Blank Label Comics Appreciation Week: Wapsi Square

Lately, the gentlemen at Blank Label Comics have been excelling on several levels, and I have had trouble deciding which one to discuss next. This week, I came to the realization I didn’t have to decide, and that now was a good time for some general appreciation for what they do!

So, I’ll be spending the remainder of the week discussing several of their strips that have really been on my mind. I won’t be focusing on every last one of them – I’m still guilty of not reading Sheldon, and I don’t really have anything to say about Real Life that I didn’t say last time. But most of the others have had my attention for one reason or another, so it seems proper to give some recognition to how well the collective has been collectively rocking out.

For today, Wapsi Square.

This may seem odd, since I last spoke about the strip very recently indeed. But at the time, I was commenting primarily on one character – Katherine – who I felt Paul Taylor was doing an excellent job of portraying. The last few weeks have served to remind me that there are other characters in the strip – and that he was doing a surprisingly successful job with their development, as well.

I say surprising, because the characters in question are the Golem Girls – who have been at the heart of the strip’s transition from dealing with ordinary lives to dealing with strange mythological mysteries. It is a change that had, for a very long while, turned me away from the strip – the plot became surreal and complicated, and quite frankly, a bit difficult to follow. I had enjoyed, previously, Paul’s ability to write real and exciting characters, and his exploration of their lives and their personal growth. Switching gears didn’t make his strip a worse one – it just made it something other than what I was interested in.

But lately… well, lately the strip seems to be focusing a bit more on people again. And in this case, the people in question are Bud, Brandi and Jin, whose background I don’t really pretend to understand. What I do know is this – despite being strange and unimaginably powerful supernatural entities… they are trying to fit back into society, and live a real life.

And their attempts to do so makes for a very powerful story indeed.

The moment that most emotionally resonated with me involved Bud being told she can actually go and decorate her apartment. Here is her chance to act more human, and to do so, she goes shopping at a massive furniture store…

And she returns home with a single lamp, which she assembles herself, and that’s enough to make her happy. Now, the next strip is a solid one, and helps get into her head even a little bit more… but this was the one that really made me stop and think.

This is a strip that works on several levels. Visually it is well-delivered, demonstrating how to tell a story without needing any words. The art is efficient in what it does – and the expression on Bud’s face in the last panel manages to convey a lot of emotion despite it’s simplicity.

There is a feeling of accomplishment in a job well done, even as small a job as assembling a lamp. There is the sense of appreciation in having something to call her own, as well as a place in which to keep it. A recognition of how little it takes to make a place home… as well as exactly how much having that home means.

And there is a sense of independance and individuality. If Bud was simply concerned about emulating humanity, she could have purchased all sorts of furniture. Instead, she bought one simple little lamp. That’s all she wanted, all she needed.

In making that decision, she also demonstrated exactly how little she needs to pretend to be human.

Taylor has done a good job with all his characterization lately, but the Golem Girls stand out. I’ve enjoyed seeing Bud and Brandi interact and debate what it takes to fit into society. I was intrigued seeing the interplay between Jin and Shelly.

But overall, I’m impressed by the fact that Taylor has made me care about the three characters I had, not long ago, viewed as the low point of the strip… and now am looking forward to their every appearance.

That strikes me as the mark of a damn good comic.

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