Friday, January 16, 2015

Webcomic Review: Take-Off!

Sorry for the delay here guys, between the fact that my Pyscho Pass 2 review ended up being nearly 2000 words (oy vey) and that I needed to start writing up my winter 2015 anime post (with nearly 10 shows) this one got neglected more than I should have. And really I should have had this post up months ago, this comic and The Littlest Elle both wrapped up around the same time which was back when I was debating about changing my webcomic reviewing format and I dithered. When I finally did decide that yes, I should do a proper write-up on both of these concluded series I realized that I wanted to push this one back a little bit until Carter's new comic had also started up so I could mention that as well. That webcomic, God Slave, launched in early December and now has enough pages that I can safely recommend it as well but I'm getting ahead of myself, I need to talk about races and mythical creatures first before I mention the crazy world of Egyptian mythology.

There are many worlds out there and one of them is simply known as the Inbetween where the misfits and other unhappy people find themselves. Some come to this place and others are summoned, Cassidy is one of the people who is summoned after wrecking her cheating boyfriend's car and she's offered a choice. Stay in this life you hate or come and participate in a grand race which makes up the backbone of the Inbetween. She chooses to get out and finds that her partner, the dragon Grey, is just as moody and is still mourning the death of his former partner. The two of them will have to bond and get along however, not because this is a race to the death or anything silly like that but because this is their home now and honestly it's not a bad one.

Webcomics update slowly, by my own rough estimations it takes between six months (at five updates a week) and three years (at one update a week) for a webcomic to produce enough pages to fill your average, 120 page manga volume so your sense of pacing as a reader can get a bit thrown off. Which is why I am worried that while the pacing for this comic worked really well for me (I believe I came in about two years ago when apparently most of the readers did) it might not for someone who has a chance to read the story all in one go. This comic took four years to make it's set over a very short time period, a month or less as Cassidy comes to the Inbetween, buts heads with Grey quite a bit, and takes an unexpected approach to help him deal with Golaith's death. I wouldn't have even noticed that this comic was set over such a short period of time if a character in the comic hadn't mentioned it, asking how Cassidy could already be so different from when she arrived which made me realize that the comic had already given its own good reasons for this. 

One is magic, we see both Cassidy and Grey acting impulsively based on the other's emotions, even when they're not together, and it doesn't seem like a great stretch of the imagination to think that whatever bond was created between them goes deeper than that. This is a fantasy, I can live with that, and the other reason is because the comic had already throughly convinced me that these two characters weren't acting out of character at all. Despite the set-up, this is a character-driven story and as such it's really is good at pairing up the characters and using their interactions to flesh out both of them at once to save some time. It's neither the most elegant of writing nor is it very subtle but it works well and comes across as natural. If all of the characters come from unhappy places then it makes sense they would have something in common, like when Cassidy recognizes that Alex might not be a murderous asshole since she's been a violent asshole quite recently and knows that you just can't keep living with that mindset.

That's another reason why Cassidy's "sudden" development never bothered me, if you take someone out of a stressful situation sometimes they'll change rather quickly, myself included. They might revert back to earlier, happier behavior or simply stop whatever bad habits they had developed to counter stress, this is especially true for me right now with my review writing here. My job situation has changed just enough that suddenly working on these reviews isn't as stressful or daunting as it used to be and I was able to recognize it after just two days. Cassidy's development is rather different but again, once you compare her growth along with Grey and Alex's it makes perfect sense and I can only hope it makes as much sense when the story is read in one or two sittings as it did in a hundred plus.

I was a bit surprised how "soon" Take-Off ended however, I've gotten so used to manga which have huge ensemble casts and flesh them all out that I expected this to do the same! Carter does provide two good reasons however, first is that in her mind the comic was always going to end when Cassidy and Grey had a good, working relationship with each other and if that was the goal of the comic then it's certainly been accomplished. Her other reason is the highly understandable art fatigue of drawing almost nothing but dragons and feelings for four years, honestly I can't argue with that. And she does say that she might return to the world someday and I hope she does, there are some characters whose character profiles still just say "???????" and I'd really love to see them and the world fleshed out even more.   

Carter has printed the comic in three volumes and all are currently in stock in her store, there are addition silly comics on the site. As for her current comic, as mentioned earlier it's called Godslave and is going to deal with Egyptian mythology, monster fighting, and more partnership feels. She also has a column on the site which talks about some of the research she's been doing for the comic and has a series of pages detailing some of Egyptian mythology which reminds me why I/pop culture in general never got into Egyptian mythology the way we did with say Greek myths, it's really weird and confusing! So I'm very interested to see how she'll incorporate it and I'm really looking forward to each new update (twice a week, Monday and Thursday).

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