Tuesday, October 12, 2004 --- On to the 'review'!

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Comic: Deathworld
By: Rudi Gunther

Genre and Setting: Sci-fi, University-life, Humour, Story,

Art Style: Cartoony, Inked, Early strips B&W, latter strips in full colour.

Is About: Matt Blaster, a futuristic space marine whose squadron is decimated in a failed assault. In the afterlife, he is placed on the Deathworld (Or the U of A, wherever that is), a planet where all being exist just for the amusement of its caretaker. During the course of time. Matt meets other characters in the afterlife and constantly battles both a mad scientist and a bunch of paranormals... apparently just for the heck of it.

Website: http://www.fuddafudda.com/
Frequency: Tuesdays and Fridays. Given that the archive size is currently almost 600 strips, I'd say it's pretty reliable.
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
With a name like Deathworld, I was subconsciously expecting something along the lines of Flatwood or Voices In My Hand. You know, black and white or greyscale art, creepy atmosphere, chilling story/humour... those kind of things.

Instead I was quite surprised when the page loaded and I found myself looking at a cartoony page drenched in very vibrant colour. Let me emphasize the vibrant colour part just so you know how startling that particular detail was to me.

The most curious thing about this whole leg is, I actually muttered: "Wha... Superosity?"

Which is silly at the second take because the art is quite different, and the premise for the story doesn't really seem to be the same. Of course, I've never actually read Superosity. I mean, yeah it's a comic by one of the Fab Four (In case you're not familiar with that: the four Keenspot founders) but I never could bring myself it actually start reading the 2000 pages or so that constitute the archive.

So I guess I'll have to admit that my only impression of Superosity so far has been... lots of bright green... and hand-lettering.

Which suddenly explains why I associated Deathworld with Superiosity based on just the superficial similarities I noticed first. Isn't it odd what the human subconscious registers?

Anyway, the site navigaation is mercifully standard and the buttons are clearly labelled and easy to navigate. The vibrant green do make it easier since it makes the comic and buttons stand out against the dark background.

The Concept:
Well, I found the concept of the afterlife being a puppet on a SIMs-like planet and in a university amusing. It's certainly something slightly away from the norm.

However I was sometimes confused by the constant veering between the sci-fi/adventure and university-gag jokes. And how the simulated world doesn't even try to make sense...

The Art:
Pretty consistent throughout.

It looks like ink-work with very little variation.I wouldn't say it's blindingly good, but something in it does remind me a lot of Schlock Mercenary. I think it's the way they draw eyes.

The latter parts of the comic where the colour comes in are actually pretty cool.


The Writing:
Personally, I quite liked the beginning, where the space troopers storm the alien planet and get butchered by the stereotype Aliens Aliens, Matt gets killed, and is told that his version of hell will be getting plonked on a senseless planet for amusement of the caretaker of the planet which happens to take after some university called 'The U of A'.

So accordingly, Matt ends up on Deathworld, and the story all but goes rapidly downhill from there. For some reason, Matt becomes obligated to shoot pretty much everything that crosses him. Oh, and he makes an arch-enemy out of the resident evil mad scientist-professor, who in return wants to kill him too. And the stereotypically named Prof. Von Rudenstein proceeds to do so, using a bunch of pretty much useless inventions.

Being swallowed by one of these, Matt meets the fellow space trooper Alison (who is pretty much the geek idealised woman. You know, hot babe, engineer, wears silly armour and kicks major ass to boot). Why exactly Alison is in the stomach of a monster is never quite explained, but I presume there should be a reason that I didn't catch on. Or maybe the Caretaker put her there to make things interesting

Anyway for the next couple hundred pages, yours truly was trapped in a ever worsening cycle of maddingly boring action scenes. All of them were senselessly violent. The worst part of it was that the violence and swearing were being set up as the punchline. Look, people swear in stressful situations. It's a fact of life. But having to hear it every other sentence is rather grating on the nerves, just so you know.

Oh, and just because I don't want my site attracting the wrong search strings, I'm going to attempt to reproduce the language without actually duplicating it.

*readers become confused*



Anyway, this is a typical story-arc:

*The bad guys grumble at how much they hate Matt and send their latest minions/inventions/super-weapons after Matt*

Matt: Whafu˘k?

*minion/invention/super-weapon tries to eliminate Matt, never quite does it*

Matt: Suck this. you fu˘kwad!

*fudda fudda fudda* (sound effect of guns)

*After some measure of battle, bad guy dies*

Matt: *some cheesy wise-crack*.


Now repeat several times, with infinite variations (i.e. Different monster, different character involved. Maybe different way of killing monsters). All this repetitive and mind-numbingly boring. Oh, in-between storylines you get something like this. Or you get the hated Beerman character trying to explain something and be funny at the same time. Or you get crass or Fourth Wall breaking jokes and 'Deathworld is the most hated comic' strips. (I whole-heartedly agreed with that one then.)

You really really got the impression violence in Deathworld, at least, is the answer to everything.

The sad part was that the random violence didn't strike me as funny... and it was being set up as the punchline.

(Reading the comic)
Ping: GAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!
*nearly tears her hair out*
Ping: All right, who wrote this bloody crap?!


Anyway, just so you know, I was quite close to giving up. There were many many moments when I seriously considered just stopping altogether and writing a review that would have put the one I did of Gigawhut? to shame.

Then something miraculous happened. The comic suddenly changed directions. The name of the storyline was The Dark Heart. And for the first time... or so it seemed to me, we had a plausible storyline, moderately realistic character development and a plot instead of random violence and crass jokes. Granted, it built on stuff that was lightly touched from the previous massacre storylines, but suddenly it all fell into place.

I'm not saying the entire comic suddenly became palatable over the course of a few strips, but you could feel the difference. It had a direction. And it gained character.

At any rate, for the first time since the beginning of the strip, I actually found myself enjoying the read. (As opposed to hoping desperately for it to end soon. Always a bad sign, that.) It was also around that point when the strip went full-colour too, which was a definite plus. The characters got developed out of their stereotypes (That silly goth boy, for instance. Even Beerman became bearable), Rudi cut down on usage of the word fu˘k, and we had less of the very unamusing random violence.

Over the course of the next 400 pages or so (I did mention the archive was quite substantial, right?) the various storylines kept getting better and better, the characters interacted, changed and developed... we saw some interesting plot twists and a violent storyline that wasn't boring (The one where Matt got abducted by the aliens).

And I was actually surprised to find at the end of the read that I had developed what could only be called a fondness for the characters of the comic.

Sometimes a light surprises.


Problems:
Roughly most of the first 200 strips. Minus the beginning part. Please don't make me go through them again *cries*

The the sad part is, most people trying out the comic will probably never make it past the 197th strip to get the where the comic stops being some university self-insertion and inside-joke riddled strip, and instead matures into the real Deathworld.


Overall:
This comic holds the unique postion of being a comic I absolutely HATED in the beginning, and quite liked in the end.

Yes, it is possible to do so. Like I said, there's an insane number of pages in the archive. You could say it became an acquired taste.

I really could have done without the horrible beginning though. *shudder* I think I need a break after reading almost 600 pages in one afternoon too. Thank God I have broadband now.

---Ping Teo

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