The End of the World as We Know It

Now, I am confident I could sing the praises of Narbonic all day long, but that’s been done before.

Suffice to say that Narbonic manages to succeed on pretty much every count. It consistently delivers a comic nearly every day of the week, with enjoyable, clean and lively artwork, an incredibly engaging story, and a exceedingly clever and quirky brand of humor. It has pretty much mastered the art of the comic strip, and there are few others out there that can rival it’s perfection.

Now then, on to the current events of the strip. Narbonic has never been one to shy away from drama, in as much as main characters are constantly getting killed, coming back to life, falling in love, and being polymorphed into all manner of things.

Recently, however, the strip has done the unthinkable – Dave and Helen, the two main attractions, who provided the height of sexual tension, finally got together, and were enjoying lovely bliss and the occasional kinky lesbian sex.

Now, most comics, once they eliminate a tension that is at the heart of a strip like this, need to find a way to bring conflict back in. Conflict can’t be resolved, after all! The audience doesn’t want to just read about daily lovey-dovey stuff! (Well ok, maybe they want to read about the lesbian sex, but that is irrelevant to the point.) But in general, people want action, want tension, want commotion. New developments need to occur. Drama must bloom again!

So it is in Narbonic – though in this case, it manifests as a lot more conflicts being resolved. The worries over whether Dave will need to be eliminated to save the future, whether his mad scientist genes will rise to the surface, whether Helen can handle him while they are in a relationship, are all dealt with… by dismissing him. The core premise of the strip – that Dave, an ordinary comp-sci guy is taken aboard at a laboratory for evil science – has ended. It has been degrading for a while – especially the ‘ordinary’ part about Dave, but now it has fallen apart.

(Admittedly, it has done so to degrees before, such as when he died, or they got dragged off to various parts unknown, or so forth. But this isn’t an ending leading off into another beginning – this is an ending leading off into an ending.)

Now, I’m not so silly as to actually think that. I’m sure we all are pretty confident that the plan to have Dave leave the ‘mad science life’ and go on to an ordinary job just won’t work. I also suspect that the other likely scenario of what might happen when a guy like Dave – being a technological (evil) genius with a developing gift for mad science – goes through circumstances like this – having his whole world overturned, his heart broken, and his life of adventure abandon him. (I mean, really, did the gang at the labs honestly think this was the safest way to make sure Dave didn’t go insane? Well, I suppose it was the safest way to ensure he didn’t go insane near them.)

But as tempting as it is to think that Dave will fall into his evil genius powers and go on a rampage, I suspect the actual hijinks will be something else entirely – Shannon Garrity has a gift for taking the stories in unexpected ways that seem the perfect path nonetheless.

In any case, I have to give props to her. A lot of strips, when they had achieved the zen of comic perfection that she has, wouldn’t shake it up with this crazy thing called drama.

But Narbonic not only does it, but does it well – every development seems to move along without feeling forced, overdone, or out of the blue.

Hmm, I guess this turned into a rave review of Narbonic anyway. Ah well, some things are meant to be.

It has been one of my favorite strip for years, and the sole motivation for my subscription to Modern Tales. Narbonic might not throw its weight around in the webcomic world, but its influence is there nonetheless – if nothing else, as an inspiration and a role model of how to do a comic right.

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