Saturday, October 24, 2009

Newbie Rant 5: Harkovast (The Reasonable One)

Let's try this again. I'm going to be a fair broker on this and try not to find every little wrong thing. Yes, my previous review of harsh, and most likely baseless. If I'm going to express that sort of anger I may as well use it on someone who deserves it. The Author of Harkovast does not seem to deserve it. I overloaded my previous review with too many negatives, over shadowed any positive thing I had said, and I didn't even finish the danged thing.

Trekkies, General geeks, Furries, Gamers, and the occasional female Geek, I'm the WebcomiCritic, I review it becuase somebody has to.

Webcomic artists and writers tend to be a very niche category of people. we're all usually geeks. And in that niche category, we're usually the niche categories of anime and manga fans, furry fandom, comic book geeks, video gamers, and fantasy and sci-fi guys. Usually these don't mix, and when you do the audience tends to get even nicher.

Unfortunately, because of our limited scope, we tend to write stuff that's incredibly similar. We usually have our own spin on things but you can guarantee that we will usually tell a story of 2 gamers on a couch and one girl, a Tolkien/Dungeon and Dragons-esque story making fun of the system and cliches, a Tolkien/Dungeon and Dragons-esque story that plays every cliche and system flaw as straight as an arrow without irony, anime-esque things that either make fun of itself or play cliches straight, a furry comic involving either all of the above or a porn studio, a slice-of-life involving most of the above, I think you get the point.

So what was I trying to say? We geeks are very niche-y. Sometimes too much. and too much we get Harkovast. But apparently this isn't always bad

I've only ever been a passing fan of war stories of the fantastic persuasion. This has not changed a thing, though I may come back for more.

I'm reviewing this at the request of the makers, The writer and artist Daniel R. Stribley and Julie Anne Stribley.

Welcome to Harkovast, probably the only furry comic I've stumbled upon that isn't in an anime-esque style. Good for you Mr and Ms Stribley. Way to rise above the standard. No sarcasm.

We are about a week or two beyond it's one year anniversery it has about more than 80 pages, hosted on drunkduck, and appears to have its fair share of fans. So obviously Mr and Ms Stribley are doing something correct. And of course as a reviewer it is my job to challenge that correctness and see if it's true.

So Let's Dig into the story, shall we?

To begin we are given a somewhat promising intro that appears to be foreshadowing of sorts. It actually sounds kinda interesting, though the execution seems to feel a little... Flat? Cheesey? Oh Well, it's no bad so I may as well move on.

The war of the good army versus the bad army is initiating and the good guys use weapons created from their courage. You'd think they'd be more creative than making a sword when they can craft a weapon from their spirit. Oh well.

The bad guys are as inhuman as inhuman can get, dehumanized by their lack of self-consciousness, hunger, or tire. As well as their lack of names and and voices. Complete with green blood and faclessness. Because this is the easy way of making villains. Rather than deep motives, back stories, and personalities that make them a unique force that appear to fighting for a cause they deem as good, it's best to just make card-carrying monsters. Remember folks, Pure evil is more realistic than a believable motive.

On the other hand, since this is being told from the good guy point of view, I'm guessing the baddies are as dehumanized as possible, like real war. But even This seems difficult to believe because even as a species they appear to be "nameless".

The surprisingly well choreographed conflict displays that the good guys are at an almost even match, until the giant mook comes and slaughters them for all they're worth. And considering the lack of a worthy cause we've been given, they ain't worth much.

But wait, there's still their champion to avert all this. Someone to swoop in and save the day. the Deus Ex Machina who can avert this (I know what Deus ex Machina really means, this is a hyperbole. Do you know what a "hyperbole" is?)! Who can it be? His name is... SHOGUN!

Wait-what? really?
The champion is a one word title? The writer could've called him "Samurai" with the same effect. And that effect is "Silly" And what's a Japanese-style fighter doing in a European Medieval setting? Did he get lost on his way to an anime convention? Did they run out of knight's armor at the "Cliche Fantasy War Story" store?

Okay, poor jokes aside, The Shogun, despite his out-of-placeness gets the job done, ruthlessly. Though I do question how that retractable blade works. I mean, Where does all that blade go? where does it come from? The handle isn't nearly long enough to house a blade of such length. Oh well, I'll assume it's a similar technomancy that made his arm. I wonder what happened to it. Were I weaker and

We soon learn that Shogun, while good at his job at killing, is only good because he has a remorseless one-track mind.

Shortly after the Shogun's senseful slaughter, narration disregards some of my earlier claims. Apparently some of the faceless, nameless, and utterly inhuman mooks are somewhat human (or rather "Furman") after all. Outcasts, mercenaries, ex-heroes, and Glory-hounds; better characterization of the enemy. No sarcasm.

And then we are cryptically introduced to our possible main villain who appearance speak in a southern drawl. And he is called... really? That's his name? Well okay. He is called "The Speaker man" Well, what can I say? It's eaither the coolest name in the wolrd becuae it's short, simple,a dn tells everything without telling anything at all. Or....

It sounds like the name oh a poorly created super-villain who was quickly rejected by the legion of doom. I mena, cna you imagine the interview of a bad guy called "The speaker Man?"

"You young whipper-snappers may think I'm the lamest man you ever did see, but lemmie tell you, my ability to talk in long drawn lectures shall put all in my range to sleep, and furthermore..."

With that poorer joke aside, The wandering exposition wizard finally finds his friends, the Native American Foxes called the Ano-Chee. there are probably more jokes that can be done with "Native American Foxes" than I can think of, but I'll let it slide and allow you to fill in the gag.

Anywho, Quinn-Tain, the exposition Wizard is asking them to summon a... sociopath with loyalties only to his own people... Wow, the situation must be dire, to be as desperate as to summon a monster(psychologically a monster). And judging by the internal monologue, this sociopath sounds like a lovely person!

And He is revealled to be a swan-like creature. And Quentin-sorry, Quinn-Tain describes the sociopath's (Ki's) species as being light and airy, but this one took a dark path. I wonder if this symbolic of anything... *coughfallenangelcough*.

The scene changes to a battle-worn old fogey who finds a church where the residents attempt to heal him. However, conflict ensues as he brought Nameless with him. the old man coincidentally, or rather "contractually obligated by the plot", is able enough to fight off the fiends. And of course, he'd prefer to fight honorably instead of smart. And unfortunately, what could have been a cool looking fight scene is a wee bit static. The use of speed lines in the first conflict of the story really made a difference it appears.

And while this occurs, Quin-Tain and Ki are... Ku...kukuku, kuahaha! ahahahahaha! GAHAHAHA! AH HAHA HAHAHAHAH! Oh man! that... That just... Okay, Myabe this is only funny to me and maybe it has to do with the art style or something, but... Hahah! Oh Well, just look:
Look there, bottom of the page! Tell me honestly, can you take Ki seriously in that outfit? I am shocked those around him are not bursting into fits of uncontrollable laughter!
I know he's supposed to look like your average assassin, but you can't honestly say that he looks like he can be taken seriously. He looks ridiculous! Okay, Okay, I;ll get off that tangent. I'm just saying, He might be the silliest assassin I've ever seen.

They're apparently after another poorly named character called the totally uncliched "Heretic". The Stribleys should be writing superhero names for the Nineties... But let's leave my snark out of this, we actually know what Quin-Tain's plan is in summoning Ki. And we actually get a pretty nice internal monologue from Ki that shows us ab it more of his character. It's actually petty interesting and I hope to see more of him.

We go back to the zealot old fighter who really is as stupid as he's portrayed as he attempts to fight three cavalrymen nameless without backup or being fully healed. Genius.

He does win, regardless, but not without my complaint. A weapon fueled by courage, while has the potential for creative ideas, can seem like a bit too much and has the opportunity for abuse. However, considering GaoGaiGar, the only mecha anime I like, is all about a mecha fueled by the main character's courage, I have "hypocrite" stamped all over my face.

Sir Muir, the senile old nutjob frees the solve surviving hostage of the faceless mooks and we are finally introduced who I can only assume is the focus main character and she (First impression nearly screamed genderless or male. curse this art style's lack of eyelashes). She's part of a species called the Tsueng Dao that for some reason screams "Harkovast's version of the land of the rising sun". Further confirmed by her name being... Chen-Chen?

I'm not laughing, it's not a horrid name. It's not even a funny name (Okay, maybe it is is a childish weird sort of way) It's just not the first name I would've come up with for her. Each ot their own?

I could complain about the total cop-out reason for why she survived.... But Let's be reasonable here. Maybe she was trained by monks or something so she knows a thing or two about trances and meditating...

(Inability... to mock.. stupidity... is... painful....)

To Resume, we find out Chen-Chen is looking for the misplaced samurai from near the beginning while we're given an interesting perspective of the Harkovast genetics system and a nice view of what the Shogun's history could be. Too be it had to be a bit in an expository manner, but Ill get to that later. This leads to what may possibly be the most unique travelling protagonist pair I've ever seen. Sure hope it lasts.

we go back to the Speaker Man who may have the most awesome ability ever. We learn his motives are Holy (?) but his methods appear less than noble. Well intentioned extremeist? I think he's a satire of those uber-conservative southern folk and their religious fanaticism. If so, More power to the Stribleys.

we get a short montage of Chen's learning experience. A short demonstration to show that she is the main character and that there are huge differences between where she'd from and where she is now. Also, at this point any person that does not see this as an Allegory of The Oriental (Of the mostly Japanese persuasion) contrasted with The Occidental, either doesn't know enough about the cultures yet or as blind as Helen Keller. More moments to affirm the cultures. People still advocate stupidity-er, "honor" and at this point, It can possibly confirmed that the Darsai are cat people and the Tsueng Dao are reptiles.

The journey to find shogun was quicker than I had anticipated. That's disappointing. Whatever the case may be, the dialogue between Sir Muir and The Shogun actually got a smile out of me. Jolly good. And the pair becomes a threesome and get your minds out of the gutter. This seems easier than I thought it would be. Where's the character conflict? The drama? The interesting subplots involving their conflicting personalities? I cannot honestly be expected to draw out some sort of drama from a grizzled warrior telling the senile grizzled warrior to shut up.

Wait! nevermind, interesting plotpoint. All is right in the story then.

Chapter 5! I thought I'd never get here! Okay then, it's appropriately titled ambushed as the cast gets... Ambushed. ORIGINAL! And before we see senseless slaughter because the Shogun is a short-tempered git, they get Deus Ex Machina'd so we see senseless slaughter because Ki is just awesome and nihilistic like that.

Next, we get some pretty decent battle scenes.

Hold the phone, are those speed lines!?? Okay, they're kinda poor, but it looks like they listened to me the first time! Effort! Honest to God, effort!

And... Holy Hand Grenade, where did THAT come from? That actually looked awesome, but where did that come from?

Okay, I;ll stop disbelieving, I'll just assume my monk theory earlier was not too far-fetched-Holy Cow! That's the coolest and msot original thing I've ever seen? Who in the world has ever thought of an Ice Berserker!? That's either the most awesome or the most stupid thing I've ever hear of, but I'm so surprised by how original it is, I can't decide!

Ki harms it pretty good and then... Dude, really? Look how injured it is! You're not seriously going to.... Mother of Pearl....

*stands on a podium with a letter*

And the award to the biggest douchebag in Harkovast goes to... *opens envelope* The Shogun! Congratulations you racist hypocritical ruthless beast!


And that's the end of the story-so-far overview, and we end by finding out Chen is a nun. Wow, I was totally close there! I had no idea there were such things as xiaolin nuns! GENIUS!

Wow, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I 'm not even sure what made me so angry when I first read it before. Maybe the anatomy threw me off, or how obvious-sounding it felt near the beginning. Whatever it was, I gave Harkovast a second chance and it's really not bad. If Anything, it's teetering above adequacy. I usually prefer more humor with my plot, but this was okay. Harkovast has the potential to be something greater than I imagined, and I was silly for ignoring that. I'm fascinated to see what the potential ensemble cast has to offer.

The characters are decent, they're characterized pretty well, I saw nothing that seemed off or out of character for them. They stuck within their boundaries and made themselves interesting. Mostly. I will admit, I have found nothing deeper behind the perceived protagonist Chen-HCen besides somewhat innocent and curious and Sir Muir as... I've already made my point clear.

The most interesting characters with depth are Ki and the Shogun. the Shogun is flatly angry, but is multifaceted and clearly has a lot going on with him I hope is revelled worthily in the story.

And boy do I love Ki. I disagree with him on a lot of things, but you can't hate the guy for his daring, his attitude, his smart mouth, his smarts, and the fact he thinks he looks awesome going around killing people looking like Hyperstrike with crazy eyes.

Speaking of crazy eyes, I must begin to speak of the art style and how the eyes felt soemwhat,]... empty sometims, like the charatcers had no soul. myabe it's just me.

But I must make comment on the anatomy. It's okay, for a person who is a moderate at it. It's like the "comfort zone" of human anatomy and you still have intermediate and advanced to go. I suggest studying people, and I have a huge list or references for poses if you're interested.


The art does have it's moments, like This. The background was cheesy and silly, but the body was wodnerfully constructed as The Shogun came in for a flying kick. Well done. Like previous complains, none too dynamic, but well done nonetheless.

And I'm glad speed lines to add motion was thrown in for good measure. It's a nice start. And I appreciate my previous advice being taken seriously. and considering how static the action at the beginnings of the comic were, this is what we call a blessing.

The Art is good overall really. I have no qualms with the artist's work. Shadows, backgrounds, settings, trees, shadows, lighting, coloring, and recently, dynamic-ness. It's all fine. Anatomy is my only issue with you because the character can looks strange and somewhat disoriented. You've already seen my list of "In Case of Poorly Drawn Furries, Click Link", so I've got not much else to say.

Besides, the fact I'm friggin' tired.


-Read or Die You Uneducated Buffoons
The WebcomiCritic

1 comment:

  1. Hooray!
    Glad you liked it a bit mroe this time around.
    I linked to this from my last update.

    ReplyDelete