The Belfry WebComics Index

Recent Reviews:

04:10am 05/01/2015
Thoughtful sci-fi with a heavy froth of comedy
Schlock is definitely in my top 5, with a long history and with great improvements in its art quality over time. There is usually a joke most days, but it's not afraid to bring in the heavy stuff when it is appropriate to the story.
06:26pm 04/26/2015
  i Truesbury Mod
Bemusing, but not amusing.
It is entirely possible for right wing thinkers to be funny. Michael J. Nelson has been a Republican voter for most of his life. It just seems sometimes that there's an inability for right wing comedians to do Satire well.

Truesbury isn't going to disprove that. If you don't like Doonesbury, you might get a chuckle out of seeing it being turned into a way to relate a conservative message. But that's literally the one joke, and it's clearly explained and telegraphed that this is the joke. I mean, if it was intended as an art project, maybe it's almost on par with Garfield Without Garfield. But it's not, with each comic also including some political exposition text embedded in the image under the comic to hammer home the point being made about the evils of being liberal/democrat/a kitten. I can't even credit it with timely satire, as the most recent comic references a scandal from four years ago.
12:49am 04/07/2015
  i *S.S.D.D. ALV
Among the Internet's best
For the first couple years after its debut in September 1998, S.S.D.D. was a typical "crazy roommates and hot girlfriend" strip, reliant on drugs, sex, and violence for its humor.

It is barely recognizable today as the same strip. It has become one of the best science fiction series available as a web comic. The art is still cartoonish but far more refined, with well-staged action sequences, well-rendered and recognizable characters, and carefully drawn backgrounds. The strip juggles multiple interrelated stories set in several times and possibly different realities.

The original main character has often gone years without appearing in the strip. The crazy roommate has become a vastly more important character. We see Norman Gates both as the violent goon we first met (now just beginning to discover the presence of shadowy, powerful figures in his life) and as the nearly mythological figure responsible for major events in galactic history. Sometimes characters are introduced after we already know their fates, and it becomes heartrending to see them struggle towards their goals as the reader already knows that they will never succeed, or will find happiness only briefly before tragedy strikes.

Nevertheless, even in the strip's darkest moments, the humor is always paramount. The run-on dialogue has become not a writing weakness so much as a characteristic of the strip. The anarchist views of many of the characters are presented in thought-provoking fashion, and the political wrangling is at once believable and hilarious.

This is a deep, multi-faceted, complex, entertaining, and thought-provoking comic. Enjoy it; it has the potential to last many more years.
01:50pm 04/05/2015
  i *Tales of the Questor Mod V
A complete downfall
R.H. Junior had my respect, if not my agreement, for his solid Christian, family-themed position. His last update in months is an advertisement for an overpriced disk of his pinup art.

It is no great loss. His last few dozen strip have been sloppily drawn and poorly colored, and the story has become a standard quest-for-the-objects fantasy series from the 1980s. None of the imagination nor the quality of this strip's early years is present. Enjoy the archives, but otherwise don't waste your time after Quenton leaves the mistwall. Otherwise, make up your own stories.
07:53pm 04/01/2015
  i *Zoophobia
Original, charming, and high in quality.
From the very beginning, Zoophobia captivates and entrances. The interplay of the delightful characters and whimsical artistic renderings combines with a wonderful blend of humor, suspense, and tugging of the heart to create one of the most masterful and original comic strips in a long time.
02:43pm 03/26/2015
Strikes a difficult balance
Most webcomics which focus on a particular religious view usually do so with a clear ulterior motive... either to proselytize or to ridicule that belief system. Furry Experience, while clearly written from the perspective of the LDS (Mormon) community, does so in a way which is respectful of LDS beliefs but while keeping an open mind towards other faiths, and without putting an artificial shine on itself.

Of the three main characters, only one is an actual LDS follower, while another is openly sympathetic towards Mormon beliefs and the third is openly skeptical. The hardships as well as the benefits of the faith and it's followers' lifestyle are presented frankly and respectfully.

The artwork has shown continual improvement throughout the series. New characters have been introduced and fleshed out at a rate that does not overwhelm the reader, but which has nevertheless given the strip a large supporting cast. Serious storylines are mixed with the purely absurd, but it is reasonable to believe that the stories all take place in the same world. This comic strikes the right balance in every area.
03:49am 03/26/2015
  i *Sandra & Woo L
A good strip that could be outstanding.
From time to time there are outstanding story lines accompanied by excellent artwork, such as last year's "Butterfly" sequence. Other storylines, unfortunately, such as the stock-feminazi "Mrs. Cambridge" sequence, are clumsy and unfunny. The art is often outstanding but at other times seems rushed. Some of the characters (such as Woo and Larissa) are very interesting, but Sandra seems to dominate the storylines and she has never been much developed as a character.

Sandra and Woo is good enough for me to check back regularly to see if there's anything worth reading, but not good enough for me to check nearly as often as it updates.
08:25pm 03/25/2015
  i Supermegatopia AN
Gone now.
Whatever this comic used to be, all that's here now is a static gallery of 12 images.
05:09pm 03/21/2015
  i *Wish & Will ALNV
wish & will
Best Web comic ever! ^_^ I love the characters...the artwork details...I love it all! I wish it was more than once a week ♥
02:03am 02/27/2015
New Episodes out now.
Episode 2 is now online to read, we've also released our first origins episode telling an epic story of Brengar Grom, father of the main character in Guardians Knot. Enjoy.
02:16am 02/22/2015
An Everyday Tale of Predator-Prey Relationships
Nightshade the Merry Widow (and its predecessor Dreamwalk Journal) are CG webcomics created by Ed Kline (artist/writer) and Kishma Danielle (co-writer). Danielle passed away in January 2014, since when Kline has continued Nightshade solo. Which brings me to the...

I've been a big fan of these comics from the day I discovered them. I've recently put up entries for them on All the Tropes and Wikifur, and written a short fanfic which Ed seemed to like. Recently I've been assisting him on a future Nightshade storyline, basically as a script editor; tweaking a bit of dialogue here, suggesting a piece of business there, and so on. At the time of writing (February 2015) the strips featuring my contributions have not yet appeared on-line, and this review excludes them.

A story of arthropod-people and their predation games in a lovingly-rendered CG world where sex has replaced violence.

As we're all too aware, countless webcomics feature hybrid human-mammal characters. Human-avians and -reptiles aren't that uncommon either. But how about human-arthropods - insects and spiders? In fact, how about naked human-arthropods who have lots of erotic encounters? If, like many of us, you're squicked by bugs, you may well think that's an idea that could never (ahem) fly. But hold on, don't be too quick to squash it.

Cyeatea (pronounced say-TAH) is a world with a lush three-dimensional forest, many miles deep. It's inhabited by numerous intelligent, technologically-advanced species of human-arthropod hybrids, with humanoid eyes, arms, torsos and genitalia, and insectoid or arachnid everything else. Their lifestyles are largely based on their Earthly counterparts, so for instance bees pollinate flowers and drink nectar to make honey, spiders spin webs to catch insects, and many species prey on others for sustenance. Indeed, in many cases predators can't feed on anything but prey species.

However, there is one crucial difference between terrestrial and Cyeatean predation. On Cyeatea predators never intentionally harm, let alone kill, their prey. This is a world where there's plenty of sex but no deadly violence. Predators perform sexual acts upon captive prey and feed upon their internal juices, sometimes over the course of several hours... or days... Then the predators release them, offer them food and drink to replenish their reserves and sincerely wish them luck for next time. It's called the Great Game, and everybody understands the rules.

Now, please don't let this give you the idea that the comic is one long arthropod orgy (Fifty Shades of Prey, perhaps?). While it's true that there are explicit scenes, they are always relevant to the Game, and there's plenty of plot going on between them.

The original Dreamwalk Journal storyline (being reposted on the Nightshade site at the time of writing) uses the time-honored tradition of human observers on an alien world - in this case, two young women who find themselves on Cyeatea by means of the eponymous "dreamwalking", naked apart from sneakers and a few accessories. They soon meet some of the local inhabitants, who are happy to explain their customs and show them around while trying to keep them safe from carnivorous plants and other hazards.

When the comic was relaunched as Nightshade the Merry Widow, it mainly concentrated on the adventures of the Cyeateans themselves. For instance, one story involves a raid on a new outpost by a gang of Valkyrie-styled beewolves, who cheat at the Game by bending the rules to their advantage. When they capture some of the worker bees who are building the outpost, the eponymous black widow Nightshade allows herself to be captured as well so she can infiltrate their lair. Meanwhile her friends form a rag-tag rescue team and set off to help, acquiring more members en route. Along the way they accidentally discover a new non-lethal weapon which they hope will tip the odds in their favour - which it does, though not in quite the manner they expect, requiring a sudden deus ex machina to save the day.

In terms of writing, the characters are varied and memorable, the dialogue is believable and the stories are well-paced. As for the art, the human-arthropod characters have interesting and believable designs. The environments, both the many and varied realms that constitute Cyeatea's huge forest and the vistas of the huge hive-city Helianthus, are depicted with great attention to detail, although inevitably the more recent strips have better rendering than the original story from almost a decade ago.

Ultimately the thing that I as a reader was most struck by was that Kline and Danielle had succeeded in creating a believable fictional world in which war, murder and other forms of deadly violence simply don't exist. Yet Cyeatea is no hippy-trippy utopia. There's conflict, rivalry and struggle aplenty, it just never results in death or injury, and rivals can end up respecting, or even falling for, each other. In the end, I suspect the defining characteristic of Cyeatean society is not sex at all, but I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what it is.
07:33pm 02/14/2015
Atmospheric and charming
In the first twenty pages, Amelia Davis has developed a sympathetic main character, a tragic backstory, and an intriguing mystery, all set within the dark but charming environment of a used bookstore that might (or might not) be more than it seems.

More than a hint of C.S.Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia is reflected in this story. Not only is the favorite book of the main character (Celeste) The Magician's Nephew, but the distant relative who takes her in is much like Professor Kirke. Mr. Castle seems intimidating and harsh at first, yet has understanding and sympathy for a little girl who has suffered a tragedy. The artwork is rough only to the extent that it help to convey the spooky atmosphere; otherwise it is refined and consistent. I found myself reading these pages as though they were the storyboards for an animated movie. Everything so far is simply well-thought-out and well-polished. I look forward to seeing this story develop.
11:12pm 02/13/2015
  i SharkBiplaneMan ALNV
A Writhing Pile of Brown
Thus is the name of the first arc of noward-winning webcomic "SharkBiplaneMan" a heartwarmingly revolting story about a hybrid character that is equal parts Mako Shark, Homo Sapien, and 20th Century Biplane. SharkBiplaneMan, or "Bip," as his friends call him, is lonely, depressed and slowly digging deeper into mental instability.
These friends of his are just as strange, his main companion is a swamp troll named Dritsek, who is an alcoholic father of 4 who's oversized ego and abusive nature tends to cause his downfall, humiliation, and utter destruction. The Rapetergeist is a dashing rogue ghost. He's a laid back, drug-loving spectre who gained his name by raping any rapists he is able to, often to women's (victims or otherwise) great respect and admiration.
These characters live in a mystical land named Sphinctoria whose inhabitants range from Ice Golem advertisement executives, invincible crack-head hobos, genderless deities, minotaur bartenders, genitalia-centric super-villians, and rapping kobald pimp organic crack farmers.
Creator, Ryan Mullins is the greatest writer and artist I've had the pleasure of being. While his artistic style and writing proficiency are still in their infancy, this first look shows great promise for the future of his ongoing online comic book series. The art is amateurish, the dialogue seems difficult and forced, and the coloring and inking leave a lot to be desired, however, right now, fans of the dark and absurd have a unique chance to grow with Mullins's characters and skill.
Do yourself a favor and get in on the ground floor of this underground comic that is sure to take the internet and thus the world by diarrhea-storm. Aid Ryan Mullins in his quest to tell this stupid story and realize his potential as a storyteller, artist and anal-chocolatier.

Full disclosure: This review was shamelessly written by Ryan Mullins's rival comic book creator and main competition/peer, Ryan Mullins. Give me, Ryan Mullins, your attention and money. I need them both. I'm important. Tell me that I'm important. Tell me I'm funny. I can't be worthless. Please. Help me, I'm drowning in self-doubt and low self-esteem. Help. Help me, please. I have a wife, 2 dogs, and a beer-belly to feed. Also, I live in Mississippi. It's terrible here. Help. I have to get out of here. Help me, please. There are no jobs and I live with my in-laws. I'm helpless. I'm dying of boredom here. Oh, help, help, help. Oh, and I hope that you like my work and this review I've made. I've done it out of boredom and the urge for shameless self-promotion. Oh, and speaking of, how's that show Shameless? I've heard good things. Should I start with the original British version or the American version? I do like William H. Macy. He was great in Fargo. The movie by the Coen Brothers, not the TV series based on the movie. Although, I did thoroughly enjoy that TV series. Martin Freeman is great and the crew really seemed to capture the aesthetic from the movie and create a very entertaining story within that same realm.

Speaking of realms, check out the adventures within the realm of Sphinctoria in the hit hot new webcomic, "SharkBiplaneMan." The first issue is on internet-accessible computer and computer-like device screens everywhere for da free, dog. It's a passion project. A labor of love. A majestic masterpiece of fecal proportions.
10:31pm 01/27/2015
All the good stuff
This comic starts out a little silly and quite funny, and grows a really fantastic cast of characters with art that improves all the way through. I found this series covers a lot of interesting and amusing romance situations while being socially progressive. It also has a splash of some fun sci-fi ideas.
11:28pm 01/12/2015
  i Downfall AL
Love it
Interesting art style and memorable characters. Can't wait for more!
01:45am 01/06/2015
  i *House of LSD ALNX
New mirrors for the old, X-rated series
The old, X-rated series was once available on MegaUpload, but of course that link has died.

Fortunately, mch_89 was cool and dug out a local copy of the archive. So now we can read it again!!rI9WgS7R!kTGkkgE4zTT8yl92Y35lauXF3C_8reCyHxFld6LtPq0

Happy reading!
10:37am 10/08/2014
  i *Better Days ALVX
Appreciating it for what it is.
I don't generally write "counterpoint" reviews but Better days has (despite having concluded some years ago) been such a source of controversy that I feel compelled to add my two cents (discounted at a bitcoin rate).

I have several webcomics with political agendas on my reader index, including Ozy and Millie, Sandra and Woo, and the collective comics of Ralph Hayes, Jr. Obviously I can't agree with the political viewpoints of each, and in fact there is no single comic artist with whose politics I agree 100% (or even close).

I also subscribe to many comics with strong adult content, and which are in many cases far more explicit than Better Days, which leaves its actual "action" off-panel. Mr. Naylor's comic does address some taboo issues but doesn't glorify them; the preteen sexuality between Nikki and Fisk is shown to be ultimately harmful, and the infamous relationship between Fisk and Lucy becomes more distant and eventually nonexistent as they age and mature. I have to applaud Mr. Maylor for attempting to address issues that are not rare throughout childhood sexual development without turning them into a giggling thrill show for drooling Aqualung perverts.

I am rating Better Days for what it is: Well above-average artwork, compelling storylines, and engaging characters. It occasionally falters in its story consistency, sometimes reaches for a joke or a plot point, and at times becomes bogged down in side stories that don't seem to advance the flow of the script.

If you are offended by discussion of childhood sexual development and the paths that it can sometime take, or if you dislike a neoconservative political slant to your webcomics, then by all means avoid Better Days. Neither of these things particularly appeals to me, and yet Better Days is enough of a quality comic that I've read it from beginning to end more than once.
01:16am 10/02/2014
  i *Better Days ALVX
Five years later, a 'better' review
I originally wrote a review of Better Days in 2009, and like most of my critiques at the time it was brief and largely off-the-cuff. Having re-read the comic afresh, Lamar's review still stands; but as a matter of scholarly principle I feel honour-bound to submit a new critique that better elucidates my original one-star rating, particularly given the many laudatory reviews the comic has received.

It is well-illustrated; the cartoon's conventional black-and-white style is detailed (if lacking in background depth), but not so cluttered that it becomes distracting. And by and large Naylor is not deficient in the technical aspects of narrative: his characters grow and develop into relatively rounded and distinct personalities, and the story itself, which oscillates between playful-if-perverted humour and truly sobering themes, maintains an engaging pace. From a simple cursory reading, it's easy to see how it attracts such widespread appeal.

But much like The Da Vinci Code, just because the story can hit all the right emotional triggers to keep the reader 'hooked', doesn't mean it is a profound work of literature. From a purely structural standpoint, Better Days' biggest flaw is its stilted pacing. Whereas most complaints over "webcomic time" concern a series that has run for years yet only progressed an in-universe week, this comic does the opposite: chapters are set within a limited, episodic timeframe, and the early arcs in particular will jump forward a year without any indication, the characters aging seemingly overnight. Without a stable time reference, the reader becomes disoriented; even on a second read-through I found the characters aging unnaturally fast, with almost no time given for the reader to digest the arc properly before being vaulted into a new setting. Indeed, rather than provide a sense of meaningful closure, the final chapter was startling in its brevity and left me asking: "That's it?"

The crux of my complaint is not so much the story itself, but the particular way that Naylor chose to tell it. There are few webcomics willing to make an honest effort to interrogate such themes as domestic abuse and sexual violence, and far fewer that do so successfully. While Better Days aspires to the former, it sadly does not rank among the latter. I can best describe the story as plagued by contradiction: it tries to foster female independence yet constantly emphasizes the need for a male protector; it claims love is more than lust but devotes half its time to blatant objectification; it decries exploitative relationships at the same time it trumpets the primacy of individual self-interest as the root of all morals. The juxtaposition of vulgar sexual humour against the early shocks of "Predators" and "Tough Love" left a niggling sense of unease throughout the rest of the story, to the point that I almost couldn't take later discourses seriously.

This is problematic because the comic -desperately- wants to be taken seriously. Better Days is a story about relationships: love and loss, friends and foes, responsibility for others and duty to oneself. It is commendable for seeking to delve deeper into social psychology than its contemporaries in the genre (to a degree I did not fully appreciate in my first encounter); but it is perhaps -too- ambitious in its bid to tackle life's big questions. The comic can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a family drama or a psychology essay: at story's start, Fisk and Lucy are only nine years old, but speak with the intellectual sophistication of adults. Not only is the plot's timeline disjointed, but the characters feel out-of-sync with their own age; given Fisk's precocity in his psychiatric sessions, I cannot help but think he is too smart to make the choices he does. Naylor is bold (but not unique) in using children to address adult themes, but they respond as adults rather than children, and character believability suffers as a result.

Heretofore the complaints I've raised are over technical flaws that even by my most critical reading would not demerit Better Days below three stars; what makes the comic so controversial (outside of the infamous chapter "Brother's Arms", which I will also examine), what the positive reviews have failed to address, and what ultimately broke my immersion, is the politics employed in its construction. Blocky pacing and miscast protagonists can be forgiven as inexperience in writing a 'longue durée' narrative; what cannot be excused is the subversive social agenda that dominates the story. Whiffs of this abound in the explanatory monologues throughout the comic, often so preachy that they read like a chapter's 'Lesson Learned'. The most unabashedly partisan example is "The Bedbutter Chronicles", which fortunately (for Naylor) is the only time he calls out his opposition by name. So ham-handed reads the chapter that AridLion dismisses it as a parody; in fact, it all but spells out the neoconservative philosophy that underpins the entire comic, repeated much more eloquently (and far less opaquely) throughout the later story.

Every main character derives his or her morals from the core principle of individual sovereignty—that we should have control over our own destiny. Literally every chapter, every major discourse, every Lesson Learned, concerns the idea that we need freedom of choice. Which we -do-, especially if we hold any value in democratic society and representative government. But Naylor interprets this freedom through the narrow libertarian lens of absolute autonomy, in contempt of greater social responsibility: we are obliged -only- to ourselves; everything beyond is discretionary charity. Not only must we be free to choose, we must be free from any and all forms of coercion and external authority that would limit our choice, regardless of cause, regardless of -consequence-. Whether Naylor himself subscribes to this philosophy is immaterial; it is the lens through which he chose to frame his story, and well within his right to free speech to present it publicly. But he goes out of his way to cast it as the -only- legitimate basis for social organization, presenting alternative viewpoints as crude strawman caricatures: Mrs. Bedbutter (arguably the only character in the entire comic -not- motivated by self-centred goals), whose very name reads like a joke, is depicted as the stereotypical 'bleeding-heart liberal' engaged in unpatriotic "social engineering"; when Tommy consults with his priest over Rachel's infidelity, in typical Catholic cliché the father ignores the actual issue to blindly reiterate obedience to God. Part of my discomfort in the early story stems from the hoisting of this partisan agenda onto the shoulders of children who, precocious though they may be, are not portrayed as politically conscious; conversely, my ennui with the later chapters concerns the childish simplicity by which the characters incessantly pontificate this ideology as if it constitutes an uncontested fact.

Lamar cites Naylor's soapboxing as detrimental to the work but stops short of explaining what and why that is; I find this regrettable because understanding the dangerous implications of unfettered libertarianism is crucial to understanding why Better Days ranks not merely as a mediocre story, but an objectively bad, even harmful one. The freedom Naylor advocates—amended in later chapters to include the belief that we must do what makes -us- happy, first and foremost—engenders a reckless disregard for broader social consciousness and public authority. Tommy abandons religion altogether the moment his personal desires conflict with Church doctrine. Fisk reacts with disgust when Carlos plans to kill himself but makes no effort to help him overcome his PTSD, instead angrily rebuking his fellow veteran for 'squandering' the little practical autonomy he has left. I agree that Better Days is mired in "macho wish fulfilment", but I contend this is not a narrative fault in of itself; rather, it is symptomatic of the comic's underlying ethos: when self-serving utility becomes the sole point of reference for moral decisions, the logical outcome is a 'might-makes-right' philosophy. Fisk says as much in "Chess" when he frames conflict of opinions as a struggle for dominance: the winning side need not be intellectually compelling or even factually correct, so long as it has the greater muscle. Not-so-coincidentally, many of the story's conflicts are both violent in nature and resolve through violence: Lucy exacts revenge on Randy by shearing his hair; Principal Longfellow is clandestinely murdered rather than stand trial; Nikki's abusive father is gunned down by police officers. It is thus entirely consistent that Fisk joins a private company engaged in vigilante wetwork, since it provides him the opportunity to pursue retributive justice without having to contend with the arbitrary imposition of such unfree institutions as American law.

And here the comic's internal logic breaks down. Without the rule of law, with only an anarchic arena to resolve the perpetual clash of differences, morality is reduced to personal subjectivity, and Naylor's moralizing becomes both intellectually and pragmatically hypocritical. Lucy's friends confront cheating partners, yet her own mother pursues an affair with Sam; Fisk saves their mother from the wanton violence of his principal, only to grow up into a vigilante assassin. If the reader was left to draw one's own conclusions about the characters' ethics, this wouldn't be troublesome. But the story -wants- us to sympathize with them, and practically twists our arm to make it so: we don't see Mrs. Tobs' perspective on the marriage; we know little of Persia's mother other than that she's an overbearing philanderer; when Nicholas accuses Beth of stringing him along, -she- is cast as the victim. Oftentimes what makes the protagonists' actions acceptable but the minor characters' contemptible narrows down to simple author fiat. The comic's moral atmosphere is decidedly 'grey-and-gray' (and dark shades at that), yet Naylor strives (and for me, fails) to depict it as black-and-white. The characters portrayed as 'villainous' (Longfellow, Nikki's father, Rachel, D'Anna) are, variably: coarse, violent, dishonest, and/or manipulative. Notwithstanding that the protagonists demonstrate equal propensity for dirty tricks as they feel their circumstances demand, Naylor either fails to recognize, or deliberately ignores that the villains adhere to the -exact same ethical standard-: they are pursuing -their- happiness, and while the reader should rightly find their methods detestable, for the reasons outlined in this and the preceding paragraph, Naylor has forfeited any right to moral judgment.

Which brings me to the infamous Chapter 10.

I won't dwell on the general sexualization of Better Days; as a point for critique it's low-hanging fruit, and in any event is so ubiquitous as to speak for itself. Subject matter aside, it is not a particularly profound chapter, and while its aftershocks reverberate throughout the rest of the story, it is executed so casually that, as kiseki's review states, one wonders if Naylor fully thought it through. Yet in some ways it is fitting that "Brother's Arms" should be the centre of so much publicity, because it pulls together all the sociological currents and contradictions that drive the project. To Naylor's credit, it is -not- entirely gratuitous (the comic would never have survived if it had been), and while I have resisted citing his other works, anyone familiar with the author's money-making enterprises knows this could have been handled a -lot- less tactfully. And in terms of the characters' own reflections, it is the -only- scenario in which Naylor -doesn't- tell the reader what to think. But, while he takes great pains to cast the incident as the product of genuine, even altruistic affection, it nonetheless fundamentally remains a power relationship. Tellingly, Fisk describes himself as Lucy's "older brother" and makes it clear that he feels a duty to protect her; though the incident emerges out of a mutual investment of trust and occurs at her instigation, it is only made possible -because- Lucy is vulnerable and because she has vested him with protective authority. Even setting aside the incestuous context, it is -not- the same relationship shared by or with the other characters because, unlike their romances before and after, the twins do not approach it on equal terms. That Naylor leaves the chapter's ending ambiguous is perhaps an admission that he waded out of his depth; the hasty resolution reasserts that Fisk was acting out of compassion, but the reader still confronts the conundrum that "Brother's Arms" is essentially "Tough Love" with a happy face. Nikki's father -is- abusive and Fisk is -not-, but regardless of intent and outcome both scenarios constitute male sexual dominance over a helpless family member. I sincerely hope that Naylor merely missed this implication rather than wilfully ignored it, for otherwise he is proposing a hypocrisy far more alarming than during any other chapter when he asks us to condemn the former, but condone the latter.

I do not fault Naylor for writing politically—given the weight of the subject matter, it would be impossible not to—but for the dishonesty by which he advances his agenda. While the now-inaccessible sister project New Worlds employed the same social commentaries far less subtly, Naylor was more-or-less upfront about his intentions. In Better Days, he masks his agenda through rhetorical tricks and a seductively dramatic narrative such that most readers do not even recognize his writing is deeply ideological. As a reader, I feel duped: Better Days sells itself on the family drama narrative, promising us an intimate view unto the life narrative of children becoming adults; instead we get a front-row seat to a social soapbox, the characters' experiences serving to reinforce a narrow, and to at least two reviewers, deeply disturbing point of view. When I began this critique I thought the early chapters felt rushed because Naylor was writing to a real-time deadline, akin to such comics as For Better or For Worse; this is not the case. I now realize that they are episodic because they each have a specific argumentative goal. Instead of the characters driving the plot, the plot conducts the characters. We don't watch the twins grow so much as view carefully curated snapshots of their growth. Fisk's life can be summarized as a confirmation bias towards strict-father morality: "The Bedbutter Chronicles" suggests external authority can't be trusted; "Predators" casts him as the literal family guardian; "Chess" implies there are objective, non-negotiable moral truths; everything else reinforces the central libertarian tenet of individual autonomy and the pursuit of self-interest. The cruel irony is, for all the time Fisk lectures others on the inalienable necessity of free and conscious choice, he has been groomed to replace his father without even being aware. Yet this is the comic in general: it railroads its characters (and its readership) toward -one- choice, and actively blocks out the alternatives.

In the end, Better Days -was- worth my time to read, but not for the reasons its author intended. What few technical and narrative merits the comic does possess are overshadowed by the self-contradictory ethics upon which the entire story is premised. Despite the challenges I have raised and my final one-star rating, I feel it is a comic that -should- be read... but it -must- be read, from start to finish, with a critical eye. Though the story's many controversies are starting points for serious and worthwhile debates—as I hope this review has demonstrated—the comic does not wish to interrogate itself, and provides little room to do so. Like Fisk, we are told to accept Naylor's philosophy without the opportunity to ask why we -should-. The politically astute reader will recognize what Naylor is doing and -make- that opportunity, but the casual reader will -not- and accept his sermons (and their implications) at face value. Because of this intellectual duplicity, I cannot recommend Better Days to anyone unless they genuinely know what sort of story they are taking on.
09:46pm 08/29/2014
  i LeveL
A Vibrant Cyberpunk Saga full of Mystery!
"Vibrant Cyberpunk!? Isn't Cyberpunk supposed to be bleak and depressing," you might inquire... And yet, when you read this comic, it sweeps you away with its exhilaration and energy. The characters radiate expression and spirit. The world they inhabit is rich and deeply involved, overflowing with potential for conflict and tension. Here we have a setting that thinks itself pristine and advanced, while managing to both walk the walk and talk the talk outwardly, all while it teeters on an imperceptible brink - something has GOT to give, and you FEEL it. It calls to you! We begin just as the first threads begin to snap... Truly this yarn will entangle you utterly as it begins its epic unravelling.

If you're even HALF as close to the edge of your seat as I am, you'll be on the FLOOR!
05:40am 08/13/2014
  i *Leftover Soup AL
Don't let appearances deceive
This comic's art style may be somewhat simplistic and minimalist, but if you give it a chance the writing will shine through like nothing you'd ever expect. This is extremely intelligently written with complex yet consistent characters and I can't recommend this highly enough. It breaks my heart that there are so few subscribers here! Please read Leftover Soup!
eXTReMe Tracker
Belfry Webworks