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Purgatory is a comic by Holly Brown, hosted on Tumblr, which does not allow either keyboard navigation or “click comic to get to next comic” navigation, which annoys me a little, but let’s see if the comic itself can win me over from its hosting.
Our story starts with a series of great facial expressions from this glasses man. Personalities are coming out strong through the art, and I like Kamina-Glasses-Man devoting two whole panels to just being angry in a 360-degree sphere. “Damian” is also a pretty loaded name to have in a religious-themed story, since it kind of sounds like demon and also because The Omen.
I also like this bit of world building, in that the punishments for skipping school are really harsh (and, given that the comic is called “Purgatory”, it’s presumably a very religious school as well).
Hm. I thought this kid’s pointy shades were vaguely reminiscent of Kamina, but now he’s also sharing the name of Gurren Lagann’s protagonist? That’s…..almost 100% a coincidence, I think. But it’s going to stick in the back of my mind now.
Simon sings a song that totally fucking blows and has no meter or rhyme, but I’m legitimately curious how god “fires” you. More importantly, note Simon’s air quotes in panel 2, which is a subtle little detail that actually becomes important later. I love subtle little details that become important later! Specifically, it causes Father Fuhrervillian
To declare that Simon shouldn’t sing again. We get some Simon backstory about how he’s the son of the priest (guess they’re not Catholic) being groomed to be the new priest. And then
It took a while (29 pages!) to get here, but we’re finally at the premise of the comic: An odd couple pair of teens are having an illicit same-sex relationship in an extremely religious country practicing some kind of pseudo-Catholic fundamentalism. I’m inclined to like the decision to have the religion be a fictional one based on old-timey Christianity, but let’s see how it actually plays out before I get into why.
Damian and Simon spend forever having vague flirty hijinks before “the prick” (Father Fuhrervillain, who still hasn’t been named) and his kid come over to have a rather vague conversation about who will be “picked”. Then everyone goes to a cathedral to wash some drapes. I get that this is setup, but it’s starting to feel a bit padded.
Damian politely takes a moment to not know how his own religion works so Merari and Simon can exposit that the Cathedral is only rarely used by “Chord” members, and then justify Damian’s ignorance by casually mentioning he’s from an “old sect”. This is actually pretty good exposition, since everyone has a reason to explain things besides just letting the readers know. Good job, Purgatory!
I get that there was a time where Liberace was a straight male sex symbol and all, but Damien is wearing a Japanese schoolgirl uniform with booty shorts, stockings, and a garter belt to maintain that Zettai Ryouiki aesthetic. I’m starting to think those are women’s shoes as well. Everyone else is dressed like a Mormon and Damien is dressed like a fetishy Sailor Moon and no one finds this worth commenting on?
The party ventures into this super creepy dungeon while Simon exposits a bit about it. I’m still not a fan of the slow pace (seriously, it’s been like 30 pages since they went on their mission to wash the drapes), but it’s in the service of setting a creepy mood, so I’ll allow it. It helps a lot that Holly Brown is able to draw some really nice environments to look at. This whole skull-and-drapes dungeon has a lot of great atmosphere, and makes me think of the Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time.
I also like the short scene of Merari and Damian bonding over the mutual academic failures. It’s nice that Merari isn’t completely one-dimensionally evil like a lot of religious characters in LGBT comics.
Father Fuhrervillian beats Simon up in the bathroom, and the “Washing the drapes” arc comes to a sudden end. Fuhervillian threatens that Damian will be “chosen” for the vague thing if Simon narcs on him, so I guess you don’t wanna be chosen.
Yep, it’s human sacrifice. Kind of obvious. More of a surprise is that Simon’s mother got sacrificed in the past, despite being the wife of the head priest. Simon decides to cheer up Damian by returning to the corpse dungeon, which seems weird but okay. And, after showing Damian his little hideaway in the dungeon, Simon crashes into the end of the current pages, and now we’re all caught up.
This is not exactly a breakneck pace. It’s roughly 170 pages long, and it still feels like it’s in the “setup” phase. This comic is nearly as long as the entirely of Lucky Penny (192 pages) or A Contract With God (196). If this were a manga, it could be easily adapted into three whole episodes,and I still don’t know what the plot is. Like, there’s a gay couple in a super-religious society that I presume is homophobic but that hasn’t actually been stated. Are they trying to hide their relationship? Is their relationship an incidental detail because Damian is at risk of being sacrificed for unrelated reasons? Why does Simon wear Gurren Lagann glasses?
I criticized Household Slime Mold for its slow pacing, but by page 71 of that comic, we’d established all three main characters, their relationships, their abilities, the premise of the comic, and had a story with a beginning, middle, and end as Mildew proved her worth as an apprentice witch (and chapter 2 seems to be significantly faster so far, so good for them!). Twice that time in Purgatory has been spent almost entirely on worldbuilding, exposition, and tone, with a plot nowhere to be seen.
That said, it’s great tone. Holly Brown can draw some really nice cathedrals, and while she maybe didn’t need quite so many pages of cathedral porn (or of Simon washing his hands), her comic has a very, very strong sense of place. Merari’s scene with Damian complaining about homework does a great job at rounding out a dickish character in a short time. The cellar is a cool location. But, like,
When we got to this page, which is page 38, I thought I knew where this comic was going. I was sure they were gonna get caught, and everything was going to go to hell and the plot would start. But instead….nothing happens. Not only do they get away with this plan, there’s never even any tension where “Oh shit, dad’s coming, wake up Damien an get into the right bed!” teasing. There’s nothing.
Nothing happens in this comic. The main story arc so far has literally been washing drapes, and the only peril the characters have been in is that Damian was considered for being sacrificed but the powers that be decided not to with no intervention from the protagonists at all.
I’m sure at some point this will get going, but it sure as hell ain’t yet. It’s a testament to Holly Brown’s worldbuilding ability that I didn’t get bored to tears by this comic, and it’s definitely worth reading if you struggle with giving your comics a good sense of place, but I’m just sitting here waiting for them to get to the fireworks factory.
Hello! If you’re still doing reviews right now, could you consider reviewing my webcomic, Household Slime Mold? I just finished the finished the first chapter which is 71 pages long, and would greatly appreciate a review!
Thank you for your time! c:
Reviewing a webcomic? That’s not something I’ve done for a looooong time.
In contrast with my usual “live commentary” approach, I actually went ahead and read the whole thing first. There’s a lot good, and one thing bad. And though I’m going to spend a lot of time on the one thing bad, let me state upfront that your webcomic is cute and I like it.
On the good, your characters have cute designs
And strongly defined personalities. The story of chapter 1 (On a delivery, Mildew meets a magic teacher and tries to get him to train her. Though he’s uninterested, she wins him over by showcasing her magical abilities in a crisis) is logical, and it sets up the major characters pretty well. Your art is quite nice, and the magical abilities displayed are interesting and non-generic. There’s a lot to like about this comic, and I enjoyed reading it.
But holy shit, chapter one is seventy-one pages.
For comparison, by page 71 of Legend of the Hare (itself a pacing nightmare!), Jill had gone to the rabbit world, rejected it, gone home, did a rock show, got guilted about rejecting the rabbit world, slept with Riley, got dumped by Riley, was cut away from for a long, ultimately pointless party scene, returned to the rabbit world, and was beginning her first major boss fight against a villain I spent a lot of time setting up.
Saffron and Sage’s first chapter is ten pages, though it’s more of a pre-opening-credits scene (and contains a jarring jump cut), so maybe that’s not fair. Saffron’s second chapter is slower and does more setup, and is closer to 15-20 pages.
But, to pick a famous example, in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben, love of science, romantic woes, school bully, and weird desire for vengeance (?) were all established on page 2. By page 10 he’d been bitten by a radioactive spider, developed super-powers, invented web slingers, become a pro wrestler, made his Spider-man outfit, let a robber get away, discovered the death of his uncle Ben, and chased down the burgler. By page 11 he’d discovered the identity of the burgler and learned with great power etc. And this includes a recap (!) halfway through the story.
Now, granted, not every comic needs to have Golden Age-era pacing
(Though we could all stand to have more characters holding giant photographs for visual flair)
But 71 pages is a lot. It’s the first four chapters of Gunnerkrigg Court, and long enough for Sleepless Domain to have its big twist.
And while there’s no point where I was reading your comic that I was waiting for something to happen, there are little speed bumps all over the place. Like, the first three panels here. What do they actually add to the comic? Pen wants Mildew to do something and she’s not into it? Panels 4-5 establish that perfectly well.
Oh okay, I didn’t get that.
Like, the first page is a bunch of establishing spots, so you’re intentionally sacrificing storytelling efficiency to set a mood; that’s fine.
But there’s a lot of redundant panels, like this first one here, that tells us nothing we don’t already know (note also that we’re told she “doesn’t live too far away” here, but then are told AGAIN that she’s only fifteen minutes away). It’s realistic for people to be redundant when having an argument, but characters doing it hurts your pacing.
I don’t want to do a full panel-by-panel audit of your comic, but I’d like you to take a look at your script for chapter 2, and ask yourself how much you need all of this, or if there’s a way to tell the plot points more efficiently, which lets you make the chapter shorter and/or use the extra time for more character beats. See if you can’t cut five pages down into four.
One thing I did that helped a lot with this is writing down all the things that would happen on a page before writing the page itself. Often, I’d hit my “plot quota” halfway through the page, and could work another plot item in as well. This got me a lot better at getting my page count down, since I knew where I was going before I started writing. Give it a try!
And, again, don’t read this long essay as me ragging on your comic. It does a lot good, and it could be a really great comic if you could get the pacing under control.
I’m not going to announce every update of every comic I ever do on this site, but the launch of a new one was worth commemorating. It’s Saffron and Sage, and it updates every Tuesday now. Check it out!
Saffron and Sage is is comedy/action comic about a group of adventurers trying to rescue a kidnapped Prince while learning valuable life lessons. It updates Tuesdays!
Daniel Kelly appeared one day in the country that invented freedom, America, and has been blogging about webcomics since 2013, and making them since 2014. He appreciates professional wrestling on a level that veers in and out of irony. He has opinions on webcomics, and also writes Legend of the Hare.
Sabu comes from the Land Down Under and has yet to die from venomous creatures. She enjoys drawing dinosaurs and cowboys, so much so that she also has a comic containing both. When she isn’t drawing, Sabu likes eating her weight in sushi at sushi train, and gaming.
Anonymous asked:where were you when Paranatural went off the deep end to pander to tumblrites? I’m so glad another white, middle-class male decided to insert his ideology into his comic, since the world just needed to know how tolerant and open-minded he is. Now that the muslim woman doctor is also gay, I wonder what other diversity panderings he’ll force in. The woman doctor will be transgender too? Maybe Max decides his unabashed cis male look is out of fashion, and starts wearing dresses everywhere
Anonymous asked:Anon who sent you the rant about paranatural here. “Okay” That’s it?? Well gee, I was hoping to get some insight into what you thought about inserting gay and minority characters into webcomics, for the sole reason to have gay and minority characters. Or something on that tangent. The author’s twitter feed certainly implies he’s just adding diversity for the sake of diversity. But whatever, if you wanna be lame and dismiss what I said because I come off as le crazy gay-hater, then fine >: (
I didn’t just say “Okay”, Anon. I also had a reaction image.
I mean, what’re you hoping for me to say, dude? Do I think the “I know you’re gay” line was a little forced? Enh, maybe. I think “I know she’s cute” follows more logically from Zarei’s line and gives the same information, but that’s a minor stylistic nitpick. Does it ruin the comic? No. Is it being forced into the comic for the sake of Paranatural having a gay character in it? Also no. There’s a clear narrative purpose behind his revelation, which is that Zarei having a crush on the agent investigating her adds a comedic element to that relationship which can be mined in the future while also, more immediately, explaining why the normally reserved Zarei is flipping out like this, as her flirt-threat failed both as a flirt and a threat.
And sure, it can be kind of annoying when a comic author gets super high and mighty with a big speech about their commitment to social justice when they add a single offhand reference to LGBT characters on panel three of page 959 and then literally never ever bring it up again.
And I think we as a society are all in agreement that anyone who claims their work is representative and progressive when it blatantly isn’t deserves a good mockery
But just because representing different types of people in webcomics is kind of trendy right now doesn’t make it wrong. A line about a character being gay, even if it’s a little clunkily written, doesn’t mean that Zach Morrison “went off the deep end pandering to tumblerites”
You say “The author’s twitter feed certainly implies he’s just adding diversity for the sake of diversity.” But I actually checked his twitter feed, and there’s no off-hinged ranting. I just found a billion tweets about Pokemon and this
Which is literally his only tweet that references the comic at all, besides the “New comic!” tweet. And I checked the responses for that, and nothing there either. The fuck are you talking about? lnkplzkthx?
Morrison is informing us of a character trait of a significant character. He’s doing this because it’s plot relevant and it sets up a joke. It’s wasn’t shoehorned in really awkwardly. He hasn’t gone on twitter and gotten super pretentious about how including lesbians in his webcomic is a brave and daring risk in the service of changing the world, man. He had a gay character in his comic. It came up at a narratively logical time. We all moved on with our lives. You can have representation in your comic without turning into Sinfest. It’s easy. Fuck, Legend of the Hare has a black lesbian in it (though her being gay was only mentioned on an older version of the cast page), and no one would accuse LotH of “pandering”. And that’s not an accusation that I expect to get thrown at Saffron and Sage, either.
And yeah, I’m kind of blowing you off here. Deal with it? I’m sure lot of people find the idea that including gay characters in fiction means you’ve “gone off the deep end” to be offensive to them as LGBT people or Muslims or what have you. And they’re right to. But additionally I find it kind of offensive as a writer to have people tell me including nonwhite characters is me trying to show the world how big my Social Justice Dick is and that there’s never a storytelling reason involved. So take a goddamn chill pill and realize that maybe a comic having a gay person doesn’t mean it’s ‘pandering” and even when it does you can just read something else.