A little over a year ago, Faith Erin Hicks started daily updates of Friends With Boys, a coming-of-age comic that was ultimately intended for print but which Hicks had gotten permission to place online to garner up interest in the comic. It must have worked, because she’s been given permission by her publisher to do this again, this time with Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, a graphic novel she’s working on with author Prudence Shen.
While the comic’s archives currently are limited to the first 20 pages of the series (which is around half of what I consider “critical mass” for a viable comic), the comic is actually finished, much as FWB was. That said, any similarities between NPW and FWB are likely coincidental, seeing that Hicks didn’t write the comic. Yes, she does tend to favor coming-of-age stories and comics about characters in school, and there is a set of twins in NPW (though these twins seem more “stereotypical” identical twins compared to the twins in Hick’s FWB), but it seems unlikely there will be many parallels between the two comics.
The comic follows two friends, Charlie (who’s captain of the school basketball team and seems a fairly calm and decent chap) and Nate (the high-strung arrogant president of the robotics club) and the strains that their friendship suffers due to school politics: specifically, high school presidential elections which Nate ends up entering to try and salvage the funding for his club… funding that Charlie’s ex-girlfriend wants to appropriate for the cheerleader squad. Naturally Charlie gets dragged into things (though I’ll admit I learned of Charlie’s involvement by reading the plot summary as the comic’s archives aren’t that far along just yet) and undoubtedly his friendship with Nate ends up strained.
One of the things I enjoy about these characters is that the stereotypes are tossed aside. Nate may be a nerd, but he’s a bit of a jerk and misogynist. Charlie may be a “jock” but he’s laid back and seems rather likeable. Sadly at this point we’ve not been introduced to the cheerleaders (though the first notice we get of Charlie’s ex, Holly, is her breaking up with him through a text message) and as they’re in the role of antagonist it seems likely they won’t be too likeable… but given that other stereotypes have been thrown on their ears, I have hopes we might find things to like about Holly and her crew, even if they do want to appropriate funding from the robotics club!
And of course there’s the rest of the robotics club. Sure, the twins talk at the same time, but this helps differentiate them from Hicks’ previous comic. And much of the robotics club appears likeable and should help expand upon the story itself. Given there’s only 20 pages available at the moment, it’s nearly impossible to tell if the entire series will be worth reading (let alone buying when it comes out in print). Hicks artwork has improved since her work in Friends With Boys, and what I’ve seen to date shows that Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is on solid footing and is well worth reading.
I apologize for the lack of reviews this week; I’ve been housesitting for my folks once more and haven’t had time to write reviews. I should have one more up this week, and then updates will resume as normal next week.
Updates will likely be askew for the last couple of weeks in October as I’ll be on a mountainside (as I’ve been doing for the last few years). I plan on working on some short reviews/commentary articles which will update while I’m gone, but I won’t know how many I’ll have in place until I’m about ready to go.
Thank you all for your patience.
A concept occasionally bandied about both in scientific circles and in fiction is that of the universe as a simulation. In essence, the theory is that we could exist in a state of virtual reality so realistic that it is practically impossible to differentiate it from reality. And while the transference webcomic Supernormal Step doesn’t come straight out and suggest that the SS world is a simulation, Akela’s comments on the strange similarities between Fiona’s (our) world and that of the world she’s now in, including identical money and human-centric infrastructure does hint at this link. This could even explain part of the reason that Henderson (the comic’s antagonist and President-for-Life) has banned research into dimensional travel – by linking to an outside world, the simulation itself is breached and the simulation itself risks becoming unstable. The question then becomes how and why Fiona (and Jim Black, for that matter) came to this world… and what would happen to the SS world should they finally find a way to leave.
If there’s a word that writers have grown to dread even more than the clarion cry of “Mary Sue,” it has to be “deus ex machina.” Part of this may lie with the fact the phrase hints at sloppy storytelling; if a writer has written themselves into a corner and has to rely on some contrived coincidence, then obviously the writer hasn’t been doing their job. But while on the surface it might appear that cartoonist Tom Dell-Aringa’s Martian science fiction webcomic Marooned has succumbed to deus ex machina, I must admit that at its core, the appearance of a Dark One to rescue our protagonists from certain doom does make a certain amount of sense.
For one thing, while Captain John, Ugo, and Liam are trapped on a Martian ghost ship in orbit around the Red Planet, there’s no real proof that the Dark One is going to be able to actually live up to its boast. It’s all well and good to say “I’ll save the day!” but without actions to back those words, the words end up empty and contrived. And given that Liam (who shares the same abilities as the Dark One, though she’s not as skilled) is threatened by the dark denizens of the ghost ship, and we’ve already seen the Dark Ones are not all-powerful, the Dark One could very well end up in the same boat as our protagonists.
To be honest, at this point of the story I suspect we are going to see some form of deus ex machina; the question is, how will it appear and will there be some sacrifice involved? While Marooned is comedic in nature, there have been several story elements that take a darker turn. And to be honest, there are times when deus ex machina is called for. Given that the Dark Ones are pre-existing elements in the story with links to several of the characters, their presence is not completely unexpected. But still I can’t help but wish (and hope) that somehow Captain John and his companions will ultimately outwit their foes despite the presence of a god-alien in the machine.
It seems I always talk about xkcd when Randall Munroe has done something truly expansive within his comic. This time is no exception… except for the fact that Munroe’s efforts in today’s xkcd are truly impressive. And to be honest? I’m not sure just how much there is to this large wide word that he has depicted here, to be perused by clicking the mouse icon on the screen, and dragging it along to see the larger world Munroe has created for readers to explore. I can tell you that among the various discoveries, both on and below the world, include what I believe are velociraptors hiding in the grass, a humpback whale breaching the ocean surface, a water tower, several wind-power generators (which were not tripods, sadly enough), the ending sequence of the Super Mario Brothers computer game (including pipe tunnels), a radio telescope dish, a Saturn V rocket, an X-Wing fighter… and the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Oh, and of course we have a multitude of stick figures doing various things from the mundane to the insane, and lots of trees and man-made structures. Sadly, the one thing that is lacking is a map to show just what is where… and to tantalize viewers to search for hidden Easter Eggs within the strip. I suspect that just as Munroe added tantalizing tidbits hidden in the tunnels below, so too above are there such things as airplanes and perhaps even the International Space Station (though considering things are at scale, that latter is probably just wishful thinking on my part). Given that viewers are able to scroll up one side of radio towers, buildings, and hillsides and down the other, it seems likely that my suspicions are correct that there are hidden tidbits hiding in the white expanse above this world. My one hope is that Munroe will indulge his viewership with an expanded map showing everything. It might lack the detail of this extended map… but it would provide a key to let people know where to look.
Given my roots as a gamer (both computer and tabletop roleplaying), I tend to enjoy it when webcomics give shout-outs to gaming tropes. Thus when Alan Graham, Garry Weber, and associates decided to homage the Dead Alewives’ skit “Dungeons and Dragons” in their anthropomorphic parody comic Exterminatus Now while poking fun at the anti-gaming groups, I had to comment. This isn’t the first such reference to gaming in EN; we’ve seen several instances of the Chaos and Order Gods of EN playing roleplaying games. Given the trope of Gods playing games with the lives of mortals, it isn’t really that big of a surprise that tabletop roleplaying would be used by the Gods. No. It was the reference to Mountain Dew that won kudos by me; while I don’t drink it myself, the product placement in the Dead Alewives skit has made it tradition for most gaming groups to include at least an honorary bag of Cheetos and a Mountain Dew in their games. Well, that and the fact they thumbed their nose at 4th Edition D&D, which is pretty much an abomination.
There’s an old saying: it’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Well, while Liliy’s contemporary fantasy The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred may not be the quietest of comics, I must say I was still quite surprised and perhaps a bit disturbed by the events that just happened. Of course, looking back I am not sure if I should be surprised, seeing that early on Liliy included a psychotic swordsman, had her version of King Arthur end up being a retired tyrant and villain, and had a crazed doctor dissecting an immortal just for kicks. But despite these more bloody hijinks, there is something truly malevolent with the latest comic.
The weird thing is, this almost came out of the blue. While there were a few rumblings that the secret cult that had been enchanting people into objects (such as Mordred’s orb and Azrael’s sword) was not quite as inept as had been portrayed up until this time (I mean, giant lasers? Grousing about electricity bills?), it took Malachi (the cult’s leader) using his artifact to teleport Driver’s eye out of its socket for things to truly take a turn for the ominous. Malachi eating the eyeball (and Liliy showing him plopping the intact eyeball with optic nerve into his mouth) was just icing on a most disturbing cake.
Ironically, I’m not sure as to the impact this will have for readers. It has long been a running gag that Driver keeps her eyes covered by her hair and her hat. Thus while we’d be forced to watch a different character run around with an eyepatch or the like, Driver losing an eye will quickly fade into the collective background and mean more to the characters than the readers. Admittedly, it might be an interesting change for Liliy to start drawing Driver with her hair back and sporting an eyepatch (which will undoubtedly increase her charm and reputation as a badass with readers), ultimately this act appears to be more for the shock value than for long-lasting significance in the story… which seems out of character for the comic as a whole.