And I think I can see the oncoming light from the train in the distance: Mike is handing out missing person fliers for a little girl who wants her dad back. The thing is? I don’t think this guy is missing, per se. Instead, I think this guy bailed on his girl because having a kid is a lot of responsibility and he decided he liked how life was before he had to keep two additional mouths fed or the stresses of trying to raise a daughter. In short… a deadbeat. This may very well be the straw that helps sets Mike straight.
After all, Mike’s a dad too, and for a while he was actually doing pretty well in helping support his family. At least, before Randy Milholland decided Mike had had a little too much character growth and dragged him back into the gutter. Maybe by confronting this probable deadbeat, Mike can gaze into the funhouse mirror and see his own twisted reflection looking back… and realize that he has to grow up and stop futzing around. Running around and playing hero may be helping other people… but it’s still running away from the two people who matter most to him. Though I must admit this is blind optimism speaking; in all likelihood, Mike’s going to get a massive beat-down before his chapter is done, and not learn a thing. After all, why would Milholland just let his favorite target get off easy? It’s not like it’s Audrey, who deserves some comeuppance for her many cruelties.
For the last couple of weeks, Armando Valenzuela’s superhero parody comic Atomic Laundromat has been effectively spinning its wheels in the sand while ramping up the court case against his protagonist’s superhero father, Messiah. I can understand this; court cases tend not to be exciting, more often than not. Even when superheroes are added to the mix, it usually takes a fight to liven things up. I have to admit though that I’m surprised Angela was cowed so easily by Mistress Justice (who is the honorary judge for the cast); Angela could have pointed out that if she’d been inspired by Messiah to become a hero, then there’s the appearance of impropriety there that would influence her rulings. But then, Angela seems to think along legal angles, while I go for the throat. Of course, this could always play out like Law and Order. While you don’t get the explosions, shattered masonry and the like with lawyers, the fight is no less vicious. It’s all done with words and precedent. I’m just not sure how Valenzuela could pull this off without putting his audience to sleep.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of Belkar from Order of the Stick. While he may have been amusing in the earlier comics, he quickly became a one-trick pony that just wasn’t funny. The small amounts of characters growth that Rich Burlew introduced did make him marginally more interesting, but it didn’t take long (this very story-arch in fact) for him to backslide into inanity. But I must admit I rather enjoyed this latest update, with Belkar wandering through the palace looking for antagonists to kill… and coming across his wounded cat companion.
Belkar’s adoption of Mr. Scruffy has been one of the few things to help redeem the character, and I must admit I’m glad to see he survived his battle against the kobold’s canine mount. Well, it’s no real surprise that he did; OotS sticks to D&D physics for the most part, and ignores little things like bleeding to death from an arrow wound (unless of course the opponent is brought to negative hit points… at which point they usually stop moving). Nitpicks aside, however, Belkar coming across his wounded cat and freaking out about it was a refreshing touch. Of course, what makes it even more amusing is watching Belkar’s realization he’s changing.
When he was first given a chance at redemption in the midst of his fever dreams, Belkar was under the assumption that he could fake character growth. Somewhere along the line, that distinction has gotten blurry, especially as he’s found he finally does care for something other than himself. I just hope Burlew takes this the next step; it would be fun to see him realize he also cares for his adventuring companions (if only in a small way). And who knows? Perhaps Belkar himself will finish his growth at the end of his adventures and willingly step into the Unknown in an unexpected bit of heroism, be it to save his companions… or even just Mr. Scruffy.
It’s been a while since Tedd’s been the focus of contemporary fantasy comic El Goonish Shive. This is perhaps a bit humorous when you consider Tedd and Elliot were the foundation from which the comic grew (though to be honest, Elliot has taken center stage far more often than Tedd). In essence, Tedd has faded into the background as the comic has become more of an ensemble cast comic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you; Dan Shive has managed to create some fascinating characters who are enjoyable to read (though to be honest, I wish he’d give Sarah more camera time; she’s perhaps the one character who’s had less screen time than Tedd, and to be honest she’s my favorite member of the EGS cast).
Of course, it’s not easy just reintroducing a character to the comic; I must admit I’m impressed with how Shive simultaneously explained away Tedd’s absence from the spotlight and also expanded on Tedd’s character. Further, Shive didn’t recreate Tedd in doing this; Tedd’s interest in science has been an ongoing aspect of his character. Turning this interest into a fixation works, and also explains why his girlfriend Grace might be feeling neglected a bit (which in turn led to the current double-date between Nanase and Ellen and Tedd and Grace). Unfortunately, from there it gets a little… iffy. The recent updates that had Ellen snap at Tedd (partly due to his offering to try and help her girlfriend regain her magic) just didn’t make much sense to me.
I suppose that it makes some sense that Ellen would find it confusing as to how she feels about Tedd (what with her having two sets of memories from previous plot twists) and I understand she is struggling to create her own sense of self outside of those memories… but we’ve not seen her past interactions with Tedd as conflicted as these last few comics hint at. I can understand Ellen being defensive about Nanase and even Grace. But her anger feels like it came out of left field. And for all that this last update is quite touching (especially with Tedd standing up for himself for a change and refusing to apologize for Ellen’s “creation”), this sense of dissonance has left me feeling confused as well.