2017-07-29

XKCD Reviewed - #1868 - Eclipse Flights


Credit where credit is due, this is a good comic!

The dialogue avoids the worst of the usual XKCD problem where it's too stiff. Instead of "I'm calculating how many flights will intersect the eclipse...", we just get "Flight plans.". Much better! We can infer the other information from the context, which is what functional dialogue is supposed to do.

And the joke is good too. That overdramatic "end times" line just SELLS it for me. I just love the idea of a pilot going about their regular business when suddenly the apocalypse is happening except HA JK its not. It reminds me of those prank videos on youtube. No! Not those ones! The ones that DON'T suck!!!

I do have a few tiny quibbles. Panel two having no dialogue gives the comic a bit of a weird pacing, it's like a beat panel, but the panel after it doesn't have anything that would require a beat panel. Maybe instead panels two and three could be combined, with the dialogue from three superimposed over the image from two.

And yknow how English is read left to right, right? Because of that, we also 'read' art as going from left to right. Consider how we almost always see the 8-Bit Theater gang walking toward the right side of the panel, ditto for a lot of XKCDs. So the image for panel four should really be flipped vertically. That could be an intentional choice that I'm just not picking up on the ideas of, though.

I'd also like to point out that this is just a liiiiittle bit similar to #1391, which was almost five hundred comics ago, holy crap. And that on its own is not bad. This comic improves upon that one in pretty much every way, and if you're going to rip something off, you might as well improve it while you do. But if there's a third comic about people being confused about darkness, I will be very disappointed in Randall Munroe.

2017-07-24

Questionable Content - #3532 - Now Light The Other One


This is not a bad gag, but it is not a good joke. This is an almost perfect low-level side gag to be included alongside a fuller joke or an emotional conversation. Even if you LOVE "an unusual candle smell" as a joke, you have to admit that it doesn't deserve three panels of setup. Especially when we've already heard what it smells like in a previous comic. And that other comic had two candle smells, not just the one! So it's not just redundant, it's also distilled. 

The structure of the comic, with the long setup to learning something we already know, makes it seem like the real joke is supposed to be Faye and Bubbles's reaction to the smell. But that doesn't work either, since they're completely deadpan in how they respond. It's just boring! And I'm not asking for Jeph to suddenly start writing his characters to be super over the top, but a comic needs to have *stuff* in it. 'Mild surprise that a strange label is accurate' is not *stuff*. 

Credit where it's due: Jeph did do the not-lazy thing, he did have Faye doing a thing in the background. That's nifty. It's no where near enough to make this comic good, though. 

2017-07-21

Questionable Content Isn't Funny - #3526 - Stay Chocolate Frosty


So, my first reaction to this comic was that Bubbles was saying "trademark" after "Wendy's", but then a Webcomics Review post convinced me that Jeph just didn't know how to put in the little "ᵀᴹ".

BUT THEN

On his twitter, Jeph posted a reaction, saying that Bubbles WAS saying it out loud, because she thought she was supposed to. (also he thinks it makes more sense than looking up the trademark symbol?)  And that begs the question: Why isn't Clinton reacting to it? Check out him being sassy to Faye mere moments later, he's not the super shy guy anymore, so he's not just being polite. There's no way he wouldn't have noticed, and there's no way that he wouldn't have questioned it.

It just doesn't make sense for Bubbles to have a speech thing that doesn't get reacted to. Even Faye's old speech thing got reacted to back in the day!

The joke itself comes across as too abstract to be funny. If we saw a stamp with a weird off-yellow goo, and then the goop squirms on his robo-hand into the shape of the Wendy's girl, that's funny. Just hearing about a weird Wendy's promo... isn't.

Fun fact about me: I was only just finishing up this review when I realized I was picturing the McDonald's logo in my head instead of the Wendy's logo.

In conclusion, Bubbles and Faye are gonna fuck.

2017-06-06

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1846 - Drone Problems

 On the other hand, as far as they know, my system is working perfectly.

When I have drone problems, it's usually because of unrelenting low-pitched hums! coming toward me from the sky as government-issued robots attempt to kill me
Best, anyone the US doesn't like

Speaking of pointless cruelty, what this comic needs is some Black Hat. Think about it, it makes perfect sense. For one, the girl's story doesn't make sense. If the drones are being flown so haphazardly, shouldn't she have known she wouldn't be able to hit them? And wouldn't it also mean that people flying drones near her were doing it by accident, and were therefore undeserving of having their property destroyed?

The comic improves a bunch if you rewrite it to have Black Hat as the shooting-down-y person. He's a jackass who doesn't care about shit, we're all down for his wanton havoc. If we just have our standard XKCD Guy and XKCD Girl®, it's not quite normalized, but it's more grounded than something done by Black 'Stole A Russian Sub Once' Hat.

That's not to say that Black Hat hasn't previously been used as a mouthpiece, he has, but it's been in a clearly over-the-top way. This comic, in contrast, is subdued, with the destructive idea as the setup, not the punchline. Instead of the mayhem being the part we're supposed to laugh at, it's just how we get to the actual joke. This makes the mayhem seem like just something that happens, especially with how the guy just goes along with it when he finds out. I don't think Randy is actually advocating for shooting down drones, but the comic's structure makes it look like he is. He even says "my system" in the alt-text!"

Even if we put all that aside, the joke is still poorly done. The last three panels are all the same idea, which slows down the delivery of the punchline and minimizes its impact. The two panels in the middle should be replaced by a single panel with a line like "Okay, setting up. I can't wait!", THEN cut to them three hours later.


By the way, if you're missing my #content, feel free to check out XKCD Still Sucks, a new blog on the scene! He's keeping the fire alive, plus he says I've got bonhommie! I looked it up, and it means I'm a really nice guy!!

2017-03-22

Update

I may or may not have bitten off more than I can chew. 

Back when I started this blog, I was in high school and had no other real life commitments. It was easy to find time to write a review, and it was easy to think of new things to say. 

Now, I'm in college, which is haaard, maaan. I'm also trying to do a podcast thing, which at this point I find more rewarding than this blog. Like, with Panel Beat, me and Jon can have a fun time talking about whatever we want, but with this blog, I have to talk about how a comic is dumb. And it's harder to find new ways to say a comic is dumb when so many of them are dumb in the same ways. 

That's not to say that I regret doing this blog. I'm glad that I had a device that helped me improve my writing. But I'm not getting any real spiritual (or physical, since none of you jerks buy my tunes) benefits from writing it anymore. And I don't want to force myself to do this; I won't enjoy it, and my writing won't be as good.

And that's not to say that this blog is going to die, either. I'm just going to switch focus. Instead of trying to review every single XKCD, I'm going to talk about the ones that I feel like I actually have something to say about. And I'm going to be expanding in scope, talking about other webcomics and maybe other stuff too. Probably a once-a-week schedule from now on?

Feel free to yell at me in the comments.

2017-03-14

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1810 - Chat Systems


This comic was probably intended to be confusing, but it succeeds a little too well. Especially compared to the other graphs that Randy's put out. Even when he was making an infographic that nobody needed or wanted, it looked planned out and designed. Not to say that Randy put zero thought into the organization of this comic, just that he put less thought into it than we've come to expect.

I really like the double 'wall' bit, but that's the only joke, and it makes the rest of the comic seem like just setup, when it could be much more. Well, not that much more, but still more than what it is.

Maybe if it was more driven by narrative. Like, a guy could be meeting up with a Skype friend for the first time, only to realize that they lived in the same apartment. That's a weak example, but still. And then the wall gag could be the alt-text. It'd say something about the tiny invisible connections that make up our world, like the guy who dates the girl who serves you McDonalds is also friends with your uncle. Maybe I just want everything to be Cloud Atlas.

Also, if I were the type of person to do sick burns on Randy, I'd say like "you can tell he's making this comic up because there's no way he has this many friends".

2017-03-08

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1772 - Startup Opportunity & #1773 - Negativity


I think I've finally figured out what Beret is supposed to represent. Y'know how Randy likes to play up his quirkiness sometimes? Beret is that 'quirky' archetype taken to its (il)logical extreme. See, he's not just hipster, getting his clothing from vintage shops. He's off the chart on the quirky hipster side of the hipster-normie scale, to the point where even his groceries are from shops that you haven't heard of... because they don't exist anymore.

And that's fine, that's a good joke, except we as readers have to make that connection ourselves. We don't see a standard issue hipster buying an out of print 7" who then gets one-up'd by Beret buying a custom space microphone. We're just thrown in to the deep end and we have to invent our own narrative. And that's cool in a David Lynch movie, when the goal is to make an unsettling and confusing experience that you can interpret yourself. It's less cool in a comedy thing, since it's forcing the reader to basically write their own joke with the pieces Randy gives us.

In his review of Final Fantasy XIII, Yahtzee said that "the kookiness of the prerequisite kooky character has now reached some kind of singularity. Her actions don't seem to have any connection to sentient thought or social context.". That's the other problem with Beret. He's so far off the scale that he just seems like he's on drugs or something. We can't relate to him, even through his unrelatability.

Like, with Michael Scott, most people wouldn't do the things that he does throughout The Office (US), but we can see his logic a lot of the time. He doesn't want people to think prison is cool, so he creates 'Prison Mike'. That's dumb, but there's a logical step from point A to point B. With Beret, it just seems like he doesn't understand anything around him. That's not funny, that's just kinda sad.

All that said, this comic works (to an extent) because the punchline is based around people reacting to Beret. Beret is the setup, and the reactions are the punchline. Also it makes fun of corporate types and I love me some anti-capitalist propaganda.


At first I thought this was a remake of that 'Balloon Internet' comic, but apparently this whole time that comic has been a reference to a Google thing. Who knew?

It's kinda lazy to only draw clouds for one panel. I understand that text is almost always the top layer in comics, but we don't even see the tiny clouds lined up with his head. Adding clouds to the other panels would even make the joke more impactful, since it's based on the contrast between internet negativity and nature peacefulness.

The joke is good, though. It has that surrealistic dream-like logic that Randy can make work really well sometimes. Like, you could have a guy pop his head out from under a rock, but why not have the grass itself insult the guy? It works because the grass is retroactively made into the premise of the comic. It still comes out of left field, but since that left field -ness is being played for laughs and not plot, I am fine with it.

And I'm aware it's probably not, but let's all just pretend that the "you suck" phrasing is in reference to the original xkcdsucks blog.

2017-02-25

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1769 - Never Seen Star Wars & #1771 - It Was I


The last three panels, taken on their own, are actually not too bad. I'm a sucker for people pretending to know what they're talking about, and the double thought bubble bit is almost philosophical. Are we not all merely pretending to be who we are in conversation? Are we not constantly relieved that the other person is communicating back, even though we will only ever know our idea of the person, not the person themselves?

It sucks that those three panels have the first six weighing them down. Even if Randy's right, nobody wants to be lectured not to do something for five painfully unfunny panels. (I kinda like the second panel) The people who agree with him already know so they don't need to be told, and the people who disagree are just going to be turned off by the sarcastic condescension.

Also we don't really need the "Oh, I've nev-" line in panel seven. We as readers can infer that he's trying to avoid a retread of the thing with White Hat.


Isn't it kinda hypocritical of Randy to put out these two comics within one week?

Anyway, first off, it is "It was I". The trick is to switch up the word order and see if it still makes sense. "It was I who allowed..." → "I allowed..." ☑. "It was me who allowed..." → "Me allowed..." ☒. That's also why it's "John and I went to the store." instead of "Me and John went to the store.". And yes, if you're wondering, I did just learn this last month.

I almost want to apologize to Randy for the next sentence. This comic reminds me of a Family Guy bit. It has the exact same structure: recreation from a classic movie, then a line is added into the original script, people are pedantic at each other for too long, and then we get a shit punchline. Also the art is lazy and makes the recreated characters look ugly and off-putting.

In conclusion, this comic pretty fucking epic, I can't wait to tell Tyler about it when my mom drives me over his house to play Halo.

2017-02-22

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1765 - Baby Post & #1767 - US State Names


I can relate to this comic because I also have many friends that check their phones, walk up to me, and ask why I posted something. It's a hard life being famous, but since me and Randall Munroe are the only two famous people in the world I guess it's okay.

This comic is really just a perfectly fine joke mangled in the presentation. Bald should just be checking his daughter's browser history or asking her what she's doing on the computer. Instead we get this convoluted thing where he's being updated on what his account posted to Facebook by other people.

The Facebook thing isn't just non-integral either; it actively confuses the reader as to the daughter's precise role in the story. The stuff she's uploading paints her as some kind of developing criminal, but if she's going to do crimes why is she posting about it to Facebook? If she's posting it by accident then how is she even finding jewel room schematics? She can research how to steal the crown jewels but not how to avoid posting things to Facebook?

And in panel two, the guy says he would have to look up how to set up a lock screen, which is just baffling. Is he like one of those super old people that doesn't know what email is?

A guy slowly realizing his daughter is becoming a criminal is not a bad idea, but it's presented so poorly. It's like trying to make out a melody being played on a detuned radio.

Also, does 'videos on metal-working, zip lines, and camouflage?' come off weird to anyone else? Like, the video is just about camouflage, just in general. That could just be me though.


Just a worse version of #1759. That comic had the premise an American labeling a British map, so it made sense that everything would be misnamed. This comic doesn't really have a premise at all, so I'm just confused as to why it exists. Like, if the caption was "The Fifty States Of Autocorrect", then okay, that's a weak joke, but I understand why the names are all weird. Does Randy think that incorrect names are inherently funny on their own? 

All that said I do quite enjoy "Dakota / More Dakota", even though it's in the wrong order.

2017-02-11

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1762 - Moving Boxes & #1763 - Catcalling


Is this even a joke? Like, it's funnier than a blank white square, but it's still less funny than actual formed comedy. Every box might as well just have been labeled "I'm quirky".

Not all jokes make sense broken down into a setup/punchline equation, but let's just go with this for a second.
Setup: Randy forgot to label his boxes when moving.
Okay, that's fine. It's not the most interesting setup, but not all setups have to be interesting. Maybe someone helping him move will unintentionally open his sex toy box instead of his blanket box.
Punchline: Randy labels the boxes with words that do not represent what is inside the boxes.
Like, what even is that? That's not funny! That's not a joke! If this was Questionable Content or whatever and it was just in the background, it'd be kinda cute as a character thing, but this is the entire comic, this is all we're given!


Literally everyone who has heard the word "catcalling" as thought of a variation on this joke.

Also, missed opportunity: Not having it turn out that the definition of 'catcalling' was somehow integral to the structure of the universe.