Things have been relatively quiet on PVP so far this year. Today's strip, however, highlights the artistic laziness of the artist.
This week the cat is experiencing a bout of Garfield-worship, so is going to eat lasagna. Panels 2-4:
Ignoring the "don't scratch" confusion created by the script in the second panel, and ignoring also the complete and utter predictability of the joke, my biggest problem with this strip lies in the way the cat's experience is drawn.
This is a fairly standard scenario of long-standing tradition. I like to imagine it was invented by Looney Tunes, but it was certainly perfected by Ren and Stimpy. The traditional progression of action is as follows:
1. A character unknowingly eats something terrible, for example, a cake with an anvil baked into it or a soup with giant hot pepper in it. (Whatever it is, the character is usually looking forward to eating it.)
2. The character freezes for a moment. (Reality sets in.)
3. We witness a huge, over-the-top reaction. (The character's teeth all fall out due to hardness of anvil; the character's head turns red and blows steam due to hotness of pepper.)
3b. The alternative to the over-the-top reaction, one embraced by this particular strip: Internalized horror.
This progression being inferred, here are the expected emotional states of the cat:
Panel 2: Hesitance (never had lasagna -- hope it's good); anticipation (Garfield loves it, therefore I will love it); rebellion (screw you troll, I eat what I want).
Panel 3: Surprise; confusion; betrayal.
Panel 4: Internalized horror.
Here are the states actually portrayed in the strip:
Panel 2: Hesitance.
Panel 3: Surprise.
Panel 4: Dislike. (Sum total of visible reaction: one laid-back ear, one half-closed eye.) (edit: he has also slumped in his seat a bit.)
The fourth panel is the punchline! This is a pathetic display of emotions from a cartoon cat. Where are the gritted teeth? The eyeballs trying to escape? The lips pulled back into the mouth that says "Must! Not! Spit out!" Perhaps the world of PVP does not allow for such "cartoony" effects, but you can at least imply them without sacrificing the physics of your world.
The author should have skipped the second reaction state (surprise) entirely, heading straight from anticipation to horror, which would have allowed for a much better reaction when the troll tells him he has to eat it all.
Without the horror that is the cat's expected dislike for lasagna, the troll's admonition is worth little.
Misc. Nitpick 1: Who the hell forks their food so that the tines poke all the way through? No one, that's who. There's a little thing called a plate in the way.
Misc. Nitpick 2: Where the hell did his ear go in the last panel? Yes, cats' ears flatten when distressed, but they don't slide entirely to the back of their skulls. The lack of any other extreme reaction on the cat's part makes this almost uninterpretable. I thought for a moment the cat had a ponytail I was unaware of.
Fun Punchline Facts
Punchline exists? Yes.
Punchline rating: 3 out of 10