Monday, 30 May 2011

Caught in a web of your own design: String theory

At first glance this is not a genre strip and the main point I'd assumed it was set in our universe or timeline but slowly but surely the other references come creeping in and the emotional range widens out into a slow burning rage. I've never been so fortuitously side-swiped by a strip this much, what I thought was a cringe-worthy workplace goof ball drama was merely a prologue to a much richer story.

This is certainly a bleak strip, I didn't know seething hatred could be a metier but Beckey Grundy is an adept at creating a protagonist as a vector for bad luck mojo, our anti-hero scientist Herville Schtein mostly choosing the path of least resistance. I just got drawn into this strip as I discovered what looked like our time was not, as the tragic protagonist is only gradually inserted into an alternate future.

This narrative complexity is accompanied by a comparable artistic flowering. As with every webcomic worth following the line-work improves substantially as experience is gained. Now it's evolved into a psychedelic swirling of colour, but it's also the little things that work. The doctor's red eyes,  the shadows in their characters faces and the move from black and white to colour increases the overall texture exponentially.

This world isn't spoonfed to you and this strip gets better as there is an emergence from what looks like a dull mad scientist parody into something more morally weighted. I know the Websnark isn't really a webcomics critic anymore but the term 'Cerebus syndrome' is quite effective here, the first chapter looks like meandering around and after that there's a lot of ret-connning, the characters seem to grow into more substantial roles.

I haven't been so pleasantly surprised for a long time, maybe reading slice of life strips has brutalised my senses because this is a long term commitment that I believe is worth reading just to see how fortitude comes from feckless, needless rage. It's not an emotion that webcomics typically emphasise as they mostly attempt glib sweet nothings. This is a richer thematic approach and deserves to be read.

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