Shit Happens is the latest in the line-up.
The comic itself, as many do, starts with random roommate humor and hilarity, and then somehow finds its way to exploring dark and intense drama, with the requisite blood and glory that entails.
But as much as I hate to see that sort of thing happen, eh, it doesn’t really frustrate me – man wants to tell a more serious story, more power to him.
What bugs me is the main character.
You see, Halifax is a Gary Stu, which I just learned is the term for a male version of a Mary Sue, thanks to the wonders of the internets.
To quote wikipedia: “Characters labeled Mary Sues, as well as the stories they appear in, are generally seen as wish-fulfillment fantasies on the part of the author.”
It irks me. It is one of the single biggest pet peeves I have with webcomics, and largely because I keep running into it, over and over, and it invariably is the single biggest thing that keeps the comic from being a quality piece of work.
I read a handful of other comics that are offenders. Ctrl+Alt+Del has been well-famed for it, and seems, at least of late, to use that element almost self-referentially. Least I Could Do is practically built around it as a core concept. And even with those two comics, which do it about as well as it can be done, it makes me want to shake my head and walk away when I see it in action.
Halifax lives up to all the expectations. He treats his friends like dirt without them actually, say, stopping to be his friend. His job consists of not doing anything and getting paid tons of money for it. Pretty much every female character in the series has been in love with him at some point. Did I mention in his past he was a secret agent, for no apparent reason?
Anyway. We’ve got a comic with a lame and cliche plot, with a main character who fits every archetype I despise about main characters. Yet somehow, by the time I finished the archives, I find myself enjoying the comic.
Well, the main problems aren’t quite as terrible – the plague of drama has wandered off, leaving the crew mostly meandering through life – which I find far more engaging then mafioso deals and back-alley shootings. Our ‘hero’, Halifax, remains a pristine asshole, and the friends he so mistreats seem unable to do anything about it despite being in a position of power over him – but baby steps are fine.
No, I find myself far more interested in the side characters. Former villains seeking a better understanding of the world. Demonized ex-girlfriends now offered the possibility of redemption. (Both featured in the picture above.)
Now, both of these characters suffered from being forced into the formulaic drama that dominated the strip for so long. (And for at least one of them, it was a terrible disservice to their character’s representation up until then.) But I’ve found the small dwellings on their current state, and the possibly of redemption for the two of them, to be strangely compelling.
On the one hand, I know that that plot element itself – that of ‘redemption for the fallen’ – is itself formulaic in many ways. But even with the build-up from the rest of the comic, and walking into the scenes dealing with those characters keeping that in mind… I found myself engaged, and actively interested.
That was a surprise, and surprises can be good things.
So there it is – not exactly the most inspiring review, I imagine. I generally try to avoid too much naysaying here – if I have a comic that I honestly can’t find anything good to say about it, it isn’t worth the time to do so, as much desire as I may have to rant about it. Even the trashiest comics are the product of hard work and a story that someone, somewhere, is proud of, and I don’t feel it is my place to do nothing but sit back and rag on that. (Cept Megatokyo. I kid, I kid!)
But here you have a comic that starts off weak and walks into the pitfalls that many have before it. And at the end of it all… well, at least for me, I found a faint spark of quality, enough to keep me interested. I can’t promise it will make the best reading experience for anyone, but it was enough to give it some recognition.
And that’s definitely better than nothing.