Character Development Found in the Most Unlikely of Places

The holidays are over, the new year is here, and the various comics that went on break over the last few weeks have returned – and so it stands to reason that commentary should as well. My own hiatus was probably the longest thus taken from this blog, but it was somewhat nice to have the time off and simply enjoy the holidays with friends and family – of course, it also leaves me with a lot to discuss.

So for today, I’ll simply run through some of the webcomic highlights in the last few weeks:

-The latest storyarc in Ctrl+Alt+Del has intrigued me. Not due to the primary focus of the arc, which has been about Ethan’s continuing inability to grow as a human being – and which has, in fact, managed to be despicably vile on a previously unreached level.

But it has left me interested in… Zeke, a largely one-note character. Zeke is a robot built from an X-Box, and has the typical personality one would expect of such a character – the “eventually I’ll kill off all the annoying fleshbags, but until then, I’ll just play my arrogance and spite for laughs” type of character. Fine, fine, nothing special to see there – until he steps into a video game where he gets to play as one of the fleshbags.

Which results in him being afraid, and paranoid of pain and danger, and doing anything he can to protect his frail new form.

I find it works as a joke, and even more, works as insight into the character. And until we stumbled into the trainwreck the rest of the storyline has been, I had been planning to say some very nice things about CAD – but as it is, I suppose it is enough to point out this one moment of intriguing characterization in the midst of every other character failing on every possible level.

-Continuing that same topic, even as Least I Could Do seems to be working to actively cast aside any character development or complexity it has gained in recent years, Looking for Group is growing in depth by leaps and bounds.

LFG’s latest storylines as a whole have been growing ever more ambitious, but I’ve been really amazed by the dynamic between the two core characters – Cale’anon, the naive hero who has lost his innocence, step by step, and Richard, the self-serving and sadistic warlock who is entirely driven by impulse and the desire to cause chaos and death for its own sake.

Cale’anon’s development has been a key point throughout the strip, but the idea of Richard becoming anything more than a punchline has been a ludicrous concept – until now. Recently, in what cleverly masqueraded as a joke, Richard was afflicted by a curse that sapped his powers and gave him an adorable child-like body. Not only was he physically and magically weakened, but he also became an object not of terror, but of amusement – possibly the worst punishment that could be delivered to so arrogant a character.

He managed to break the curse by saving a child in an act of selflessness. We have not yet been offered a true explanation for why he did so – did he know it would break the curse? Did he have a moment of ‘weakness’ and compassion that would seem entirely counter to his typical attitude? Was it in gratitude for the respect the child offered him? Was it as a final chance to prove his power?

We’ve seen a little insight into why, but only enough to make guesses, and not draw a final conclusion. And maybe that is for the best – this is a character who benefits less from the spectre of redemption, and more from the shroud of mystery. The myriad possibilities of what could have been his reasoning seems far more effective than to actually define him down one of those paths… at least, for now.

-I wasn’t the biggest fan of the path Goats has gone down in the last few years – but I was floored by at least one aspect of how it has wrapped up the last chapter of its plot. Various characters may or may not have died – I’m not too concerned there, really. The end of the universe may still be on the way – not too big a deal.

What has drawn me in is Jon’s slow but steady slide into evil.

Because it has been carried out with an incredibly slick sense of inevitability. The actual final step – Jon ending up as, essentially, the man in charge of Hell – seems to come suddenly… but when you take a step back, it has been built up moment by moment, week by week, until it fits perfectly.

He has slowly been losing his connection to his friends and family. His interests have focused more and more on self-preservation… and self-interest. He made a deal with the devil himself – and then, in the end, kicked the devil aside.

The best part is that, at the end, having been fully seduced by the possibilities and amenities now available to him… One Death tries to talk him out of it. And you can tell that One Death thinks Jon is having regrets over what he has done – whereas the truth is entirely the opposite. This right here was the devil’s major mistake, and its a doozy.

…and I still need to mention some of the awesomeness that has been going on in Starslip Crisis, and Sinfest, and elsewhere, but I’m just about out of time for now. So I’ll hold those in reserve for next week, when I might actually start getting fully caught up with all the comics reemerging from their shells.

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