Saturday, 26 May 2012

Digital Canvas - Two To Review: Dinkus & Buttcake vs. 151 Hidden Depths

Today’s two webcomics are very dear to me, because the common element they share is that they’re both created by good friends of mine! We all met on a friendly little forum in one of the quieter corners of the internet, and even though I don’t really visit that old forum any more, we still remain in touch through various social networks.

Dinkus & Buttcake is a long-form comedy webcomic created by Mike Maynard (or as I know him, Sockfox) and his collaborative partner Mel Rhodes, and follows two mildly insane private detectives as they attempt to “investigate” various “crimes” using the age-old method of shenanigans and dumb luck. In actuality, if they do ever spring into action, it’s invariably only for their own benefit. The strip is entirely in black, white and grey in tribute to classic noir detective films.

D&B is drawn with a great “cartoon grotesque” style that fits the characters well, even if it can be a bit simplistic at times. There are a few pretty good jokes in there, I particularly like the riffs with the landlord, and the wonderfully senile Clem is a favourite, but unfortunately most of the punch lines fall a bit flat if I’m honest. I must note that it’s still early days for this strip, and I have every faith that things will improve as time goes on. I do like the interplay between the two central characters, the dominant ideas man Dinkus is nicely complimented by the surly violent Buttcake. I look forward to seeing more of how their relationship works in any given situation.

Time to take off the rose-tinted friend-glasses and look to the down sides. As I’ve already said, some of the jokes just aren’t that funny, and that’s a pretty major problem for a comedy-based webcomic. It desperately wants to be the next Sam & Max, and sometimes that ambition does seem within reach, but it just needs to get those few extra laughs in. Maybe some extra sight gags in the often plain background wouldn’t go amiss? For example, the action has recently moved to an old library. To my mind, that’d be the perfect opportunity to showcase shelves full of books with gag titles and authors (101 Cures For Incontinence by I. P. Freely), but that opportunity is missed.

101 Hidden Depths is a webcomic with a series of short arcs which join up to show a much larger storyline, created by Dylan Sands, better known as TV Eye. The comic is based on the Pokemon world, with each new page focusing on a different “main character” Pokemon, the pages ordered according to the original numbering of the Pokedex from the first games. This structure leads to several one-shot stories, but also longer storylines showing the same Pokemon as it evolves through the years, not to mention story threads put together via often-glimpsed background poke-characters that get their own page down the line.

101 Hidden Depths often lives up to its title, and is surprisingly moving in many of its story threads. The strip manages imbue the large cast of creatures with actual depth of character and believable emotions, and its great that the evolution-based storylines let us follow certain characters as they grow older, letting us see the consequences to actions in their youth. I’m also looking forward to seeing the whys and hows of the war that features as a background to numerous pages, especially since the latest page reveals the involvement of Mewtwo being the “cause”. That’s not to say that there isn’t any humour; on the contrary the strip has a strong vein of silly fun running throughout, and is all the better for it.

Unfortunately, its unique story structure does have some downsides. Many times, I feel that just four panels for each character is not enough. It makes a great introduction, but if the character doesn’t show up as a background character in someone else’s page, then that’s your lot. And it can be quite confusing to slot all the timelines together, especially if a thread continues out of the blue after several other stories and no room for a recap. TV Eye has said that he’ll release a master timeline after he’s reached the last page, but I wouldn’t mind a ‘story so far’ catch-up of some sort.

And so to the verdict. After re-reading my own words it seems I have a clear winner in mind, but if I can just slip those rose-tinted friend-glasses back on I’d like to say that in my eyes they’re both winners, and that I’m very proud to call the talented authors my friends.

Todd Marsh has been recently enjoying the Court Of Owls storyline in several Batman comics.

1 comment:

  1. 101 Hidden Depths? ;)
    Thanks for the review, Old Man! Now, when're you gonna add me on 3DS? ...I've had your code since FOREVER!