I titled my last post “Ultimatum”, clearly some sort of poorly worded reference/pun on my discussion of Ultimate Chugworth. I did not, however, include any sort of actual ultimatum in the post, which a reader called me on – so now to fix that.
I tend to focus far more on speaking praise rather than sharing criticism. This has been true since I started this blog, and I’ve mentioned my reasons for it a number of times – I tend to reserve my criticism for when I feel it can actually do some good, or for when I have been so disappointed in something that I need to share my words.
But I also have a difficulty with not recognizing when I’ve lost interest in a strip. I’ll read a strip, checking in with every update… even though I find the comic dull, offensive, or outright painful to read. Yet, somehow, it stays on my list. It is easier to let myself continue to be carried by routine then to turn away from something I know I don’t enjoy. I have the same problem with books – it is among the most challenging things in the world for me to put aside a book unfinished, even one that has me grinding my teeth from one paragraph to the next.
So today I’m putting forth a genuine ultimatum, as I take a look at some of the terrible comics I need to stop reading. I’ll be posting every day for the next while as I get this out of my system. This is not an ultimatum to the creators of these fine (or not so fine) strips, however – they can improve or not at their own leisure.
Rather, I’m issuing an ultimatum to myself – if this strips are genuinely this unpleasant to read on a daily basis, here’s my chance to give one final glance at them and them drop them for good.
So, let’s get on with the show, shall we?
Some have said that the whole of webcomicdom consists of poor man’s rip-offs of Penny Arcade. This is not true. There are many quality strips out there which feature original concepts and vibrant characters. There are even more than a few gaming comics that stand on their own, either demonstrating equal humor to Penny Arcade or their own brand of uniqueness.
Unfortunately, God Mode is not one of them.
I’m not entirely sure how this strip originated. It was apparently thought up by Chris Crosby, though he never actually produced the comic – that was one Ryan Kerns, and then later Raven Perez. I always found this something of a strange situation – while passing along a title is regular practice in print comics, it is a rare thing on the web. In this case, I attribute this to God Mode being entirely formulaic – it was invented to try and grab the gamer crowd, and will continue to be milked as long as possible.
I’ll start out by saying some good things about it, however, because that’s just the way I roll. So – the art (both the original and the recent stuff) has a certain cartoony style that works well for the comic’s slapstick comedy. I find many of the character concepts original, even if they quickly become entirely cliché. I was especially a fan of Broderick, whose description reads: “He is afraid of everything that exists in the world, with the possible exception of bees. (He is, however, afraid of why he’s not afraid of bees.)” Maybe I just like the description of the character – hard to say, as he is woefully underused.
Now, the bad part of the strip? It really does read as a bad imitation of Penny Arcade. Being a gaming comic it constantly deals with gaming references and current events – but they are thrown out haphazardly, and without any newsposts to help ground the reader and help them understand the context of the strip. When the earlier jokes start to wear thin, it devolves into the same mindless violence that Penny Arcade has been criticized for – but without the ingenuity or distinction that really made it work. Even worse, it doesn’t treat it as something to be used sparingly – instead, strip after strip trades brutality for a punchline, and expects the reader to laugh.
It isn’t that it becomes offensive. No, its even worse – it becomes boring.
The hyperaggressive violence and convulated inside jokes results in the worst fate that a comedic strip can face – it just isn’t funny. Even worse, you can see the elements of humor there, underneath it all – but they just don’t manage to deliver. One of the recurring jokes is that Sony is the Borg. Another is that gamers are fat and like chocolate. These aren’t especially funny to begin with – but they are used over, and over, and over again, and grow even less humorous with each repetition.
For the characters, we have Marceline, who runs God Mode (a gaming review website that somehow has netted her millions.) She is sadistic and a smoker – that is pretty much the extent of her character.
Then we have two of her reviewers, Kraig and Barret, who are essentially indistinguishable, aside from Barrett’s lack of hair. I don’t think they are meant to be so – the cast page indicates that Kraig is the idiot and Barrett the pushover, but the comic itself doesn’t really do a good job of supporting this. They pretty much just exist to be abused by Marceline.
Tory is the sales manager, who makes tons of money through using her sex appeal to sell games and systems. Broderick is the fearful reporter. Alex is the corporate overlord who is a massive, frightening man with a heart of gold – another character who could use more screentime. Moru is Marceline’s son, a seven year old genius who generally makes the adults look like idiots.
The comic revolves around the entire concept that everyone is an idiot and bad things constantly happen to them. Ok, I won’t deny that there is a market for that sort of idea – but violence for its own sake isn’t funny. We don’t feel bad for the characters being abused, but we can’t laugh at them, either – we’re not even that invested in them. When Penny Arcade features random and senseless brutality, it usually goes hand in hand with a punchline or some element of irony – God Mode instead simply indulges itself, and expects that to do the trick.
And, unfortunately, it doesn’t.
The tragedy of God Mode is that, if it was willing to go its own way, it has the potential to be a decent comic. There are clever ideas buried underneath it all – but as long as the strip is wedded to the formula of what it thinks a gaming comic should be, it will never truly establish itself.
I’m not sure what actually got me reading the comic in the first place. There must have been something there, though I can’t really say what. But I can’t deny that I’ve been reading the comic now out of momentum alone. The updates don’t bring laughter nor, even, interest – it has become a daily task. I open the link to the comic, read the latest strip, and then close the page. All out of habit alone. Five minutes later, I don’t even remember what the strip is about.
Today the strip is taken off my list.
One down – many more to go.