Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Predictable Complaint

PVP uses any number of formula-based jokes, and today's strip (Blue Shield) is one that I'm particularly tired of; not only is the punchline predictable, it gets repeated!

In this formula, there's always a happy/naive character (Skull), always an aloof advantage-taker (Brent) and a bystander who sees what is actually going on (Jade). The set up is so transparent that although it's absolutely clear what the joke is by the second panel, you can easily infer it in the first.

Plus, in this case, the punchline is fairly insulting to Skull, which makes it hard to accept the premise. I know he's not the brightest bulb in the forest, and I know insults are often funny, but don't you think even he might figure out what Brent meant when he said "meat shield"?

(What does he mean, by the way? Once Skull gets shot once, he'd have to leave the field, right? Not a very effective shield.)

PLUS, to take this to an annoying extreme, Jade's expression in the last panel doesn't follow the formula. I'm not sure what she's saying here:

She doesn't really seem to be saying anything, when she should be expressing either surprise (at Skull's perfect willingness to play the patsy -- which she seems to be displaying in panel three, actually), fear (knowing what Skull is in for), or, more traditionally, the fourth-wall-breaking sardonic glare at the audience ("Wotta maroon."). I've tried to portray the latter option here, forgive my crap job:

I don't recall much fourth-wall breaking in PVP though, so perhaps one of the first two is more appropriate. I actually really like Skull's grin in the last panel, and either "surprise" or "fear" would have been a much better counterpoint on Jade than "poker face".


FSM Bonus Content: McSweeney's-style alternatives to "meat shield":

-- Bruise Collector

-- Paint Magnet

-- The Walking, Talking, Troll-Shaped Brent Protector

-- Chump


evan said...

In that I can't remember the lastme PvP has actually made me laugh (I think it was about five yeas ago... something about Brent and Cole trying to explain to jade aout mail order knees or elbows or something. Couldn't find it when I looked in the archives) I didn't think this comic was that bad. Yes, it was predictable and followed an overused formula, but when you click on your PvP bookmark you have to know that is what you're going to get.
I know it's tough to defend a mediocre gag by saying that it's the product of a mediocre strip, but that's really what I'm doing.
Aside from the mediocrity of the gag/strip, I do think it works. We believe that Skull would be duped by Bret in this instance because Skull is a one-dimensional character who has never shown any growth in either character or intelligence. He would have fallen for this in the first PvP strip, and he'll fall for it in the last.
The last line of the strip is executed with pride. "I'm a meat shield!" It doesn't even occur to Skull that the title Brent has bestowed upon him is anything less than something to be proud of.
So, for a mediocre, easy to predict, easy to write, PvP strip this one is fine.
I do agree that Jade's expression in the last panel adds nothing. The strip as a whole might be more complete if her expression said something, but it wouldn't make it any funnier. This strip is the maximum amount of funny for the gag it represents.
Lastly, PvP breaks the fourth wall on a vaguely regular basis. I think they've actually used a hammer or bat or something to physically break it at one point.

Jai said...

Ah, does this mean you're feeling better? :)

Anyway, yep, another poorly-used fourth panel. Redundancy like that makes it look like we're supposed to feel that Skull is an ESPECIALLY large idiot, or that the joke might have otherwise slipped us by. It's true that repetition can make a joke funnier, but that effect usually is not achieved with merely one repeat.

Perhaps Brent's response should have made up the final panel.

Oh, and I think Jade's expression there signifies "I don't want to waste my breath explaining to this sap that Brent's just trying to use him again, but I'm still going to look a bit annoyed." The sort that I'd expect to be followed by a non-committal "Mmmh" and her walking away with a roll of her eyes. If only our poor Skull was capable of understanding Brent's shallow, two-dimensional ways!

Sage said...

Yeah I agree, the strip wasn't good nor bad, just there; the redundancy of the punchline does that effectively. Plus I was even looking for a change in Jade's face that wasn't there, fully expecting a wide eyed "Oh man Skull you just dont know . . . " expression. Even if Skull was overly smug about it saying "yep,he chose ME to be the meat sheild" would have played off his child-like nature better.

I agree with TFSM and "Paint Magnet" made me chuckle.

Sage said...

Also, three strips that were good this past month: Brent's dad punching the panda, Chins of the father, and the paintball strip "Let's shoot" something all were one's i laughed at. I agree the laughs are further apart, but I thik Scott moving to more story-based and not one-offs (like PA) is the reason for that. I feel more of the strip are the set-up to something. Hopefully to something funny.

Sage said...

What to wear -
Speaking of redundant . . .
So now that I'm taking a critical eye to this comic I am noticing more things.

First, I think I am minor gamer, not too emersed in this world. I have never played paintball but even I know that getting hit by one hurts and leaves welts. However, Cole explaining to Brent shows that either he is 1) smug about his knowledge of the game and saying something obvious or 2)Brent is as oblivious to the effects of a paintball as oblivious as Francis is

Also, what was with the 3rd panel? Obviously having padding of some sort will hurt less than having a tshirt on, if I threw a rock at you that would be the same. Saying that is like saying to the audience "remember people will have pain with paintball if they don't have vests" which is kinda of insulting.

Also, again francis is redundant in the 4th panel. I took from what he said in the 3rd of "wait, what. They hurt?" to mean he didn't know. Having that repeated in the 4th did not make it any funnier.

If there was no dialouge in the 4th with Brent and Cole looking at each other, reading each others mind while Francis looked on afraid, the 5th would have actually made more sense. At that point it seems as if they just want him to shut up.

Jai said...

Is Cole standing on a table in the first panel? I'm having a great deal of difficulty trying to rationalize his height / size ratio to Brent, despite how often they're in the same frame. I'm sure that "distance" is trying valiantly to be implied in that panel, but all that comes out of it is an illogical setup.

And, while I'm pleased to see that some issues I had regarding Even teams's final panel were addressed in What to wear, Cole now looks almost as tall as Brent (And far more of his unfortunately hideous tie is visible than I care to see). Good move on putting more of Brent's body into frame and at least slightly shifting the alignment of his strokes and Cole's strokes, though.

Anonymous said...

Shut the hell up, you whiny wanker.

Yusaku777 said...

*gasp* He has struck to the quick of the matter. Perhaps we -should- shut the hell up, for perhaps we -are- whiny wankers.

Or, you know, we just think we're trying to provide a modicum of positive feedback that doesn't involve getting our noses brown.

Either or.

Anonymous said...

Well, who better to write a comic strip regarding a meat shield than the king of meat shields: Scott Kurtz? He's probably even more effective than Skull.

Anonymous said...

Oh, look at that. A fat joke.

What a respectful discussion this is.

KBF said...

Notice how most of the fat jokes are by anonys?

I feel that the strip's aren't meant to be big laugh strips like PA... I read PA, it's hilarious. I read PvP, it's also hilarious, but in less of an over-the-top way, like you'd find in, well, real life.

I'm not saying the strip is realistic, I'm saying it's a quieter humor.

b-hulsmans said...

I think the expression on Jade shouldn't be the fourth wall breaking 'wotta maroon' but either a glare aimed towards Brent. After all, we have seen several strips of Jade being annoyed at how Brent treats Skull...

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