Friday, December 21, 2007

The Hidden Character

Not much to complain about today's strip because it's purely expository. It's the beginning of the arc, we need some background. Totally fair.

That having been said -- the last panel is a bit odd.

When did Skull show up? Assuming he just showed up, it would have been totally in character for him to go "Squee!" upon finding Shecky is in town. It's a little convenient for him to just show up unsurprised.

On the other side of the coin, just a few moments ago Brent and Cole were arguing about who would be stuck with him for the holidays -- an argument that would be pretty rude to have in front of Skull. Not that the characters are above that sort of gaffe -- but if it had happened that way the author would have made a droll joke about it. ("Hey! I'm sitting right here!")

One other small quibble -- I know I've already suspended disbelief enough to be reading a comic about a love-lorn troll, but Shecky obviously has a bad rep. However, how lonely does an ancient-eyed socialite have to be to give a redeeming-quality-less troll a year to find some quality? Really lonely. Despite the parties she throws.

Maybe it's a trick! That would be hilarious.

But it would mean the whole arc would be a waste of time. Sigh.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Quirks of Time

As I see it there are at least two things wrong with today's strip:

1. The author tries to avoid the Mary Worth Syndrome by introducing a brand new fact in the first panel -- the small troll, Shecky, is in love.

Isn't that ducky. In the last panel of the previous strip we were told that he's here to spend Christmas with his fellow troll, saving us from the banality of the "who's taking the troll home for Christmas?" storyline. This new information renders the entire previous strip a total waste of time -- well, three out of four panels at least. The introduction of Shecky is the only event that has carried over.

2. In the third panel, two things happen: Shecky reveals the less-than-romantic nature of his infatuation, and the Brent character snatches something out of his hands.

What's wrong with this picture? The look on Shecky's face makes no sense given the continuity of the panel. Here's what happens:

Shecky holds up picture » He says "Heh. Loaded!" » Brent snatches the photo

The look on Shecky's face is obviously not reflecting his one line in the panel ("Heh. Loaded!"), so it must be reacting to Brent's actions. This is odd because Shecky is both on the left side of the panel (the first to be seen) and has the first line (the first to act chronologically), yet when you first approach the panel he is reacting to something that has yet to happen, either spatially or chronologically.

While time is obviously subjective in comics, the author hasn't left himself enough room in the panel to take liberties.

Fun Punchline Facts

Punchline exists? Yes.
Punchline rating: 2 out of 10 (penalty for overused "ugly tree" cliche)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Last Panel Twist!

This is a mechanic that PVP relies on much too often, and almost always when a new arc is starting.

We find our characters quibbling over who will take the troll character for Christmas ("Not me!", "Not me!", "We can't stand being around this character because of his role as cute and cuddly foil!"), when out of nowhere...

There are relatively few punchlines in PVP -- it's mostly story-driven. This is fine, to a point, but the author has limited himself to an average of 4 panels per strip, which leads to Mary Worth Syndrome.

This requires lots of exposition, which usually means wasting the first panel. This means that the remaining three panels have to shoulder the burden of the story, which leads to melodrama.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

PVP is almost as good as Drabble.

I've been reading PVP for a few years now, but only recently did I realize how mediocre it is. I fell into a trap -- It's a web comic! It's popular! It must be great! Unfortunately my logic doesn't hold up: When it comes to traditional comic strips, popularity does not equal hilarity, so why should it be true for web comics?

The writing for PVP is disappointingly sub-par, especially when compared to other popular titles in the gaming comic-sphere. The straw that broke the camel's back came of December 13th of this year, when the punch-line of the strip was a cat hiding in a christmas tree parodying William Shatner's "Kahn!" moment from Star Trek 2:

You see, the cat is a megalomaniac that wants to take over the world. In this arc he has it in his head that if he takes down Santa, he can steal the secret of faster-than-light travel. He accosts Santa in a mall, but LO AND BEHOLD -- Santa is actually super-powerful! The cat/tree fights Kringus, only to defeat him and discover he wasn't the real Santa.


What makes this so weak is:

A. The cliche. The Internets have spawned a new interest in classic geekery, and the Kahn moment has been parodied many many times. This just makes the arc (the climax of the story-line even) feel old and tired. Preface this with the fairly hackneyed conceit of inserting "superhero" styling and dialogue into the story ("In case of emergency... KICK ASS!"), and the whole thing has less impact than Cathy on a Tuesday.

B. The art. While, admittedly, a cat inhabiting a tree for the purpose of battle is unusual, the tree is not drawn in a way that evokes the original movie moment at all. It took me a moment to logic out the intent, and I am wise in the ways of Trek.

Then there's the plot itself -- that a cat would be interested in stealing technology from Santa is not a bad way to start a story. But are we seriously to believe that once the decoy Santa has been tased into submission (I appreciate the lack of a "bro" reference, at least some restraint exists on the part of the author) that the cat would simply give up? An official Santa's Helper would make a great hostage, no? Or are we to believe that he has been killed by the cat?

Killing Santa doesn't seem to be PVP's style, yet the cat clearly seems like he ought to be capable of it. It's just not clear, adding to the weakness of the arc.

Want a stronger story? Kidnap the guy and have the real Claus show up, save his man, and strand the cat on a desert island with Steve Ballmer. Then you might have earned your Kahn.

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