Saturday, April 13, 2013

Comic Review: Cheer Up, Emo Kid (As of "Panic")

Before we get right into the meat of this review, let me just give you a small recap of my day. I'd really like to do this in some kind of adorable comic form, but Ubuntu has shit all for paint programs and my weapon of choice has always been MSPaint. Instead, have some bullets!

  • Woke up at 1:30 PM feeling pretty cold and pretty groggy. Considered sleeping all day.
  • Remembered girlfriend was out of work already and went online instead.
  • Felt more awake and motivated by two o'clock after some Internet derping! Work's getting done today!
  • Go downstairs for breakfast.
  • Spend an hour and a half goofing off downstairs simply to avoid doing anything at all remotely constructively. Also, discovered siblings had Twix and demanded mom buy me Twix while she is out.
  • Go back upstairs. Complain to girlfriend that I don't do enough things with my days and I should definitely get off the Internet and do more things.
  • Discover Cheer Up, Emo Kid with the strip "Communication".
  • Proceed to read all 205 strips from beginning to end, including playing the flash games multiple times to see each of the potential endings.
  • Attempt to convince self that spending my entire day goofing around and reading a webcomic was not a terrible thing, that I consumed some form of media, and that if I review it it counts as work.

Good, now that we're all caught up, here's my review of Cheer Up, Emo Kid up through the most current strip (205: "Panic"). I didn't review each individual strip along the way because not even I could manage that (although I've been tempted to try!)

Cheer Up, Emo Kid is a currently running webcomic which has gone fairly under my radar for about five years. In fact, I only discovered the comic because "Communication" was being shared from a Facebook page and I thought it was so hilarious that I checked out the actual site. While I regret wasting my day, I do not, by any means, regret discovering Enzo's (that's the author) amazingly crafted cartoon.

The comic (which currently spans 205 strips which I'm going to consider as chapters in a greater piece of work) focuses primarily on Zeke, a young emo-styled boy, as he tries to get his love life in order with the help of the rather frank... Frank. 

The early strips are simple and it can be difficult to tell characters apart as they are all drawn as generally generic bald fellas all in black and white, though the female members of the cast where multi-colored bows to differentiate themselves. Characters are also identified by unique colors or tones in their dialogue which helps to keep things from getting too confusing. These early strips have less of a focus on coherent plot and more of an emphasis on gag-of-the-day devices, and bear a resemblance to  popular webcomics Cyanide & Happiness and XKCD

Despite the overall sameness of the characters there is a charming quality to the style of these early strips which is somewhat lost as the comic progresses. For the majority of the strips Zeke keeps his appearance and Frank gains a gray scarf to differentiate the two. The more frequently used female character-type is named as "Red" and shown to be the ex-girlfriend of Zeke, and as such plays a very important role in the early story arcs of the series. Later on we are also introduced to Purple, whose defining article of clothing is the typical bow modified with a skull, as well as Sue, Zeke's sister who is characterized by green, and Sue's boyfriend Steve, who is identified by his brilliant blue necktie.

The comic is quick to ditch the generic situations stick for story arcs, although it manages to retain the gag-a-day format--for which it must be greatly praised. Typically comics of this sort tend to sacrifice one aspect for another when attempting to both provide weekly humor and tell a coherent story, but the transition is mostly seamless and warmly welcome by the time it comes. Continuity sets in slowly as the generic slice-of-life characters begin recurring from one day to the next and are quick to take on unique characteristics of their own. Of course Cheer Up, Emo Kid does not manage to avoid all of the pitfalls associated with this method of story development; a number of the early strips create false-ideas about characters which later become recurring. Because of this, there are a few continuity errors which have gone unaddressed in the strips themselves, and I suspect they will continue to be ignored.

The pacing is pretty good, although some events happen more quickly than I would have liked. Typically these kinds of comics are good at keeping a single plot going for a few strips, and that's something I really like. I'm not overly fond of rushing through a storyline. Unfortunately the ball always drops at the end, again typical of the genre, with the story arc often being wrapped up in a single strip with a quick and sudden punchline as a character walks off-screen never to be seen again.

There is a time jump which shows us a bit of the past which confuses things. Originally it was something I was going to complain about, but I realized you could piece the timeline together with a little work and supposition, so that all well and good, I suppose. Despite being able to actually figure out the continuity as I was typing this, the fact that it was utterly unclear upon first reading is something which maybe should be fixed up. Particularly for a strip like this, which is pretty surface simple.

Inconsistencies flow over from the story into the artwork as Enzo tries to redefine the characters in various styles. For a while they were drawn with far greater detail, including hair, and even define clothing. While some might consider it a step up for the comic, I wasn't particularly fond of it. In my opinion much of the comic's charm comes from the simple artwork and character designs of those early strips, and I'm glad that the more recent strips seem to reflect more of the comic's beginnings (although there is a touch more detail than there used to be).

Interspersed throughout the series are videos and games which continued the story in some way. The flash games I found pretty funny, as they are parodies of and homages to famous games and genres, but I also found that they worked pretty decently for a two or three minute minigame, and I wouldn't mind replaying them if I had to. This style of interactive comic adds a little more immersion to the overall strip, as it makes you work to see how the arc continues, but I feel like it's slamming the brakes on the flow of the strip. Ultimately, I'm not sure how to feel about their inclusion. But they aren't bad by any means.

There is also a multi-page poem dedicated to Enzo's (at least, I believe it is dedicated to Enzo's) dog, whose passing seems to have affected him more than he thought it would. While the poem is not really part of the greater story, it is a decent piece of work in its own right and skipping over it would be a disservice to yourself.

To sum up my thoughts on the comic so far: I like it. The art's good, the gags are funny, and the plot can hit more than a few of the right nerves. It'll only take a single afternoon to read through to the current point, and I have to say that it's worth it to do so. I'll go ahead and give everything up to the present an eight out of ten, and I eagerly await more.

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