Now, his previous commentary on PvP, which was a spot-on piece of criticism about the strip’s current lack of focus and reliance on desperate in-jokes and pop-culture references, was a very nice piece of work – and, in fact, helped fully delineate a lot of the elements that had been bothering me about the comic.
Which is why it is startling to see another post about the comic wherein I disagree entirely in pretty much every regard.
Now to be fair, there isn’t all that much to disagree with – the recent post isn’t very detailed, just a juxtaposition of two strips from the comic (one current, and one four years old), with the apparent goal of pointing out the hypocrisy of the current storyline. If that isn’t truly his intention, then I apologize in advance for assuming otherwise – see the usual disclaimer about it being hard to get a sense for what people are actually saying over the internet.
But, on the assumption that he is attempting to take Kurtz to task… well, I have to object with the examples he is using to do so.
Exhibit A, above, is where Kurtz is presumably putting down how some comics in the so-called funny pages wander into serious storylines, which can be grim and even downright depressing. But here’s the thing – while Kurtz has certainly not disguised his disdain for the majority of the newspaper comic strips, that disdain has usually fallen on the ones relying on tired, formulaic gags… comics that haven’t changed or evolved in decades. The above comic was posted back when For Better or For Worse was still considered one of the true comics of quality in the paper, when the Boondocks was one of the few to challenge the status quo.
Even beyond that, Cole puts forward in the strip the opinion that there can be a time and place for serious storylines. Not a surprising opinion, given that for all of PvP’s own reliance on gags, it has also often been driven by some significant stories built around drama and relationships – in fact, it becomes even more amusing considering that Brent (and his situation with Jade) has usually been the one at the heart of such storylines. Brent just sort of ignores the point, but it is still out there providing a voice of reason despite’s Brent’s ranting.
Is Kurtz seriously saying that comics should be nothing but simple jokes day in and day out? That the rest of the funny pages – the ones he rather universally loathes – are the ones to aspire towards?
Of course not – he’s poking some simple fun at the serious strips, sure, but doing so firmly tongue-in-cheek.
Exhibit B is the current storyline, wherein, as you can see, Cole’s marriage is falling apart. Even worse – it is happening right while Brent and Jade are in the midst of planning their own wedding. Sure, this is drama-heavy territory… but I also would contend it is the best Kurtz has been in months.
Despite the drama, the punchlines have actually been funny. I mean, sure, Brent finding out he has no legitimate reason to be pissed at Cole, and thus becoming all the more pissed, isn’t some powerful new form of humor than will redefine the genre – but it is rock solid in characterization and easily got a laugh out of me. And most of the strips in the storyline have been the same – competent and humorous strips that have also advanced the plot. As compared to just another round of pop-culture references, or trying to find yet another way to work in a panda attack, or a well-meaning but ultimately weak storyline about Shecky the troll.
Honestly? The time to take Kurtz to task for any supposed hypocrisy about “serious issues” was in 2005, when we had Jade suddenly worried she might be pregnant, and Brent trying to deal with the possibility of being a dad.
Which – guess what – despite only being two weeks long, was possibly the best storyline PvP has ever had.